Secularity / Secular / Secularness / Secularism is the state of being unconnected or unbiased with regards to religion. Anything that does not have a clear reference to religion in any sense, can be measured as secular. Simply put – nothing remotely connected to religion.
Secular Nation: Means, a nation which does not have the interference of the Govt in matters pertaining to religion.
The constitution, in 1950 declared India as a “SOVEIRGN, DEMOCRATIC” republic. The word “SECULAR” was not present in the constitution till then. It was introduced in 1976. Thus, since then, India is declared as “SOVEIRGN, SOCIALISTIC, SECULAR, DEMOCRATIC” republic. This was done during the period of Emergency declared by the then PM, Smt.Indira Gandhi. This was done as per the 42nd amendment. The Janata party won the 1977 general elections with a promise of the restoration of the constitution to the Pre-Emergency state. Through the 43rd & the 44th amendment, the constitution was restored to an extent, but it could not do so completely
Is India actually a SECULAR nation? Let’s ponder:
- Laws are not the same: India has different laws for different religious beliefs. The Hindu code Bills & the Hindu succession act covers the Hindus, Sikhs & the Buddhists. The Muslims are covered by the Muslim personal laws & the Christians by the Christian laws. So basically, property inheritance, marriage, divorce & adoption laws are different for different religions. So then, How is India a Secular nation?
- Government control of Temples, Mosques & Churches: As the word secular says, the state has to be unconnected to the religion. But in India, the government has control of the temples. It does not have the same right over the Church & the Mosque. They remain completely independent. The Indian government has control on the Hindu temples to such an extent that the assets, properties & the money generated by the donations can be & are being used by the government for various projects remotely connected with the welfare of the Hindus or Hinduism. The government has no right over any non-Hindu religious institutions. So Then, How is India a Secular nation?
- Education: Schooling in India is divided into “Minority” run & “Majority” run. Many minority schools receive financial aid or grants from the Government. But still, they need not comply with the guidelines under the RTE. Even the private run schools which receive no aid from the government are bound by the RTE. Hindu schools are bound by the RTE. So Then, How is India a Secular nation?
- Religious subsidies: A part of the tax payer’s money is utilised in the subsidy of the Haj pilgrimage. At the same time the Amarnath Yatra or a Kumbh mela does not have that support. Well, some would say that the government spends huge money on the security of the Yatras or the Melas. Yes, it does!!! But not as a favour, but as a duty. It’s the duty & responsibility of the state to provide security to all public gatherings.
These are 4 very glaring examples of Why India may not be a SECULAR nation
But, Can India become a TRULY SECULAR nation?
Yes. Here are 3 fundamental ways it could probably be done. This would take years, or probably a decade and It is DEBATABLE!!!
1. The Uniform Civil Code: “Samaana Naagarika Samhita” is a way to bring in laws that would govern the nation irrespective of one’s religion or faith. Well, every religion has its own place of worship. Be it a Temple, Mosque, Church Gurudwara etc etc. Different religions have their own way of worship. So be it. Practice of a faith or a religion is a very personal matter. So let’s keep that private. Why should the state involve in it?
Here’s a catch !!! As mentioned in the above Point No 1, the laws pertaining to different religions viz; the property inheritance, marriage, divorce, adoption etc etc are different accordingly. Disputes if any in the above matters DOES involve state participation for settlements through a court of law. LAW should be same for all, irrespective of the religion a person or an institution adheres to. That needs to be the same for every citizen of the country. If there are disputes, that should be settled by a common set of laws. Any religion should not be deprived of the fruits of a generous outlook & should have equal treatment of laws. Then only, the religion & the state will not be truly connected, which actually means being SECULAR.
Uniform Civil Code or the UCC is defined in our Constitution under Article 44 of Directive Principles of State Policy. “The State shall endeavour to secure for the citizens a Uniform Civil Code throughout the territory if India”. In other words, we can say that it means one country one rule.
At present only the state of Goa practices the UCC.
2. Reservations: Even after 75 + years of India attaining freedom, we practice the system of caste or religion-based reservations in the public sector employment, Education & the legislative representation. Till 2019 the reservations were provided for the socially & educationally backward citizens. Since 2019 the economically backward sector are also included.
To uphold the secularity of the nation the reservations should be provided to only the economically backward sectors of our society in the education & the employment sectors. Remember the poor BRAHMIN deserves it more than rich Muslim / Christian (Minority) or the vice versa. The caste based representation in the legislative representation can be continued as deemed fit consensually. This disconnects the religion & the state which truly leads to the running of the nation in a secular way.
3. Government control of religious institutions: Government has no business to interfere in the running of religious institutions. The government is elected to govern the nation as a whole. So why then should they have a say in the religious institutions? The temples of India are still under the government control. The temples have a huge devotee turn out through out the year. The money collected by the temples through devotee donations or the “Dakshina” is huge. The amounts collected through this runs into crores of INR. This money should be utilised by the temples for the upliftment of the followers as best deemed by the temple committees. If in case of any arbitration it should be settled by the UCC at the end of the day. At best the government can & should collect income in the form of taxes for the services it provides in the form of security arrangements during Melas & Yatras or anything similar. Same way the religious subsidies also need to be curtailed. Hence all the religion will be treated the same by the government which truly will be secular. At present the government controls most of the Hindu temples.
India as a nation will do well if the elected government does not have any say or does not interfere in any religious matters. Well, Isn’t it the truly right definition of SECULARISM? The government is elected to govern the nation without any bias towards any religion or sects of the society. It’s primary goal should be towards the upliftment of the society as a whole, and not on religious basis. The government should have no business in religious matters. Laws should be in force which is common to all irrespective of the religion. In short, law and the fundamental policies should be one. Then we will be a truly SECULAR nation.