What is Secularism? It means the separation of religion from political, economic, social and cultural aspects of life, religion being treated as a purely personal matter.
The term in itself is important for IAS Exam, Aspirants can be asked questions on Secularism under Main GS I, GS II, essay and Polity optional in the examination.
This article will provide you with all relevant facts about Secularism, the definition of Secularism in India and its constitutional significance. You will also read the difference between Indian Secularism and Western Secularism. Aspirants can also download the UPSC notes PDF on secularism for the upcoming exam.
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Secularism in India – History
The tradition of Secularism is inhibited in the deep roots of the history of India. Indian culture is based on the blending of various spiritual traditions and social movements.
Secularism in Ancient India
Secularism in Medieval India
Secularism in Modern India
In the present scenario, in the context of India, the separation of religion from the state constitutes the core of the philosophy of secularism.
What is Indian Secularism?
- In India, the first face of Secularism is reflected in the Preamble of India where the word ‘Secular’ is read.
- Indian Secularism is also reflected in its fundamental rights (Article 25-28) where it guarantees each of its citizens the right to practice any religion.
In the words of P B Gajendragadkar, a former Chief Justice of India, secularism is defined as ‘The State does not owe loyalty to any particular religion as such: it is not irreligious or anti-religious; it gives equal freedom to all religions.
Also, read about:
Secularism and Indian Constitution
Various provision of the Indian constitution clearly incorporates the basic principles of Secularism.
With the 42nd Amendment of the Constitution of India (1976), the Preamble to the Constitution asserted that India is a “secular” nation. The meaning of a secular state is that it does not prioritize any one religion for the country and its people. Institutions started to recognize and accept all religions, enforce parliamentary laws instead of religious laws, and respect pluralism.
|Articles of Indian Constitutions||Provision for secularism|
|Article 14 and Article 15||The former grants equality before the law and equal protection of the laws to all while the later enlarges the concept of secularism to the widest possible extent by prohibiting discrimination on grounds of religion, race, caste, sex or place of birth.|
|Article 16 (1)||Equal opportunity to all citizens in matters of public employment and reiterates, no discrimination on the basis of religion, race, caste, sex, descent, place of birth and residence|
|Article 25**||‘Freedom of Conscience’, that is, all persons have equal right to freely profess, practise and propagate religion.|
|Article 26||Every religious group/ individual has the right to establish and maintain religious and charitable institutions and to manage its own affairs in matters of religion.|
|Article 27||the state shall not compel any citizen to pay any taxes for the promotion or maintenance of any particular religion or religious institution.|
|Article 28||allows educational institutions maintained by different religious groups to impart religious instruction|
|Article 29 and Article 30||Provides for the cultural and educational rights to the minorities|
|Article 51A||obliges all the citizens to promote harmony and the spirit of common brotherhood and to value and preserve the rich heritage of our composite culture.|
Secularism & Article 25 of the Indian Constitution
Indian Constitution guarantees to its citizens six fundamental rights, one of which is the right to freedom of religion. Article 25 of the Indian Constitution gives each citizen:
- Freedom of Conscience
- Right to Profess any religion
- Right to Practice any religion
- Right to Propagate any religion
Note: Article 25 covers not only religious beliefs (doctrines) but also religious practices (rituals). Moreover, these rights are available to all persons—citizens as well as non-citizens. However, there are reasonable restrictions on the fundamental rights of the citizens and central government/state government, in time of need, can interfere with the religious affairs of the citizens.
Read more about Right to Freedom of Religion in the linked article.
Indian Secularism – Philosophy
- Indian philosophy of secularism is related to “Sarva Dharma Sambhava”(literally it means that the destination of the paths followed by all religions is the same, though the paths themselves may be different) which means equal respect to all religions.
- This model of secularism is adopted by western societies where the government is totally separate from religion (i.e. separation of church and state).
- No official religion – India does not recognize any religion as official. Nor does it owe allegiance to any particular religion.
- India does not have an official state religion. However, different personal laws – on matters such as marriage, divorce, inheritance, alimony varies with an individual’s religion.
- There is neutrality in religion, India does not intercept the affairs of any specific religion. It respects all religions on par with one another
- It assures religious freedom to the members of all religions. Citizens are free to choose and abide by their religions
- Indian secularism is a means to address religious plurality and is not an end in itself. It sought to achieve the peaceful coexistence of different religions.
Secularism – Facts for UPSC
The list given-below mentions a few important facts about Secularism for UPSC 2021.
- The word ‘Secular’ was added in the Preamble of India by the 42nd Amendment Act
- Fundamental Rights of India strengthen the secular fabric of the country
- Secular character of the Indian Constitution stands as a basic feature of it and cannot be amended by any act
- In the Bommai Case 1994, the Supreme Court upheld the validity of ‘Secularism’ as the basic feature of the Constitution
- Secularism is sometimes understood with two concepts:
- The negative concept of secularism is the Western concept of secularism. It connotes a complete separation between the religion (the church) and the state (the politics).
- This negative concept of secularism is inapplicable in the Indian situation where the society is multireligious
- The positive concept of secularism is reflected in India. The Indian Constitution embodies the positive concept of secularism, i.e., giving equal respect to all religions or protecting all religions equally.
- Secularism is a fundamental reality of India’s fabric hence any state government pursuing anti-secular politics is liable to action under Article 356
Secularism in India Vs. Secularism in West
The difference between Indian Secularism and Western Secularism is given in the table below:
|Secularism in India||Secularism in West|
|Indian citizens are given a fundamental right to religion however, this right is subject to public order, morality and health.||In the West, typically The USA, the state and religion are separated and both don’t interfere in affairs of each other|
|There is no one religion that dominates Indian society as a citizen is free to practice, profess and propagate any religion||Christianity is the most reformed, caste neutral and single dominant religion in the state|
|India, with its outlook, focuses on intra-religious aspects and try to remove the stigma (if any) attached with any religion on the society||West doesn’t focus on intra-religious aspects of Christianity and let the religion act on the society as it is|
|Due to accessibility to many religions, there are inter-religious conflicts and the Indian government has to intervene to maintain peace and harmony||Since Christianity is the one dominant religion, the focus is less on inter-religious conflicts|
|In India, due to the presence of multiple religions and multiple communities, the government has to focus on both. Example, Article 29 grants protection to both religious minorities as well as linguistic minorities.||West, by far, focuses on the equality and harmony among the people of the same religion|
|With the presence of multiple religion, the role of religious bodies also gets enhanced and it furthers their role in Indian politics||The role of religious bodies is very small in national politics|
|Indian states can aid religious institutions||States don’t aid religious institutions in the West|
Aspirants should just know how to related the definition of Secularism with the Secularism examples:
- India is a secular country – It doesn’t attach its politics with any religion.
- Indians celebrate all festivals or they have entire freedom to celebrate any religion in the country regardless of their caste and creed.
To know more in detail about the UPSC Syllabus, candidates can visit the linked article. For more preparation materials related to the Civil Services examination, visit the links given in the table below: