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The Secularism in India

Updated on June 16, 2016

In sum, the first principle of secularism that was codified in the Constitution carried the assurance that everyone had the freedom to practice their religion via Article 25 of the Fundamental Rights chapter. Now, strictly speaking we do not need to proclaim secularism in order to grant religious freedom. This freedom can emerge from, and from a part of the Fundamental Rights that are assured to every citizen. However, a secular state cannot stop at granting the right to religion. The principle of secularism goes further and establishes equality between all religious groups. Dr Radhakrishnan, the former president of India was to phrase this understanding thus:

We hold that no one religion should be given preferential status, or unique distinction, that no one religion should be accorded special privileges in national life, or international relations for that would be a violation of the basic principles of democracy and contrary to the best interest of religion and government. No group of citizens shall arrogate to itself rights and privileges which it denies to others. No person shall suffer any form of disability or discrimination because of his religion but all alike should be free to share to the fullest degree in the common life. Now just as the freedom of religion does not necessarily need secularism to support it, equality of religions can be established via the Fundamental Right of equality vide Article 14. However, if we were to stop at this, secularism would be rendered unnecessary. For secularism extends beyond equality and freedom to declare that the State is not aligned to any specific religion. It is this exact commitment that establishes the credentials of a secular state. On the other hand, secularism, we can say, promises that the State would neither align itself with any particular religion, especially the majority religion-nor pursue any religious tasks its own.

The second and the third component of secularism, that is equality to all religions, and the distancing of the State from all religious groups, was specifically meant to assure the minorities that they had a legitimate place at the country, and that they would not be discriminated against. Correspondingly, secularism established that the majority group would not be privileged in any manner. The creed, therefore, discouraged any pretension that the majority religion had any right to stamp the body politic with its ethos. It was necessary to send a clear message to the majority community.

For various elements of the Congress were openly seeking to associate the State with the majority religion. This became more than evident during the rebuilding of the Somnath temple. In order to counteract this particular trend, Nehru in 1951 stated that a secular state was one in which the State protects all religions, but does not favor one at the expense of others and does not itself adopt any religion as the State religion.


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