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Analysis of Fall Outs with Secularism

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Analysis of Fall-outs with Secularism

INTRODUCTION
Secularism is one of the most important aspects in the present Indian socio – political – economic scene. Unfortunately, Secularism in the present Indian context seems to be incomplete due to the intermingling of religion with politics and thus Secularism has been criticized by many. This project first defines the term “Secularism”, then puts light on the Secularist ideas followed by us and finally analyses the various critiques attached to it which have developed over time.

What is Secularism and Why Secularism?
“Secularism is the process by which sectors of society and culture are removed or separated out from religious symbols and institutions so as to constitute their own domains. The Secular state is a state that guarantees individual and corporate freedom of religion, deals with the individual as a citizen irrespective of his religion, is not constitutionally connected to a particular religion, nor seeks either to promote or interfere with religion.”
The Secularism in question is basically the interrelation between the state and multiple religious communities in India.
In addition to this, we also need to know why Secularism was needed for India in the first place. The following arguments are the most apt arguments which show the need for a Secular state. Firstly, the Indian society at large was a mixture of numerous cultures, religions, customs and languages. Thus if the dream of a single nation was to be fulfilled, it was important to imbibe the characteristics of public morality and tolerance. Secondly, even after the partition, there was a considerable amount of Muslims within the boundary of India. Gandhi and Nehru both wanted the majority, the Hindus, to be generous and accommodative towards the minority. The latter argument led to the Secularism professed by Nehru and the forefathers of this country.

Nehruvian Secularism:
In India, Jawaharlal Nehru has been the chief visionary and architect behind the relationship between the state and the religion. The Secularism associated with Nehru’s vision is often called as Nehruvian Secularism. Nehru didn’t have any belief or commitment towards any religion but he acknowledged the fact that India was pluralistic in religion, languages and customs and that it was necessary for the futuristic state to advocate nationhood by accommodating religious diversity and neutrality. He held that one’s religious affiliation was one’s private matter and thus, his civil rights shouldn’t be infringed because of such affiliation. One of the major principles of Nehruvian Secularism was that the state wouldn’t discriminate, on the grounds of religious or religious affiliations, against any person professing any particular form of religious faith and that there should not be any state patronage for any religion or extension of patronage to any one religion to the exclusion of or in preference to others.
Jawaharlal Nehru strived towards making Congress a non communal and pluralistic organisation which was committed to representative politics. Nehru believed that there would be no religious conflicts, only class conflicts once the project of nation hood was set up. He believed that organised religion always prevailed over the ill effects of communalism.
Nehru in 1961 pointed out that a secular state was the one which honoured all the faiths and gave equal and pragmatic opportunities to all those faiths. The only way by which this could have been achieved was if the religion played no part in it.
In the current political scenario, the Nehruvian Secularism is still espoused by many liberals and it has taken a meaning where, all religions are meaningful and should have a valid place in the nation. In addition to that, religion shouldn’t be a perquisite in ascertaining one’s nationality.

Analysis of the Critiques
Over the past decades Indian Secularism has come under the purview of sceptics. Critics often argue that Secularism hasn’t been able to achieve the goals which our forefathers had in their vision. It is widely held that the Indian version of Secularism or the Nehruvian Secularism model has collapsed. There have been broadly three distinct lines of arguments. a) Favouritism Critique:
This critique has been used to highlight and point out the various legal differences between various communities. Under this line of attack, it is held that under the disguise of Secularism, the Constitution really favours the Muslims. Particularly the differences in ‘personal laws’ have been focused upon. In the case of Mohd. Ahmed Khan v. Shah Bano Begum, the Supreme Court passed the judgement in favour of Shah Bano. Being an election year, the Congress in a panicky enacted the Muslim Women Act, 1986. The Act was seen as discriminatory as it denied divorced Muslim women the right to basic maintenance which women of other faiths had recourse to under secular law.
The makers of the Indian Constitution wanted the uniformity in the matters of fundamental laws which was considered by Dr. Ambedkar in coalescing of the nation. However, this uniformity has been only put up in the Directive Principles of the Indian Constitution which are not enforceable by any court. In the Shah Bano judgement’ the Supreme Court strived towards bringing uniformity but the Rajeev Gandhi government failed to move in the direction of civil code with the asymmetric treatment of the judgement and enacted fresh bill which resulted in enhancing the separatist view.
This case has been cited repeatedly by Hindu political activists to showcase the claim that Hindus, the majority community, is being discriminated against in India, whereas the Muslims are allowed to have their special privileges in regards to their personal laws.
One of the problems with this reasoning is that, the Hindu Personal Laws weren’t overridden by the proposed idea of uniform civil code. The separate status of Hindu Personal laws was not harmed. The possibilities of polygamy were ruled out in the context of Hindu law not due to the imposing of uniform civil code on Hindus and not on Muslims but due to the views held by the majority of Hindu Nationalists at that time. The Hindu Personal law is still substantial in itself.
Thus, in the Shah Bano case, one must not forget that there was no case of favouritism. It was a case of unfairness towards the Muslim women and it hardly affected the Hindu men, who continuously cited this case as the one being unfair towards them.

b) The Prior Identity:
This critique argues that the identity of being an Indian is derived from the constitutive elements of separate identities. Under this line of argument, it is argued that the importance of religious identity is mixed with its importance in political context. It is asserted that any national identity has to be some form or the other form of the Hindu identity due to the majority of the population being Hindu. It is asserted that a homogeneous identity in the form of Hindu identity is necessary for the basis of nationhood. It is insisted that an Indian identity has to be built upon the constitutive basis of different religious identities.
Mostly the assertion where the priority of religious identities is put forward is by the Religious Sectarians (or the Hindu Nationalists in recent times). In addition to this, the preferential treatment of religious identity is often derived from the philosophy of ‘nation- state’, where a statist orientation is given to the political unity across any religion or a community. It is asserted that this ideology is also responsible for the religious vote bank politics, where the votes are gathered on the basis of religious sentiments of the majority of people residing in the constituency.
Firstly, it is improper to consider that the basis of nationhood requires nation-state as one of its prerequisite. The presence of Nation States turned out to be detrimental during the British colonial rule towards the unity of people. Thus, once can’t make the same mistake of being under the illusion that nation-states would strive towards unity.
Secondly, the line of reasoning which requires one to be under the purview of Hindu identity to form the basis of nationhood is flawed too. India has the third largest Muslim Population in the world, not much less than Pakistan. Moreover, there is a substantial population of other religions too. Thus it would be odd to not consider the views of people from other religion. Hindu culture is so diverse in its beliefs, customs or religions that one also fails to notice that there are fairly different views between the Hindus themselves. One’s faith might not be similar to other’s faith, even after both of them are Hindus. Thus this form of reasoning too falls flat.

Conclusion
After analysing the various critiques of Secularism, we can conclude that given the heterogeneity of India, it is extremely difficult to find a political solution for the continuous displeasure of various sections of the societies. It is very hard to visualise any other form of Secularism model for India, which wouldn’t rupture the various social ideals, values and principles of this country which we have deeply cherished. One has to bear the fact that even after a tremendous heterogeneity India has defied all the odds, and hasn’t disintegrated into nation-states. It is the unity in the diversity which has acted as the cohesive force behind our existence. Thus, India shouldn’t get rid of its Secularism model until unless it gets its alternative viable model.

BIBLIOGRAPHY 1. Secularism and its Critics, edited by Rajeev Bhargava ( Oxford India Paperbacks, 7th ed. 2008) 2. The Crisis of Secularism in India, by Anuradha Dingwaney Needham ( Duke University Press, 1st ed., 2007) 3. A Secular Agenda, by Aruna Shourie ( Harper Collins Publishers India, 1st ed., 1997)

--------------------------------------------
[ 1 ]. D.E. Smith, India as a Secular State, (2011).
[ 2 ]. Stanley J. Tambiah, The Crisis Of Secularism in India, 418, 420 in Secularism and its Critics (Rajeev Bharagava., 7th ed., 2008).
[ 3 ]. Ibid.
[ 4 ]. D.E. Smith, India as a Secular State, (2011).
[ 5 ]. J. Nehru, Discovery of India, (1st ed., 2004).
[ 6 ]. J. Nehru, Toward Freedom: The Autobiography of Jawaharlal Nehru 240 (1st ed., 1941).
[ 7 ]. Amartya Sen, Secularism and its Discontents. 454, 457 in Secularism and its Critics (Rajeev Bharagava., 7th ed., 2008).
[ 8 ]. (1985 SCR (3) 844)
[ 9 ]. John H. Mansfield, ‘The Personal Laws or a Uniform Civil Code?’ , Robert Baird (ed.), Religion and Law in Independent India (Manohar: Delhi, 1993)
[ 10 ]. The Constitution of India, Article 37.
[ 11 ]. Supra note 7.
[ 12 ]. Amartya Sen, Secularism and its Discontents. 454, 457 in Secularism and its Critics (Rajeev Bharagava., 7th ed., 2008)
[ 13 ]. Ibid.
[ 14 ]. Top Ten Countries with Largest Muslim Population, maps of world, available at http://www.mapsofworld.com/world-top-ten/world-top-ten-countries-with-largest-muslim-populations-map.html, last seen on 03/09/2014.

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