India is a secular nation where several religious communities reside unitedly. In a country divided by religious differences, secularism is the cementing force that binds them together.
But, at times, India faces incidents that challenge the core of our motto of ‘Unity in Diversity’.
According to a recent report by The Wire, a court in Jharkhand convicted 11 of the 12 people accused in a cow vigilantism related murder case. A person named, Asgar Ansari, was lynched to death by a mob in Ramgarh on June 29, reportedly based on suspicions that he was carrying beef. Though it is the first time people have been convicted in a case relating to violence in the name of cow protection anywhere in India, it can’t be denied that these cases of violence are really shameful for a country where people almost worship someone who preached non-violence.
Secularism in India has been under serious threat due to lack of unity among several religions. Secular riots have always disturbed the peace of the nation. The recent violence in Kasganj is one such example. The town witnessed a terrible communal riot on January 26, 2018.
Due to lack of any honest effort made to bridge the gap of communal mistrust between religious communities, it is not at all surprising that riots continue to occur frequently in the ‘secular India’. 1984 anti-Sikh riots, Gujarat communal riots and many more are the most deadly violence since the 1947 partition of India. But, in last few years, secularism in India suffered a massive blow due to several other incidents, one such being is the support to rampaging cow vigilantes.
In the name of protecting cows, the self-promulgated “cow-saviours” have unleashed violence in several parts of the nation. The ruthless killing of Mohammad Akhlaq in Dadri in September 2015 by furious villagers following a rumour that his family was in possession of cow meat, highlighted the seriousness of mob attacks in the name of cow protection. The Dadri incident, however, is not the only one. Such incidents have unfortunately become common nowadays. It is shameful that the country’s political leadership, just to gain some votes, are allowing this violent legacy to be carried forward.
Secularism is not just a word; it is an idea, that was thought by our founding fathers and the architects of India’s constitution. It refers to the way in which the society should be organized. A secular state in India as conceived by the constitution was not an entirely political- intellectual construct but it depicted the social and cultural reality of Indian society. Though the term ‘secular’ was not there in the constitution since its inception, the Indian constitution has always been secular. According to it, secularism is the principled distance of the state from the religious interventions so that it could better promote its ideology of liberty, equality and social justice.
Fundamental rights (Article 25 & 28) guarantee and promote secularism. Secular attitude or attitude of impartiality towards all religion is secured by the constitution under several provisions. Firstly, there shall not be any state religion in India. The state should not consider any religion superior or inferior to the other and there shouldn’t be any discrimination on the basis of religion or faith. But the actual scenario is very different from the secularism that has been portrayed by the constitution.
The very first Prime Minister of our nation, Pt. Jawaharlal Nehru vehemently opposed the idea of the religion which, according to him, is intended to limit the minds of man and constrict his ideas within the chains of ceremonials and rituals. He categorically stated that the religion should help the mankind to develop their individuality and thus revive their lives. The basic idea is that the state and its laws should not amalgamate with the realm of religion.
The main issue regarding secularism is the misconception that has been cultivated in the minds of the citizens of India. Many people have confused secularism with either ‘atheism’ or ‘communalism’. There is a thought prevailing in their minds that anything anti-Hindu is secular while everything pro-Hindu is anti-secular. Some even think that secularism is all about not having faith in religion, its ideologies and rituals.
But these are all erroneous interpretations of secularism; For maintaining the unity and integrity of the nation, the concept of secularism should be reinterpreted. Secularism is not only ‘religious coexistence’ rather it should be all about humanity and human rights. It is about being just, fair and treating everyone equal.