A month ago, Uttar Pradesh chief minister Mr. Yogi Adityanath said that “secularism is the biggest threat to India’s tradition on the global stage“, but he forgot that secularism is part of the Indian preamble and one of the basic feature of Indian rich culture and heritage.
Recently, when ISRO launched 19 satellites, it sent the Bhagavat Geeta in the satellites which do not agree with the Indian idea of secularism. Indian secularism is different from western secularism, which is why India stands out from the rest of the world. Indian secularism states that it provides for equal opportunities and honours all faiths equally.
Enactment of laws on inter-religious marriage, terming it as ‘love jihad’, and linking it to one particular religious community, has been passed in four states that are Himachal Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Uttarakhand, and Uttar Pradesh. A PIL has been filed in the supreme court against these laws and needs to pass the test of constitutionality.
The enactment of the Constitutional Amendment Act(CAA) excludes the Muslim community from inclusion in the National Register Of Citizenship(NRC) who migrated from neighbouring countries before 31 December 2014. This resulted in protests against the law. This act violates article 14 which provides the right to equality. This law is still not implemented but it questions the secular character of India.
Talking about Indian secular character, under the Indian constitution, Article 325 prohibits discrimination based on religion in contesting the election. During the congress regime, the prime minister belonged to the Sikh community and the president belonged to the Muslim community, which reflects communal harmony and equal opportunities for all.
Indian state provides opportunities for people for different religious pilgrimages at subsidized rates like Sikhs going to Pakistan, Hindus visiting Amarnath in Jammu and Kashmir, and Muslims going to Mecca for Hajj.
Indian people celebrate birthdays by following the Christian calendar and celebrate with cake, which is part of Christian culture.
In Bakshi ka Talab(located in Lucknow), a Muslim family organizes Ramleela and has been organizing it for three generations.
India has felt scars of many communal riots like the anti-Sikh riots(1984), Babri masjid demolition(1992-93), etc. but passed through these tough times and still holds relevance as a nation.
Many constitutional safeguards are given like articles 25-28 which provide ‘freedom of religion’ which reinforces secularism. After 70 years of independence, India stands strong. Unlike countries like Sri Lanka which cannot provide an equal ground to minorities as Tamilians. India stood for Sri Lankan Tamil rights as well.
Take the case of West Asian countries which declared themselves as Islamic countries and are lagging in terms of growth and development. In terms of national per capita income, they are considered wealthy nations but in terms of human development index, they lag with a big margin and remain politically unstable. Minorities still have to fight for their rights there.
As Pranab Mukherjee said “secularism is inherent in the Indian system, in the Indian ethos and culture. Indian cannot but be secular.”
In India, the Hindu population is a majority but it does not mean that India can be represented by Hindu ideology. Many outsiders tried to change Indian culture especially Britishers but could not able to break the bond of Indian people. Britishers tried to break Hindu-Muslim unity by dividing Bengal in 1905 but it failed miserably and a great sense of unity arose where people tied rakhi and division of Bengal celebrated as a festival.
Our constitution and pillars of democracy like judiciary and journalism are very important in holding the secular character of India, as they stand for truth and hold ‘rule of law’ which provides the same ground to everyone.
Love and tolerance among different religious people are one of the strengths of Indian people and the feeling of brotherhood which is mentioned in our preamble as “fraternity“.
At last, its the citizen of India who needs to decide whether they want to support and appreciate these statement and to stand strong to maintain the basic tenets of Indian democracy. The choice is simply ours as we grew up listening to “democracy is for the people, by the people, to the people“.