Secularism in India
“If there is one place on the face of the earth where all’ the dreams of living men have found a home from the very earliest days when man began the dream of existence, it is India.”
The politicians and political parties in India are never tired of swearing in the name of secularism and reiterating their allegiance to the secular concept of the Indian Republic. But no politician or political party rises above the petty consideration of both religion and the divisive force of caste. The hypocrisy of the Indian politicians was exposed in October, 1998 when many political leaders objected to the recitation of Saraswati Vandana during the Education Ministers conference in New Delhi. it is beyond one’s scope of understanding as to why “secular” feeling should be hurt when, the greatriess of the Goddess of Saraswati is invoked at a ceremony or a conference concerned with education. It is understandable that it was, not secularism but sheer expediency of politics. Not a ripple of protest was made when the Saraswati Vandana was sung at a solemn occasion during the short-lived Gujral regime. It would appear that the Indian politicians and political parties have adopted a mercurial stance on what they consider should be the principles of secularism, depending upon the political mileage they can extract from any given situation. It is a sheer pity and rank hypocrisy, while politicians in India indulge in every unsidious attempt to belittle a priceless legacy in the guise of promoting secularism.
It is high time that the Indian citizens get enlightened about the notorious role of petty politicians in imposing their own ‘hybrid’ variety of secularism.
Even today the inauguration of any important government sponsored function starts with the lighting of a brass lamp and no party wedded to secularism has raised any objection to it as a symbol of auspiciousness. no party has dared to debunk it as Hindu fanaticism or as wounding the religious feeling of minorities. The secular traditions of India lie deeply embedded in the system and the only one who has tried to shape it for his selfish ends is the ugly politician. It is he who is solely responsible for all the communal clashes after the independence. Can we forget that India is the place for all the world religions—Hinduism, Christianity, Islam, Buddhism, Jainism and Sikhism besides many others. Nowhere in the world the spirit of tolerance runs unhindered as in the veins of this land that welcomed with open arms other great religions. Christianity came to India much before it reached Europe; Islam made its advent in India much before it spread elsewhere.
Despite the Indian politicians prophesying otherwise, many of the Hindu pilgrim centres in India even today draw people of all faiths.
The fundamental unity and fraternity of the people of India, has been sought to be achieved by enshrining the ideal of a “secular state”, which means that the State protects all religions equally and does not itself uphold any religion as state religion. The secular objective of the state has been expressed by inserting the word ‘secular’ in the Preamble of the Constitution (42nd Amendment Act, 1976). The grand promise of liberty of belief, faith and worship is only matched by the fundamental right on freedom of religion guaranteed to every citizen in the constitution. Compare ‘secular’ India with its neighbours like Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Myanmar all of whom uphold particulaar religions as state religions. Max Mueller, the famous German scholar and orientalist, said, “If I were asked under what sky the human mind has most fully developed some of its choicest gifts, has
most deeply pondered over the greatest problems of life, and has found solutions of some of them which will deserve the attention of even those who have studied Plato and Kant—I should point to India.”