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India: A Secular State Or A Hindurashtra?

India which stretches itself from Jammu and Kashmir in the north to Tamil Nadu in the south and Gujrat in the west to Arunachal Pradesh in the east is one of the most diverse nations on the planet if not the most diverse nation on the planet. With twenty-two official languages to hundreds of native mother tongues. It is home to all major religions present in the world with 28 states and union territories with Hindu majority population, 04 states and union territories with Christian majority population, one state and one union territory with Muslim majority population and a state with Sikh majority population.

On 15th August in 1947 India got its independence and on 26th January in 1950 the Constitution of India came into effect. India initially did not adopt secularism as a fundamental part of the constitution. It was clearly mentioned that India was a sovereign democratic republic with no mention of being a secular state. It was in 1976 when after 42nd India was declared to be a "secular" and "socialist" country. And since then, there has been a debate that was it a right step to make India a secular country or was it a political stunt to appease a particular community.

The very definition of the word 'secularism' in current times is "the principle of separation of the state from religious institutions". It was first coined by British agnostic writer George Holyoake in 1851 after finding the word 'atheism' too aggressive.

It is true that Christianity is the most practiced religion on the planet. But much of it is due to forced conversions by the missionaries. In Africa the black Africans were forced to adopt Christianity to work as slaves for the colonizers. In America the native red Indians were discriminated on the basis that they practiced their tribal customs and religion.

In Europe, the Jews were forced to convert to save their lives from atrocities. In South Asia the Christian missionaries were the stalwarts of the church who converted the tribals and lower caste to Christianity. Sometimes by force and sometimes by greed. Rice, grains, and pulses were not mere farm products but a weapon of conversion. Indians, Africans, and the Jews were the victim of forced conversion then.

Similarly, from the dawn of Islam, it has spread at an unprecedented rate. Mainly because of clear concepts like one God, one messenger and one book. It denies the existence of any other god but Allah. Its genesis was peaceful, but the spread was, in some cases, violent. For example, in pre–Islamic Afghanistan the masses practiced Buddhism and Hinduism. After Islamic invasions the polytheistic population declined very fast. So fast that the northern mountains of Afghanistan are named Hindu Kush which means one who kills Hindus. Islam is the second most practiced religion in the world but much of it is a result of forced conversion.

On the other hand Hinduism is the third most practiced religion in the world. It is also the only major non-Abrahamic religion in the world. Though there are only two countries in the world with a Hindu majority population (India and Nepal) but once Hinduism spread across Asia. Countries like Indonesia, Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Afghanistan was once a Hindu majority country. There are no evidence that shows that the ancient Hindu rulers like the Cholas who once ruled present day Indonesia forcefully imposed Hinduism over people of foreign territory.

If we look at the nations which have adopted secularism in past and are now secular, we find that most of them are Christian majority like United States of America, France, United Kingdom, and Germany. Islamic countries like Indonesia and Turkey are too secular but they are only a small part of 57 nations strong 'Islamic world'. Whereas there are only two Hindu majority nations, and both are secular.

So, a general question arises that why these countries need secularism. And the best answer would be monotheism. In monotheism people are bound to worship a single god or entity. This is completely opposite of polytheism where one could worship multiple gods. One of the many reasons of adopting secularism was that the Abrahamic religions weren't tolerant to non-Abrahamic religions.

For example in the holy bible Exodus 20:23 says:
"You shall not make other gods besides Me; gods of silver or gods of gold, you shall not make for yourselves"

Exodus 22:20 says
"He who sacrifices to any god, other than to the Lord alone, shall be utterly destroyed."

And in holy Quran 2:221
"Do not marry your women to polytheist men unless they believe in Islam; a Muslim slave is better than a polytheist even though he may attract you."

Surah number 09, Ayat number 05 says
"But once the Sacred Months have passed, kill the polytheists ˹who violated their treaties˺ wherever you find them, capture them, besiege them, and lie in wait for them on every way. But if they repent, perform prayers, and pay alms-tax, then set them free. Indeed, Allah is All-Forgiving, Most Merciful."

All these verses are predatory in nature and discriminates against the polytheist community. Therefore, to ensure that religion does not become a factor of communal disharmony within the state the wester nations and some other implemented secularism.

When it comes to India this is not the case. India from it's genesis has been a pluralistic and polytheistic civilization. It has never invaded any nation on grounds of religion. The Article 25(1) of the constitution of India says that every citizen of India has the right to practice, profess and propagate religion of his choice.

This is not something new to the Democratic Republic of India. It has been in practice since ages when India was a civilization. India as a civilization never discriminated on the grounds of religion. Everyone was free to run their own religious institutions, everyone was free to practice any religion (Abrahamic or Dharmic).

All of this because polytheism does not restrict anyone to follow any other religion. The only change that brought discriminatory attitude towards different communities within India was after the Islamic rulers invaded India. Hindus were persecuted, their temples were destroyed, religious scriptures were destroyed, universities were burnt, and 'non-believers' were made a second-class citizens within their homeland. They also made non-Muslims to pay Jizya which is a tax paid by non-Muslims for being polytheists.

The Republic of India is declared to be secular, but it does not need to. Even if India becomes a Hindurashtra (a Hindu state) the values of secularism will be protected as secularism was introduced to protect the monotheistic society of west from communal disharmony as they are intolerant to each other.

The idea of 'Hindurashtra' tolerates the religious diversity and is truly standing on the core values and principles of secularism as it does not believe in one god but multiple gods existing altogether. Nepal which is a former 'Hindurashtra' has seen lesser communal riots than secular India.

Removing secularism from constitution and preamble of India won't be an easy task but if removed it would not bring an anti-minority change in long term.

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