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India as a Secular State

India has been the land of peace and harmony so various types of religious people from the world wants to reside in India. India taught the world about the meaning of secularism which attracted the people all over the world. India is a secular nation with no state religion and therefore every citizen residing within the territory of India has the right to follow the religion he believes in. Religion is personal matter and everyone has right to follow ones own religion.

India has always been a Secular State from times immemorial. Ashoka about 2200 years ago accepted and patronised different religions. The people in ancient India had freedom of religion, and the state granted citizenship to each individual regardless of whether someone's religion was Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism or any other. Ellora caves temples built next to each other between 5th and 10th centuries, shows a coexistence of religions and a spirit of acceptance of different faiths.Another great ruler Akbar sought to fuse ideas, professed equality between Islam and other religions of India, forbade forced conversions to Islam, abolished religion-based discriminatory Jizya taxes, and welcomed building of Hindu temples.

The colonial administrators did not separate religion from state, but marked the end of equal hierarchy between Islam and Hinduism, and reintroduced the notion of equality before the law for Hindus, Christians and Muslims. The British Empire sought commerce and trade, with a policy of neutrality to all of India's diverse religions. Before 1858, the Britishers followed the policy of patronising and supporting the native religions as the earlier rulers had done. Looking into these tradition. Indian constitution also continued these traditions.

Provisions under Constitution:
The attitude of impartiality towards all religious is secured by the constitution by several provisions:

Article 25

The Indian Constitution guarantees various fundamental rights to the citizens. One of the fundamental rights guaranteed by the constitution also includes right to freedom of religion. it is worthwhile to mention the clauses written in our constitution about the right of religion. This comes under fundamental rights constitution.

Freedom of conscience and free profession, practice and propagation of religion.

  1. Subject to public order, morality and health and to the other provisions of this Part, all persons are equally entitled to freedom of conscience and the right freely to profess, practise and propagate religion.
  2. Nothing in this article shall affect the operation of any existing law or prevent the State from making any law
  • (a) regulating or restricting any economic, financial, political or other secular activity which may be associated with religious practice;
  • (b) providing for social welfare and reform or the throwing open of Hindu religious institutions of a public character to all classes and sections of Hindus.

Explanation I The wearing and carrying of kirpans shall be deemed to be included in the profession of the Sikh religion

Explanation II In sub clause (b) of clause reference to Hindus shall be construed as including a reference to persons professing the Sikh, Jaina or Buddhist religion, and the reference to Hindu religious institutions shall be construed accordingly

Article 26:
Freedom to manage religious affairs Subject to public order, morality and health, every religious denomination or any section thereof shall have the right:

  • (a) to establish and maintain institutions for religious and charitable purposes;
  • (b) to manage its own affairs in matters of religion;
  • (c) to own and acquire movable and immovable property; and
  • (d) to administer such property in accordance with law

Article 27:

Freedom as to payment of taxes for promotion of any particular religion No person shall be compelled to pay any taxes, the proceeds of which are specifically appropriated in payment of expenses for the promotion or maintenance of any particular religion or religions denomination

Article 28:

Freedom as to attendance at religious instruction or religious worship in certain educational institutions

  1. No religion instruction shall be provided in any educational institution wholly maintained out of State funds
  2. Nothing in clause (1) shall apply to an educational institution which is administered by the State but has been established under any endowment or trust which requires that religious instruction shall be imparted in such institution
  3. No person attending any educational institution recognised by the State or receiving aid out of State funds shall be required to take part in any religious instruction that may be imparted in such institution or to attend any religious worship that may be conducted in such institution or in any premises attached thereto unless such person or, if such person is a minor, his guardian has given his consent thereto Cultural and Educational Rights

Opinions by Eminent Persons:

These articles were accepted by constitution of India. many were against this idea stating that India was the oldest civilisation and thus due respect should be given to Hindu religion but many eminent people said that the clause written in constitution are correct and in the favour of old civilisation.

Mahatma Gandhi said: I do not expect India of my dreams to develop one religion, i.e., to be wholly Hindu or wholly Christian or wholly Mussalman, but I want it to be wholly tolerant, with its religions working side by side with one another.

Lakshmi Kant Mishra said: By secular state, as i understand it, is meant that the state is not going to make any discrimination whatsoever on the ground of religion or community against any person professing any particular form of religious faith. This means in essence that no particular religion in the state will receive any state patronage whatsoever. The state is not going to establish, patronise or endow any particular religion to the exclusion of or in preferences to others and that no citizens in the state will have any preferential treatment or will be discriminated against simply on the ground that he professed a particular form of religion. In other words, in the affairs of the state, the professing of any particular religion will not be taken into consideration at all. This I consider is the essence of a secular state.

H.V.Kamath said: when I say that a state should not identify itself with any particular religions. I do not mean to say that a state should be anti-religious or irreligious. we have certainly declared indue to be a secular state. but to my mind, a secular state is neither a god-less state nor an irreligious nor an anti-religious state.

According to Alladi Krishnaswami Aiyar It was probably unnecessary to have included expression propogate in view of the fact that the freedom of expression is already guaranteed under Article 19, but the expression was inserted by way of abundant caution to satisfy certain missionary interests who were zealous about it

The significance of secularism as it relates to the state in India has been dealt with at length by India's Second President, Dr. S. Radhakrishnan, in the following words:-

When India is said to be a secular state, it does not mean that we reject the reality of an unseen spirit or the relevance of religion to life or that we exalt irreligion. it does not mean that secularism itself becomes a positive religion or that the state assumes divine prerogatives. Though faith in the Supreme is the basic principle of the Indian tradition the Indian State will not identify itself with or be controlled by any particular religion.

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 interests of religion and government. this view of religious impartiality, of comprehension and forbearance has a prophetic role to play within the national and international life. No group of citizens shall arrogate to itself rights and privileges which it denies to others. no person should suffer any form of disability or disriominatio because of his religion but all alike should be free to share to the fullest degree in the common life. This is the basic principle involved in the separation of church and State.

The religious impartiality of the Indian state is not to be confused with secularism or atheism. Secularism as here defined is in accordance with the ancient religious tradition of India. It tries to build up a fellowship of believers, not by subordinating individual qualities to the group-mind but by bringing them into harmony with each other.

Ambedkar explained the concept of secularism as follows:

it does not men that we shall not take into consideration the religious sentiments of the people. All that a secular state means is that this parliament shall not be competent to impose any particular religion upon the rest of the people. that is the only limitation that the constitution recognises.

Conclusion:
Secularism in India, thus, does not mean separation of religion from state. Instead, secularism in India means a state that is neutral to all religious groups. India is the home of many religions where the people of democratic India are free to celebrate their festivals with enthusiasm and equality. People respect each others religion, thus spreading the message of unity among different nations.

Sources:

  • Indias Constitution by M.V. Pylee
  • Constitution of India by Durga Das Basu
  • Constitution of India, 1949 Bare Act
  • The Hindu
  • The Times of India

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