Synopsis: India has never been a communal and theocratic country. Unity in cultural and religious has been the essence of Indianness. Followers of different and alien faiths came to India and became an integral part of it. India has been a meeting point and melting pot of various faiths and cultures. India is one of the largest Muslim countries. Communal tensions and conflicts are relatively of recent origin and can be attributed to the British who practiced the policy of “divide and rule”. They caused the portion of the country on communal basis. Jinnah’s over-ambition and egoism overpowered his better nature and judgement and got him his ‘mouth-eaten’ Pakistan. Indian Constitution guarantees religious freedom and equality to all its citizens. There cannot be any discrimination on the basis of religion, caste or creed. India is fundamentally and generally secular which means equal respect for all faiths and religions. There are clashes and conflicts between communities but every clash is not communal. Many of the tensions and conflicts between communities have their source in economic and cultural backwardness or they are foreign-sponsored. We should always be guided by such leading lights as Mahatma Gandhi, Pt. Jawaharlal Nehru and Atal Bihari Vajpayee whose commitment to secularism has been well known, firm and practical.
India, as a country and nation, has always been secular. It has never been a theoretic, sectarian and communal state. In spite of fact that Indian masses have ever been deeply religious, religious-intolerance, hatred, fundamentalism etc. have never been part of their ethos. Respect for one another’s faith, religious practice and peaceful preaching have been the hallmark of Indian culture and civilization. Unity in cultural and religious diversity is one of the unique features accommodations etc. have always been the essence of Indian religious preaching and practice. It is inhabited by the followers of many different religions, faiths, sects, way of living and thinking. There are the Hindus, the Muslims, the Sikhs, the Parsis, the Jains, the Buddhists, the Christians, the Zoroastrians and many others. The Hindus have always been a majority community but their religious outlook and practice have never been narrow, sectarian, obscurantist and fundamentalist. They never believed in conversion, coercion, intolerance, jihad or religious persecution. India is the only country where civilization and culture has been like a ceaseless and continuous flow since times immemorial only because of its deep-rooted faith in religious tolerance co-existence and non-interference in one another’s personal and religious affairs.
Followers of different and alien faiths came to India as invaders, refugees seeking shelters from religious persecution in their own countries or as preachers of their faith and became an integral part of its unique unity in staggering diversity. The Christian church in India is much older than coming of Islam. St. Thomas was one of the 12 Disciples of Christ and contemporary of St. Thomas was one of the 12 Disciples of Christ and contemporary of St. Peter in Rome. He was the first preacher of Christianity in India. The Parsis came in the 8th century seeking refuge from religious persecution in Iran and brought Zoroastrianism. The Jews came quite early about 2000 years ago and settled down chiefly in Bombay, Pune, Cochin and Delhi. Islam came to India with Muslim invasions and conquests. Today India is one of the largest Islamic nations. According to 1991 census there are 627.5 million Hindus, 95.2 million Muslims, 18.8 million Christians, 16.2 millions Sikhs, 6.3 million Buddhist and 3.3 million Jains in the country. The decadal rate of increase of the Hindus has been 22.78 per cent and that of Muslims 32.76 per cent and 16. 89 percent that of the cultural currents and cross currents. Besides these major religions, there are about 183 other religious sects and persuasions. In Hinduism rites, rituals and ways of worship and prayer. All these sects and religions, and atheists as well, represent a complete and wonderful pattern of unity, integrity and wholeness.
Communal tensions, conflicts and frictions have been relatively of recent origin and can be traced back to the British rule. They always followed the policy of “Divide and rule”. The partition of the sub-continent into India and Pakistan was clearly a legacy of the British rule. They had divided the people of communal lines; introduced separate electorates to serve their own narrow interests. They were successful to a large extent in sowing the seeds of communal disharmony, tension and conflict. This resulted in the partition and Mahatma Gandhi’s association. In spite of all these tragic events of epic dimensions, India’s commitment to secularism has never been political leader. But gradually he felt sidelined on the pre-independence ambition. Ultimately the portion was agreed and Jinnah had his “moth eaten” Pakistan, a product of his vicious communalism.
Time and again, and in no uncertain terms in the Parliament and outside, it, the Indian leader like Pt. Jawaharlal Nehru, Lal Bahadur Shastri, Atal Bihari Vajpayee and other have declared that India is fundamentally a secular country. All are first and last and Indians in the political and national sense, their different religions and faiths notwithstanding. India is a sovereign Socialist Secular Democratic Republic. The Indian constitution guarantees its citizens full freedom in matters of religion, faith and its practice. One of the fundamental rights and freedoms granted to all citizens individually and collectively is the “right to freedom of conscience and free profession, practice and propagation of religion”. Moreover, each and every section of citizens has “right to conserve its culture, language or script and right to establish and administer educational institutions of their choice.”
This freedom of culture, conscience, faith, following the way of living has been one of the corner stone’s of Indian social fabric and democracy. There is no discrimination on the basis of religion and caste, among other things. There is no favour to any particular religion and its followers. All religions, sects and their followers are equal before the law. There is complete religious freedom unless it does interfere in the freedom of other religions. Here in India religion and its practice has been recognized as a personal and private affair. It means that there is no mixing up of religion with politics.
Secularism is often defined as neutrality and detachment or indifference to religion without being antireligious or discriminating among citizens on grounds of religion, caste, creed etc. Now, this is a negative and narrow definition of secularism and does not suit the Indian context. This gives the detractors of secularism an opportunity to call it anti-religious approach to the policy. They call the whole concept as borrowed, alien, atheist and godless. Therefore, secularism needs to be redefined to suit Indian psyche. Some thinkers suggest that secularism means “Sarvadharma sambhav”, that is, equal respect for all religions. This is certainly better and positive interpretation of secularism and should be preached and propagated. Really this is the essence of secularism ad Gandhi’s secular vision was very much close to it. Pt. Nehru and other great leaders were also inspired and guide by this same vision.
India is a very big and great country populated by many communities. It is a second largest country in the world after China in population. There are conflicts, tensions and frictions among the pressures and clash of interests. Therefore, every clash cannot be termed as communal. There have been communal clashes, conflicts, religious riots, conflagrations and massacres during the last 50 years of our independence. But most of them have been either political in nature or sponsored by our hostile neighbour Pakistan. There are certain vested interests who under the influence of foreign powers across our borders, want to weaken the country. They are always trying to disturb India’s social fabric and communal harmony. They often succeed in engineering communal conflicts and clashes here and there. We should be vigilant and guard ourselves against such various elements. Then there are certain political leaders and parties who to serve their own narrow interest indulge in communal lines. The politics of vote banks originates from lack of genuine commitment to the cause of secularism and social harmony. They now and then practice appeasement of minority community and thus give opportunity to the detractors of secularism in mudslinging.
Many of the clashes and conflicts between communities are because of economic and educational backwardness. They are not actually communal in nature and origin but are construed as such. The economic and cultural backwardness of their sections and communities should be removed. They should be removed. They should be enlightened and brought into the national mainstream so as to eliminate their self-inspired isolation, alienation and educational backwardness. It is not unnatural that the economically weak and vulnerable communities should succumb to name of religion against those who are better off and belonging to other community and faith. Removal of unemployment, backwardness, more economical development of various communities only can ensure real and lasting secularism. In poverty, economic slavery, backwardness and widespread unemployment, secularism can never survive, let alone its prosperity. The poor and the weak become an easy prey to priest, mullahs, fundamentalist and reactionary forces having their roots overseas.
The communal and obscurantist forces should not be allowed at all to undermine our secular spirit, religious tolerance, peace, harmony and co-existence. No political leader or party should be allowed to raise the bogey of religion or community. In our public and social life we should be guided only by our national interests and such giants as Mahatma Gandhi, Pt. Jawaharlal Nehru or Atal Bihari Vajpayee.
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SECULARISM IN INDIA
India is a secular country. Secularism means that everybody enjoys complete religious freedom. Government will not compel anybody to adopt any particular religion. Religious freedom is our fundamental right and it is written in our constitution. Everybody has the freedom to propagate any religion, to adopt any religion or construct any religious building. The government will give freedom to all religions alike. No particular religion will be taught in school textbooks. India is a country of different religions. Therefore, secularism is the only basis in which different cultures can live and develop peacefully.
Every citizen is free in his religious matters. All religions are treated equally. That is why there is cordial relationship amongst the people having different religion. There is no religious distinction in government’s jobs. In India minority communities enjoy greater religious freedom. Some undesirable elements have come up and have developed in the name of religion. These bad elements affect our general life. They should be checked.
Some fanatics in every religioun cause great miseries to those people who belong to other religion. Those who are ignorant and uneducated, often fall victims to these fanatics. Sometimes the politicians use religions as their tool to arouse the emotions of the people for religious conflicts. They poison the mind of the people for their selfish ends. Communal riots are the examples of their bad shameful deeds. The citizens should not be misled in this way. They should live respecting other religions.