The Fate of Secularism in India

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Secularism in India has been a subject of discussion from a long time. The word “Secular” got introduced in the Preamble by the 42nd Constitutional Amendment Act, 1976 along with “Socialist” and “Integrity”. Even although, the word secular isn’t always described anywhere in the charter but the Secular nature of Indian Constitution be inferred from proper to freedom of religion cited in Part III. Secularism in general words can be described as a ‘Secular State is one that does not have a religion of its own and treat every religions equally.’  The Indian Secularism is neither anti-religious like some of the socialist or communist constitutions, nor does it creates a wall of separation between the State and the religion alike the US. 

This article will provide an explanation and meaning of Secularism and will also provide a quick historic note about the nature of Indian Secularism. The article goes with explaining current situation of secularism in India. The article even provide an explanation for intensive the diverse Articles of the Indian Constitution which embodies the concepts of Secularism in them.

This article will also argue over the relationship of Secularism and Politics. How political parties use religion to fill their vote bank. This article will give an explanation about the threat to secularism in India. In the conclusion, the article is in brief speaking about how Secularism in India can be stored with the joint attempt of the State as well as the citizens? And the way by which the harmony may be restored in the country.


Secularism focuses on separation of religion from political, economic, social, and religion being treated as an absolutely close to home affair. It accentuates separation of the state from religion and full opportunity to all religions and resilience, everything being equal. The standard of secularism which ensures and supports a large number of the opportunities are:

  • Separation of strict foundations from state establishments and an open arena where religion might take part.
  • Opportunity to rehearse one’s confidence or conviction without hurting others, or to transform it or not make them accord, to one’s own inner voice.
  • Balance, so our strict convictions or absence of them doesn’t put any of us inconvenience.

Sociological view about secularism

In sociology, secularization is the change of a general public from close identification with religious values and establishments towards a non-religious and secular foundations.

Nehru’s India was focused on ‘secularism’. The thought here in its more fragile freely emphasized structure was that the public authority would not meddle in ‘individual’s’ religious matters and would make conditions in which individuals, all things considered, could live in congruity. The thought was strong, informally expressed structure was that to modernize India would need to save hundreds of years of traditional religious ignorance and superstition, and in the end the thought of Hinduism and Islam from individuals’ lives. After Independence, state run administrations carried out secularism for the most part by declining to perceive the strict pasts of Indian patriotism, regardless of whether Hindu, Muslim, Sikh or Christian and simultaneously by holding Muslim ‘Muslim law’ and different reservations for every religion of India.[1] 

Indian Secularism is a variation of western secularism; however, it doesn’t indiscriminately follow it. It is a consequence of Indian variety and its social encounters. While the first western thought depended on the separation of legislative issues and religion. Indian secularism goes past such a 115 definition. Indian secularism is practically speaking a thought of regard and equity on strict grounds. To see how Indian secularism is unique in relation to its western structure is not difficult to track down in the issues of individual law. Religious undertakings in India keep on having authority over individuals. It is a novel component of Indian legislative issues where various laws are appropriate to people of various religions. Indian secularism gives motivating forces to help various foundations even as monetary guides.

A portion of the vital elements of Indian secularism are as per the following[2]:

  • Every citizen can choose their religion and confidence.
  • The state can’t discriminate on the grounds of one’s religion.
  • The state will not make communal electorates.
  • The state can direct monetary activities identified with religious undertakings.
  • The state can make social schemes for government assistance and change.
  • Article 17 of Indian constitution nullifies distance on the grounds of religion.
  • Each religious section has the privilege to frame foundations for strict and altruistic purposes.
  • State gives right to religious minorities to set up instructive establishments of their decision.  These establishments can’t be victimized by the state corresponding to the awards given by the state.
  • In the place of work under the government section can’t discriminate residents on the grounds of religion.
  • In the issues of induction into instructive establishments kept up with the state, it can’t do any discrimination with residents on grounds of religion.
  • The state can’t utilize citizen’s income to promote any specific religion.
  • In schools run by the government, no religious lecturing or guidance can be given
  • By established alteration in 1976, all residents are charged to think of it as their principal obligation to “protect the rich legacy of Indian culture”.

Historical view of Secularism in India

To comprehend these elements, it is important to characterize fundamental ideas and survey from history.[3] Ashoka around 2200 years ago, Harsha around 1400 years ago acknowledged and respected many religions. Individuals in ancient India had opportunity of religion, and the state allowed citizenship to every individual paying little heed to somebody’s religion. Ellora cave sanctuaries worked close to one another somewhere in the range of 5th and 10th centuries, it shows the concurrence of religions and acknowledgment of various beliefs. After Aurangzeb, India came in the hands of East India Company and the Britishers. They didn’t separate religion from state yet denoted the finish of equivalent progressive system among Islam, Hinduism, Christianity, Sikhism, Buddhism and Jainism. Once again introduced the idea of balance under the law for Hindus, Christians, and Muslims. The British Empire looked for business and exchange, with an approach of lack of bias to India’s assorted religions in general. Before 1858, the Britishers followed the strategy of disparaging and supporting the local religions as the prior rulers had done. By the mid-nineteenth century, the British Raj controlled India, in issues identified with marriage, property and divorces, as indicated by laws dependent on every Indian subject’s religion, as per understandings of individual religion reports by Islamic legal advisers, Hindu savants and other religious researchers.

Indian Constitution and Secularism

Constitution of India protected secularism as a set by something like two provisions. To begin with, basic regard for all religions. In contrast to certain secularisms our own isn’t discriminately against religion, Indian secularism regards all the religion. Nonetheless, given the virtual inconceivability of recognizing the religion from the society, as B.R. Ambedkar broadly noticed, each part of strict principle or practice can’t be regarded. Regard for religion should be joined to evaluate.

With the 42nd Amendment of the Constitution of India ordered in 1976, the Preamble to the Constitution declared that India is a secular country. Nonetheless, the Supreme Court of India in the 1994 in the case of S. R. Bommai v. Association of India proved that India is secular since the development of the republic. The judgment set up that there is detachment of state and religion. In issues of State, religion has no spot. Furthermore, if the Constitution requires the State to be common in idea and activity, a similar prerequisite appends to ideological groups too. The Constitution does not mentions, it doesn’t allow mixing religion and State power. That is the protected order. None can say something else insofar as this Constitution administers the country. Governmental issues and religion can’t be put together. Any State government which seeks non secular on strategies in opposition to the sacred command and delivers itself manageable activity under Article 356.[4]

Also, secularism has consistently roused present day India. Nonetheless, India’s secularism doesn’t totally isolate religion and state. The Indian Constitution has permitted broad impedance of the state in religious issues, like established annulment of distance, opening of all Hindu temples to individuals of ‘lower standing’ and so forth Secularism as polished in India, with its stamped contrasts with Western act of secularism is a point of debate in India. Allies of the Indian idea of secularism guarantees its regard towards “minorities and pluralism”. Pundits believe that secularism of India is as “pseudo-secularism”. Allies express that any endeavour to present a uniform common code, that is equivalent laws for each citizen independent of their religion, would force majoritarian Hindu sensibilities and goals. Fanatics express that India’s acknowledgment of Sharia laws disregards the standard of Equality under the law.

Furthermore, we can easily state how widely and strongly Indian constitution mentions secularism in the constitutional text[5]:

Article 14: It provides equality before the law and equal protection of the laws to everyone.

Article 15: It guarantees a broader view of the concept of Secularism to the maximum possible reach by banning discrimination on the grounds of religion, caste, race, sex or place of birth.

Article 16 (1): It provides equality of opportunity to all citizens when it comes to public employment and reemphasise that there would be no discrimination based on religion, caste, race, sex, descent, place of birth and residence.

Article 25: It gives ‘Freedom of Conscience’, which means all persons are equally entitled to freedom of conscience and the right to profess, practise, and propagate religion freely.

Article 26: Every religious group or individual has the right to constitute and regulate centres for religious and charitable work and handle its affairs in matters of religion.

Article 27: The state shall not direct any citizen to pay any taxes to promote and improvise any specific religion or religious centre.

Article 28: It permits educational institutions coordinated by different religious groups to give religious instructions.

Article 29 and Article 30: They guarantee cultural and educational rights to the minorities or their groups.

Article 51A: Fundamental Duties make all citizens promote unity and the spirit of common brotherhood and value and preserve the rich heritage of composite culture.

Current Status of secularism in India

The word ‘secularism’ contains the same meaning as Vedic idea of ‘Dharma nirapekshata’, which is the state’s detachment from religion. Religion is simply a personal decision of individuals. It centres on the non-union of the state from religion and outright opportunity to all religions and resistance. It additionally implies equivalent freedoms for experts with next to no biases and one-sided follows up on the grounds of religion towards them. Party-political secularism, brought into the world around 40 years prior is a detestable convention polished by every ideological group, including by purported ‘mainstream powers’. This secularism has dispersed all qualities from the centre thought and supplanted them with advantage. Deft distance (commitment or separation), however chiefly astute coalition with strict networks, especially for sure fire electing advantage, is its implicit motto. Not interested in opportunity and correspondence based strict change, it has eliminated basic from the term ‘basic regard’ and unusually perceived ‘regard to mean cutting arrangements with forceful or standard segments of strict religious gatherings opening the Ram mandir for puja. It has even been complicit in lighting common savagery.[6] This party-political ‘mainstream’ state, on the other hand to the edge of the minority and the greater part was automatically taken over by a majoritarian party. This was cultivated by eliminating the word ‘all’ and supplanting it by ‘majority’, just the majority religion never scrutinizes it, however foolishly it derides other and frees the condition of the bad act of shrewd distance not by re-establishing principled distance but by supernaturally cancelling the distance for all. This is unhampered majoritarian taking on the appearance of secularism, one that goes against ‘pseudo-secularism’ without inspecting its own similarly unscrupulous practices.

The Karnataka High Court gave a notification to the BJP state government on dependent on an appeal recorded by the People’s Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL) that provoked the public authority’s transition to arrange a review looking for data about churches in the state. According to the correspondence, the survey was aimed to gather information identified with places of worship, their location, geographic area, landholding, and the name of the minister/minister in-control.

The MLA during the meeting of the Karnataka Assembly, asserted religious transformations “forcibly or through actuation” were “widespread” across the state. Similarly, he said that 15,000 to 20,000 people including his own mother, was converted to Christianity. This droves Home Minister Araga Jnanendra’s reaction that the public authority would keep a “severe vigil” on such asserted actions. This very issue was presented to the public authority’s notification. Changing individuals starting with one religion over then onto the next by initiating them is a serious offense. We will keep a severe vigil on such exercises. There is a wide organization chipping away at strict transformations the nation over,” Jnanendra had said then, at that point.

After seven days, Karnataka Chief Minister Basavaraj Bommai uncovered the express government’s arrangement to acquaint a law with boycotted huge religious transformations in the state. The people were expecting of a positive reaction from the CM, who obviously stood strong by them to help Christians when temples were vandalized in the state in 2008, Bommai emphasized that “a solid enemy of conversion law will be in action soon” in Karnataka.

If searched, then It would be found that the word ‘secularism’ is mentioned in the Preamble of India by the 42nd Amendment Act, 1976. Indian Secularism is available from Article 25 to Article 28, of Indian constitution where it guarantees everyone the option to perform any religion.

Example of Secularism: Indians commend all celebrations with their outright opportunity to praise any religion in the country independent of their station and belief. India doesn’t owe steadfastness to a specific religion all things considered: it isn’t sceptical or against any religion, it gives equal opportunity to all religions.

Political people who advance ethnoreligious personalities, particularly radical ideologues have made a lot of disarray around the idea of secularism, guaranteeing that its supporters have tried to make the state unfriendly or not interested in religion. That was positively not the goal of the leaders of current India, whose foe was not religion, but rather communalism.

Some fanatics characterize India socially as a “Hindu nation” and plans to change it into a “Hindu rashtra”. Some extremists view India as a Hindu country not just in light of the fact that Hindus make up around 80% of its population yet additionally in light of the fact that they consider themselves to be the real son of the soil. The social policing of some radicals, who pay allegiances shows that India has somewhat become a true Hindu rashtra, an impact of the radicals at the grassroots levels. Some upsetting radical’s power might enjoy illicit activities, they are regularly considered the real epitome of majoritarian rule.

Some traditional Hindu associations have requested that India ought to be pronounced a “Hindu nation”. As of 28th July 2020, there were supplications going on Supreme court of India to eliminate the word ‘secularism’ from the Preamble of the Constitution of India.

Grounds of threat to Secularism

Associating Religion and Politics in any structure, which activates electors on different grounds of early-stage acknowledgment like cast, religion and identity endangers Indian secularism. Communal politics is derived from communalised plan of enhancement, social space by spreading fantasies and generalizations against minorities, through an assault on reasonable qualities by performing captivated philosophical promulgation and legislative issues, empowering riots specific parts of the country.  Politicization of any religious gathering triggers the cutthroat gap of different gatherings.

Religious freedom has gone under attack in recent years with the development of exclusionary fanatic stories, the savagery against religious minorities that have worked with a deplorable and progressing effort of brutality, terrorizing, and badgering against lower-ranked Hindu minorities. Both public and private entertainers have occupied with this activity. The designated religious minorities, including Sikhs, “face difficulties going from demonstrations of brutality or terrorizing to the deficiency of political force, expanding disappointment, and cut-off points on admittance to instruction, lodging, and work. As per an article by Indian web newspaper, a “lynch horde peculiarity” where Muslim, Christian, Sikh and lower ranked Hindu Indians lynched over reports and doubt” has been happening in India from 2017 and July 2018.[7] From quite a while Sikhs regularly face harassment and pressure to leave their religious practices and convictions that are obligation of Sikhism, like wearing Sikh dress and unshorn hair and keeping obligatory religious things, including the kirpan, which is a right secured by the Indian constitution. Article 25 of the Indian constitution considers Sikhs to be Hindus. This establishes an atmosphere wherein Hindu fanatics view Sikhs as a body dismissed from Hinduism and seeing them being foes of India since they have this reasoning that a few Sikhs support the Khalistan political development, which demands to make another state in India for Sikhs and full legal acknowledgment of Sikhism as an autonomous confidence[8].

  • Four more churches were vandalized in Karnataka on Sunday even as the assaults spread to Bangalore where three spots of worship were designated two days after the Centre served a warning to the focal government requesting that it get control over the savagery.
  • Three holy places in Bangalore city went under violence on Sunday while one more church was vandalised in Kodagu region on Saturday night.
  • Unidentified group of people stripped a congregation in Mariyannapalya while another gathering violated churches in Rajarajeswari Nagar.

Makes the picture of mainstream India more awful and power the outlook of ordinary citizens to make question the fate of secularism in India!

How the difference of vision affects the beauty of secularism

There are two other contending opinion for how the state should deal with religion. In particular extremists Hindu patriotism and Hindu conservativism. The radical Hindus held that Indian personality was encapsulated in Hinduism.[9]

Hindu conservatives were less intrigued by such an obvious ethnic view and focused harder on social provisions similar to the protection of conventional Hindu (or Ayurveda) comprehensive medication and the etymological transcendence of Hindi over Urdu, which numerous Indians viewed as an unknown dialect.

Judicial forays into Majoritarianism

Notwithstanding the Congress Party, one more significant establishment that has safeguarded secularism in the past whose activities merit new examination is the legal executive, whose mentalities as of late have likewise become more conflicted. The sensitive equilibrium of secularism in India must be kept up if law and order wins and empowers each resident to feel equivalent to other people, independent of local area. For that to be valid, a careful legal executive without the pollutant of strict inclination or inspiration is required. While the Supreme Court stays the main Indian foundation in this regard, it’s occasionally problematic choices and the mutual hints embraced by some lower legal executive authorities have added to the disintegration of secularism. The Supreme Court has commonly attempted to stay dedicated to the secular character of the Indian Constitution; lower courts have infrequently upheld Hindu majoritarian perspectives. All things considered, the Supreme Court is apparently one of the last solid overseers of India’s secularism, and its disposition opposite high-profile cases, for example, the Ayodhya case going ahead will be investigated much more intently.

Has Secularism failed as a concept in India?

In the current scenario Indian Secularism has for sure been such a disappointment, why, one may ask, has India kept on offering empty talk to it? The appropriate response is feasible to contend, lies in the goals of patriotism, first in the need to join India behind the patriot authority, and later in the need to create a lawful and political system wherein “public solidarity” may figure it out. These goals pushed even the individuals who had minimal genuine obligation to veritable secularism to declare freely their adherence to common qualities. There has consistently a break between the genuine importance of secularism and the variation of secularism as embraced in India

If secularization in this way is to be perceived as a cycle wherein ties of religion, caste and ethnic particularisms are progressively rising above, in which the governmental issues are characterized on pragmatist and philosophical lines, and in which religion and nationalism are bound to the circle of ‘private” life, then, at this point, its converse is happening in India. Collective lawmakers have effectively utilized the financial matters of imbalance, lopsided turn of events and being worked on to build up their extremely tight grip over the public.

Secularism is pertinent and suitable for India. The contention, that it has fizzled isn’t very much upheld. There is no evidence of how the State would have benefited had the Indian republic been a more religion-arranged one. I think the option in contrast to secularism in India, as in other profoundly assorted social orders, would be terrible. Secularism gives a keep an eye on the oppression of the greater part that is a characteristic piece of any fair society.


Indian secularism isn’t just the creation of India’s post-1947 political pioneers. The idea has a more drawn out, recognized spot throughout the entire existence of Indian human civilization. For centuries, few rulers have advanced the conjunction of India’s religious networks. Emperor Ashoka, regardless of his enthusiastic adherence to Buddhism, and the Mughal Emperor Akbar went significantly further by starting a syncretic statement of faith, a custom that finished in Gandhism. Indeed, Indian secularism is the result of an entire human civilization, as a senior scholarly figure, Nayantara Sahgal, commented as: “We are unique in the whole world as we are improved by such countless societies, religions. Presently they need to crush us into one culture. So, it is a risky time. We would rather not lose our beauty of diversity.”

How is it possible that Central and State legislatures assume control over the administration of Hindu temples if they claim to be secular? How is it possible that the government provides financial help to instructive foundations run by religious associations? How is it possible that a secular government systematize and alter Hindu personal law? Then why is it required that the public authority has to expand the current rank-based reservations to minority religions if claiming to be a secular state?

We want a truly common space where informed conversations can happen on complex issues of character and faithfulness, a space wherein an individual has the option to leave their religion if they wish to and is guaranteed the security to express. A space where we are not needed to practice a bogus decision among self and local area, or between religious conviction and individual flexibility. We want a truly common space where moderate social change is empowered, not hindered, in which moderate patterns are debilitate, in which those on the edges are attracted, not drove to the brink.

The concept of anti-secularism targets and weakens the integrity of Indian society where all its citizens live peacefully and then a group of extremist and radicals interferes and targets to destroy the beauty of Indian diversity by planting unnatural devotions for once religion and colliding it with nation’s harmony.  No religion or nation promote hate and evil, but some groups still perform ill towards the humanity of their own country and treat them as degraded individuals. In addition to this, they call themselves to be sacred who belongs to so and so religion. 

So, the question arises here is that “Are they really benevolent towards doing good for their own religion and country or just some cruel spirits who only know how to promote violence and put hate in people’s heart to achieve their own ill motives?

[1] “Want to preserve secularism in India? Well. Preserve the Hindu ethos first”, available at: (Last Modified August 09, 2020, 2:47 PM).

[2] Id. at 1

[3] “The Future of Indian Secularism”, available at: , (Last Modified AUGUST 12, 2020 14:21).

[4] Id. at 3

[5] The Constitution of India Bare Act, 2020.

[6] “What is Secularism, and it’s Threat?”, available at : (Last Modified May 21, 2021).

[7] Id. at 6

[8] “Why Secularism in India Is under Serious Threat”, available at: , (Last Modified May 5, 2017).

[9] “Challenges faced by Secularism in India”, available at: , (Last modified June 12, 2020).

Author: Laiba Tahreem, Jamia Hamdard Institute of legal Studies and Research

Editor: Kanishka VaishSenior Editor, LexLife India

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