India: Secular State or Hindu Rashtra

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By Vanika Tayal from LLoyd Law College, Greater Noida

INTRODUCTION

This topic always remains in the eyes of the scholars. During the Independence of our country this tug of war started. When we got freedom from the British it was not easy to tackle this situation. The great Gandhi (freedom fighter) has two aspects of the freedom movement. One was to end the British rule and second was to build modern India which contains the values of Liberty and Equality. He sees India where ‘religions live together’ means he wants Hindus, Muslims, Christians, Parsees and other religions to live together in one roof. At the same time British policy ‘Divide and Rule’ worked as an acid on Gandhian thinking. Separation of people in the name of religion is an agenda of the British policy. First, they encouraged Muslims and they formed Muslims League. Hindu also grouped themselves and called Hindu Mahasabha.   

Muslim League talked about Muslim Nation and Hindu Mahasabha talked not only abbot Hindus but its talks about Muslims also, but importance given to Hindus were primary and that’s why RSS came up with the goals of Hindu nation (Hindu rashtra). This leads to the partition of India and Pakistan. After that India became a Secular State and on the other hand founder of Pakistan Mohammad Ali Jinnah said in his speech that Pakistan also be a secular state but after the death of Jinnah this ideology came to an end and Pakistan was declared as , the Islamic republic of Pakistan’.  

Making India a Secular State is not an easy task Gandhi faces many huddles. 

When Gandhi declared that congress faith lies in secular India means Hindu and Muslims will be treated equally in this nation. This statement brought violence among Hindus, people started gathering in groups holding black flags and shouting ‘Gandhi Moradabad (death of Gandhi)’. One of the activists of Hindu Mahasabha Nathuram Vinayak Godse shot Gandhi in the chest at point black range.  

Even when Indira Gandhi (former prime minister) wanted to amend preamble many obstacles came on her way. When she displays the 59th clause 42nd constitution amendment bill which proposes to change preamble to switch old expressions to new one. “sovereign, democratic, republic” to “sovereign, democratic, secular, socialist, republic” in both the houses of the parliament. she was accused by her opponents of not having the right to amend the constitution and asked her to clarify what she meant by the word secular.  

Above paragraphs enlightens us about how secularism came into India. they give roughly an idea about what is secular and Hindu rashtra. Let’s broaden these two concepts widely. 

 SECULAR: 

The word secular means ‘separate’ from religion or having no religious footing. A secular person is one who does not have faith in any religion or do not practise any rituals of any kind of religion. This type of person probably is an atheist and has rational or scientific thinking. Secular or secularism concept according to a country means separation of religion from economic, social and cultural aspects of life, political, etc. It leads separation of state from religion. By this equal opportunity can granted by the citizens of the state of all religion.   

In Indian Gandhi was not the first person who thinks about secularism, our history clearly shows traces of secular tradition. In ancient India, Sanatan dharma (Hinduism) allowed different spiritual traditions and try to bind them into one common mainstream. The Vedas, Upanishads and puranas show the religious profusion of Hinduism. Emperor Ashoka announced that the state shall not prosecute any religious sect. In medieval India, the Sufi and bhakti movements bond the people of different communities together. Akbar also wanted equal treatment of people of all religions that’s why he abolished the jizya system from his empire. SECULAR AND INDIAN CONSTITUTION: 

There is a clear involvement of all basic principles of secularism in provisions of the constitution.  

  • The term secular was added to the preamble which clearly stated that India is a secular country which has no state religion and the state shall accept all religion and treat equally to all religion.  
  • Article 14 grants equality before law and equal protection of the law to all. Article 15 broaden the concept of secularism by prohibiting discrimination on grounds of religion, race, sex, or place of birth.  
  • Article 16 guarantees equality of opportunities to all citizens in the matters of public employments and states that there will be no discrimination on basis of the sex, race, religion, caste, descent, place of birth and residence. 
  • Article25 estates freedom of conscience that all person are equally entitled to freedom of 

conscience and have the right to freely profess, practise and propagate religion.                                                     

  • Article 26 says that every religious group or individual has the right to establish and maintain for their religious institutions. Article 27 says that state shall not ask any citizen to pay taxes for the maintenance or promotion of any particularly a religion or religious intuitions 
  • Article 28 allows educational institutions maintained by different religion groups to convey religion instructions. Article 29 and 30 gives cultural and educational rights to minorities. 

INDIA V. WESTERN SECULARISM: 

India and western secularism are different in their own ways. In the west, the word secular estates three things: freedom of religion, equal citizenship to each citizen notwithstanding of him or her religion and the separation of religion and state. Donald smith estates that in India secular does not mean a ‘thorough going separation of religion and state’. In the western model of secularism, the state and religion have their own separate platform and they shall not intervene in each other’s footing. In other words the west has a ’wall of separation’ between state and religion but In India both state and religion intervene in each other’s affairs within legally prescribed parameters. In the west financial support by the state is not given to the educational institutions run by religious communities but in India religious minorities have this right and the state shall interfere in religion as to remove evils from it   like sati or widow burning practises, child marriages, dowries. The western model prohibits any public policy drafted on basis of the religion on the other hand in India state has the policy of setting up departments of religious endowments, wakf boards, etc. So, the above paragraph clears the picture that India has its own modification model of secularism. Perhaps, we can say that a unique concept of secularism was born in India . 

HINDU RASHTRA: 

Hindu rashtra definition is not absolute, many scholars have different views regarding this. Majorly people believe that Hindu rashtra means rule of Hindus in India. Muslims or any other religions like christens or Parsees will be in minority they will not be treated equals as Hindus. If we view independence era when Hindu Mahasabha formed in that Mahasabha everyone is welcome, but Hindus are primary. If we talked about modern India many scholars or views of supporters, they say that Hindu rashtra does not mean Muslims have no place in India. There are many contradictions regarding Hindu rashtra definition. The diversity in Hindus made it regarded as cultural nationalism than a religious one that’s why also they want word Hindu rashtra use rather than secularism. 

In the twentieth century Vinayak Damodaran Savarkar defined the Hindu in terms of what is called Hindutva which means hinduness. He defines Hindus as he considers his fatherland and holy land. The definition kept Christianity, Muslims and other religions outside the frame of Hindus. His emphasised-on basis of territorial loyalty not a political means. He wrote Christians and Muslims holy land is far from Hindu. it is Ariba or Palestine. He defined the concept of Hindu rashtra as Hindu polity. The concept Hindu polity says from the protection of Hindu people and said that the economic and political system should be based on native thoughts rather than borrowed from the west. 

WAY FORWARD: 

Above paragraphs enlighten us about secularism and Hindu rashtra. Secularism policies are written in the Indian constitution, so we follow it in India. Secularism is followed but there is a spirit of Hindu rashtra in people’s mind. Evidence shows that religious beliefs have not been fully isolated from our society. Nowadays it is said that Indian is tending towards DE secularism or In other words it is flowing towards Hindu rashtra.  

Luthra and smith says that India is not secular state because it does not separate the state and the church(religion) completely. They also estates that state intervenes in religious matters. This disturb the flow of secularism in India. Some provisions in the constitutions interfere with the customs and practices of Hindu that led to rising of religious fundamentalism for example ramjanambhumi and babri mosque conflict was a major conflict. This case has been solved recently and formation of temple is declared. Many of people are not happy by this verdict also they think that India is going towards Hindu rashtra.  

Most common phrases used in almost every article when there is discussion about religion and politics are ‘the political parties in India using religion and caste factors’ for promotion of interest that leads to undermine the secular values. This shows that our political leaders are lacking in true commitment to the secularism policies of India society and this is the failure of leadership also. Ultimately, if that leader wins the election then he or she will favour that community more that means indirectly values of secularism will not be fulfilled honestly.  

Many ceremonies like puja, breaking of coconuts, applying tilaks, performance of Arti for welcoming guests symbolise that Hindus as cultural or Hindu culture is performed in India. It shows that Hindu are primary. This gives other religious communities living in India a mindset that they are secondary. This creates an inappropriate gesture about the neutrality of secularism. Mostly when people say Indians by this, they mean Hindus. This shows that Hindus culture influence in India is so vast that other religious communities have been side-line. Total neglect of secularism values in India. More surprisingly, these things are never being highlighted, not even try to form a set of rituals from various religious communities for welcoming guests or other state functions.  

These are the drawbacks of secularism, but we cannot neglect that provisions of secularism are framed very nicely in our constitution otherwise probably this topic discussion will be worthless. India is only the country which has so many diversities than also holding it together. If this framework is not done in our country then that will lead violence and other religious communities who were living in that independence era had to leave their houses. Today 40% of the population in India is of other religious communities. If India is based only on Hindu rashtra than how they live in our country?? We can not neglect this fact also. Moreover, RSS Sarsanghchalak Mohan Bhagwat came up with the new perspective that India is a Hindu rashtra , its define Hindutva that anyone living in the country is a Hindu that means what so ever is his or her religion if you have citizenship of India that means that person is Hindu. 

So, I can conclude that India is a secular state and Hindu rashtra also. These two concepts are like ‘see – saw’ in India. Sometimes the values of secularism give majorly importance and sometimes values pf Hindu rashtra are in highlights. They both are balancing each other in India. So, India is neither properly based on secularism values nor properly it is Hindu rashtra. 

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