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Secular Drama: Flaws of Indian Secularism


“We, being a secular party, believe that religious minorities deserve reservation. – Samajwaadi Party”

If you are unable to notice the apparent irony in the aforementioned statement, it is by no fault of yours for we have been raised, essentially, in a society where notions of secularism are derived from political acuity and intellectual hypocrisy. The term secular has been frequently in a skewed sense by the government in order to justify controversial policies, political parties to procure votes, by intellectuals to exhibit religious tolerance and sensitivity and the revered media to denounce the so-called ‘non-secular parties’. Various political parties and multitudes of wiseguys, for long, have been meddling with the idea of secularism is such a way that it is being misconstrued by the majority of commoners. For decades, policies have been amended, minorities have been appeased and vote banks have been secured in the name of secularism. Finally, I would like to pose the pertinent question: Are we truly secular?

There are several nuances of definitions for secularism and here I would employ the one which is widely recognised. First and Foremost, secularism doesn’t promote atheism (unfortunately) and can be exhaustive summarised in the following points:
·         Subject of state is free to preach, practice or promote any religion or none of them. (Popularly known as Right to Religion  
·         State ensures equality to all its citizens irrespective of their religion and prohibits discrimination on the basis of religion.
·         State is equidistant to all religion and laws of state are pertinent to every citizen regardless of his/her religion.
“Hindutva”, professed by BJP in particular, is prominently accepted form of non-secularism in modern India amongst the contemporary parties and secular scholars. However, stating majority sentiment is as non-secular as stating minority sentiments for in strict sense the parties whether sensitive to majority or minority are religiously inclined and hence violating the equidistance clause. On the other hand, if we adhere to the pluralist interpretation of secularism (as publicised by many intellectuals) promoting majority is equally secular as promoting minority. However, any of this logic cannot justify the occasional scathing remarks that have been made from pulpits in BJP rallies towards Muslims. This is an unequivocal case of disrespecting the right to religion which allows promotion one religion but not the defilement of other.

In addition to this perceptible form, there is a minority-appeasing, intellectually-appealing, vote-winning form of pseudo-secularism which is even more ubiquitous. It seems to have mustered a lot of appraisals and acceptance and yet it flouts with the fundamentals of secularism. The denial of alimony from husband to Muslim women (exclusively) after divorce, just to receive affirmation of a male-dominated Muslim society is a typical case of denial of right to equality to a Muslim woman (Shah Bano case) on the basis of religion (after all women from other religion do receive monetary assistance). This can be considered analogous to verdict by German lower court which justified Domestic abuse against Muslim women as it was permitted in Islamic Culture (obviously the verdict was altered later on). Another congruous example of such inequality is reservations on the basis of religion. Also, the presence of separate Hindu and Muslim Codes also demonstrates how laws of states are not equally significant to all the citizens.

It shall be obvious to a man/woman with any rationale that the path we have been treading upon doesn’t lead to secularism. It is even more dismal that political parties and pioneers of the society are unwilling to recognize this discernible transgression from secularist principles. While alluding to such non-secular provisions, J.L. Nehru, one of the makers of modern India stated that a lot of policies are borne out of need to sustain a newly found nationalist sentiment and shall be undone in future. But, in tides of time the zeal to reform the nation was lost in battles for power, ideals of progress were replaced by strategies for victory and policies became a tool of appeasement rather than an instrument of change, and in this era of transitions, dreams of secular India were lost and never mourned upon.       


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