Is India still secular?

indian parliament

indian parliament

Source: The Tribune Express

By Shamim Ahmad; Published: May 3, 2015

“We the people of India, having solemnly resolved to constitute India into a sovereign, socialist, secular, democratic Republic…”

— Preamble to the Indian Constitution

The founding fathers of India, led by Jawaharlal Nehru, wanted to model India as a secular country. Nehru, a self-proclaimed agnostic, stood for secularism, democracy and scientific temperament. The three goals were enshrined in the Indian Constitution. Though Dr Ambedkar is regarded the prime architect of the Indian Constitution, however, Prime Minister Nehru wielded considerable influence in its framing. The provision of the Constitution, which mainly postulates secularism, is its Article 25. It grants citizens of India of all religious persuasions to profess and propagate their faith “in a way that does not disrupt public order and does not affect morality adversely”. These words are construed to act as a constraint to the anti-conversion laws. Many states in India have already passed anti-conversion laws. Some of them are Orissa (in 1967), Arunachal Pradesh (in 1978), Gujarat (in 2003), etc. Secularism, according to the Constitution, does not mean separation of religion and state like it does in the West. What it means is equal treatment to all religions. The personal laws of all religious communities, whether they are of Muslims, Hindus or Christians, continue to be enforceable.

The goal of secularism, set by the Indian Constitution, has been under threat since the death of Nehru. The change, however, was slow, almost imperceptible. But since the 1990s, it has accelerated. The demolition of Babri Masjid in 1992 is but one example. However, since the advent of the Modi government, the change has acquired gargantuan proportions.

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