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Higgledy-piggledy: The plight of secularism in India

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By Yajush Gupta

“If I were a dictator, religion and state would be separate. I swear by my      religion. I will die for it. But it is my personal affair. The state has nothing to do  with it. The state would look after your secular welfare, health,  communications, foreign relations, currency and so on, but not your or my   religion. That is everybody’s personal concern!” -Mahatma Gandhi

6 months ago, When prime minister Narendra Modi ,visited Dublin to address the Indian diaspora, he was moved with the way the Irish kids recited Sanskrit shlokas in the event.

‘He mocked Indian secularist, by stating that it would have raised questions had this been done back in India’

‘Few months ago, home Minister Rajnath Singh at the parliament remarked that secularism is the “most misused” term in India

Certainly not the first time, secularist has been challenged. Indian secularism is comprehensively different from the idea of secularism in West. There are intrinsically two viewpoints of Secularism. One is the western viewpoint of Secularism, other is Indian viewpoint. Both these notions of Secularism emerged out of the respective historical disposition and necessities of the two societies.

Defining it

The western viewpoint of secularism refrains the state itself from getting involved in any sort of religious affairs. Typically it means that the legislation would not consider religion as a criteria for making laws. In a secular nation there is one is no division of religion. All religions are treated equally under the “uniform civil law.” . Precisely it means one uniform codified law for all people.This unified civil law prevails over all personal laws. Secularism is to follow one’s own religion within the boundaries of not disturbing other religions and respecting them. The western secularism involves state neutrality in religious matters as they have one religion followed by all citizens . So authorities being impartial is sufficient and no action is required on the part of the authorities to maintain religious harmony.

In Indian context the authorities as a neutral establishment in religious matters is practically pointless, because of our multi-religious society .Since independence these laws are well preserved . Well, mainly because things have marginally changed. We have adapted to our multi-religious society accepting all the terms and conditions . It’s a constitutional compulsion upon the state and fundamental duty of the citizens to bring amity between various religions. So, Indian secularism has to be perceived within its own limitations compared to the western secularism.

The Irony

Although,Indian secularism does treat all religions equally,It is remains to be bias towards other religion. Moreover, the government fails to enforce any uniform codified law common for all. These laws are distinguished from public law and cover marriage, divorce, inheritance, adoption and alimony. Indian Secularism deals not only with religious freedom of individuals but also to safeguard the religious freedom of minority communities.That being said, the Indian constitution grants all religious minorities,the rights to establish,administer and maintain their own educational institutions, which may even receive financial aid from the state. The term pseudo-secular used derogatorily to manifest policies bias towards the minority community. It implies to those who claim to be secular but are actually not so.

‘Jawahar Lal Nehru in 1930, though he supported a uniform civil code’

‘In September 2003, in an interactive session in PGI Chandigarh, then President APJ Abdul Kalam supported the need of Uniform Civil Code, keeping in view the population of the country’

  • The term first recorded use of the term “pseudo-secularism” was in the book Philosophy and Action of the R.S.S. for the Hind Swaraj, by Anthony Elenjimittam.
  • The Government of India pays to go on the Hajj Pilgrimage for Muslims.The subsidy amount extended was Rs.836.56 crores in 2012 Rs. 680.03 crores in 2013. In 2014, it was Rs. 533 crores.
  • The infamous Shah Bano case,the controversial case of alimony and maintenance, where in which Shah Bano, a 62-year-old Muslim from madhya pradesh was divorced by her husband in 1978 but even after winning the case at the Supreme court of India was subsequently denied alimony because the Indian Parliament reversed the judgement under pressure of so called secularists, the Congress (then dominant political party).

The Seed

The very idea of equality for all and safeguarding the minority communities is itself contradicting.One of the main factors of stemming religious prejudice in our country. Religious prejudice means that one religion, is the “one, true religion”. Dirty and vote bank politics has made the matters worse.There is always a feeling of insecurity amongst all, the minority community doesn’t want the “special case” tag to be hampered, while the majority community wants to defend it’s status-quo at all costs. And the truth is that the minority has become so defensive, threatened and intolerant ,that they always have there guards up, which makes any amends to the current scenario more grinding.

Further the  educational system which has encouraged the people to think in terms of individual interest and not collective, has also failed to inculcate true secular notion in the young minds and promote feeling of oneness among them.

Secularism doesn’t mean offering inducement to minorities but unfortunately it is what has become as of today. It has come to intended suppression of the majority and bending over backwards to favor India’s largest and aggressive minority. Indian secularism has survived till today, because of the tolerance of the majority community and well, this is what we have been taught since ages.To tolerate. laws that govern the peoples of India, and also because Indian state is based on ‘fairness‘ or ‘equality‘ well,at least on papers.The laws that were made decades ago considering the India’s Cold-blooded partition history. But we have moved on big time since then.

The Verdict

A uniform civil code will help India develop into a truly modern state and create a favorable healthy environment where all citizens are treated equally.This will ensure social interaction, as well as eliminate some of the discriminatory practices against women.Post independence, it was hoped that this step would be taken. But unfortunately till now no progress has been made in the advancement of one uniform Civil Code.

Today its adoption appears to be even more back-breaking and worth considering than it was at the time when the Constitution was framed. Moreover, classification on the basis of economic status, rather than religious whereby underprivileged and more importantly poor sections of society can have access to special economic aid packages, will prove to be much more fruitful. People must realize that the reason of Indian secularism may just be a result of partition and we need to look ahead and prove that various religions can indeed co-exist, without the need of any assistance from the jurisdiction.

After all , we are one ‘Incredible Nation’ with birthplace of some of the world’s major religions namely Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism and Sikhism.

Report prepared by Yajush Gupta, an intern at NewsGram. Twitter: @yajush_gupta 

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Copyright 2016 NewsGram

  • Annesha Das Gupta

    Secularism, does it really exist? Can very well be framed as an existential question. And that is why we have to keep in mind theory and reality are two contradictory forces.
    It is being said here that Western nations can manage being secularism easily. Well, it makes be laugh. Perhaps the alarming phenomenon of Islamophobia is being forgotten. Yes, more amendments is needed of the policies and rigorous reviews should be done.
    And please don’t quote ideologies of RSS.
    I thought we are debating Secularism here, right?

    • Yajush Gupta

      Let us assume, you are hosting guests at your place and one day, you suspect they might turn out to be a menace to your home and yourself. Will you not be ‘Phobic’ , keeping in mind the fact that, you live in a civilized and an instructed society. It’s human to protect yourself and be threatened if your instincts shrieks danger .
      More over,This article is more than a debate or some comparison with the western ideology. It’s about the messy and confused state of the word secularism, as part of the 42nd amendment of the Indian constitution.

  • Annesha Das Gupta

    Secularism, does it really exist? Can very well be framed as an existential question. And that is why we have to keep in mind theory and reality are two contradictory forces.
    It is being said here that Western nations can manage being secularism easily. Well, it makes be laugh. Perhaps the alarming phenomenon of Islamophobia is being forgotten. Yes, more amendments is needed of the policies and rigorous reviews should be done.
    And please don’t quote ideologies of RSS.
    I thought we are debating Secularism here, right?

    • Yajush Gupta

      Let us assume, you are hosting guests at your place and one day, you suspect they might turn out to be a menace to your home and yourself. Will you not be ‘Phobic’ , keeping in mind the fact that, you live in a civilized and an instructed society. It’s human to protect yourself and be threatened if your instincts shrieks danger .
      More over,This article is more than a debate or some comparison with the western ideology. It’s about the messy and confused state of the word secularism, as part of the 42nd amendment of the Indian constitution.

Next Story

All You Need To Know About India’s Strategic Chabahar Port

The Chabahar Port is a seaport in Chabahar, which is on the Gulf of Oman, near Iran-Pakistan border.

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Chabahar Port is of great international significance in terms of trade, especially for India. Wikimedia Commons
Chabahar Port is of great international significance in terms of trade, especially for India. Wikimedia Commons

By Ruchika Verma

  • The Chabahar Port is of great strategic importance for India
  • It is in Iran and is being built and operated by India
  • This port will increase India’s trade with Central Asia and Europe

The Chabahar Port is a seaport in Chabahar, which is on the Gulf of Oman, near Iran-Pakistan border. Chabahar is the trans-shipment and logistics hub for the Makran Coast and Baluchistan province of Iran.

Chabahar Port is built and operated by India. Wikimedia Commons
Chabahar Port is built and operated by India. Wikimedia Commons

The tension between India and Pakistan is nothing new. There are several instances where both the countries have tried to obstruct each other’s political or economic agendas. This obstruction, along with other strategic reasons, resulted in the India and Iran’s deal on the Chabahar Port, which is crucial because of several reasons.

Here are few things about it you may not have known before :

  • Under the Trilateral Transit and Transport Agreement of 2016, the Chabahar port is the gateway to the Transport Corridor between India, Iran and Afghanistan, which allows multi-modal goods’ and passengers’ transport.

Also Read: India and Iran sign agreement to develop Chabahar Port

  • The agreement also states that India will develop and operate two berths in the first phase of the port. The contract is for 10 years and extendable. This time period excludes the first two years as they will be used for construction.
Chabahar Port will make India's trade with Afghanistan easier. Wikimedia Commons
Chabahar Port will make India’s trade with Afghanistan easier. Wikimedia Commons
  • The Chabahar Port’s first phase, which was developed by India, and inaugurated by Iran on 4th December 2017, is of great strategic importance as it makes it easier for India to conduct trade with Central Asia and Europe.
  • Iran’s Chabahar port is also important for India’s trade because of Pakistan’s reluctance in allowing India to send goods to Iran and Afghanistan through its land territory.

Also Read: Gwadar Port: China Turning Pakistan Port Into Regional Giant 

  • The development of Chabahar Port will increase the momentum of the International North-South Transport Corridor whose signatories include India, Afghanistan and Russia. Iran is the key gateway in this project. It will improve India’s trade with Central Asia as well as Europe.
    The Chabahar Port has also reduced Afghanistan’s dependence on the transit road, which went through Karachi. Now, trade can be conducted via Chabahar Port too. Islamabad has accused India of trying to use this development as a means to destabilise Pakistan.

    The Chabar Port is the said to be the counter to the Gwadar Port. Wikimedia Commons
    The Chabar Port is the said to be the counter to the Gwadar Port. Wikimedia Commons
  • The Chabahar Port also acts as a counter to the barely 100 km away, Gwadar port in Pakistan, which is developed by China. However, Iran has defended that Chabahar is not a rival to Gwadar and Pakistan is invited to join in its development.
  • In October 2017, India sent its first shipment of wheat to through Chabahar to Afghanistan, in order to test the viability of the route.
  • India will also construct a 900-km Chabahar-Zahedan-hajigak railway line that will connect Port of Chabahar to Hajigak in Afghanistan. It will also connect Mashad in the north, providing access to Turkmenistan as well as northern Afghanistan.This project is worth $1.6 billion.

    India will supply $400 million worth of steel rails to Tehrain. Wikimedia Commons
    India will supply $400 million worth of steel rails to Tehran. Wikimedia Commons
  • It is being said that India will supply $400 million of steel rails to Tehran. There are also possibilities of setting up a fertilizer plant through a joint venture with the Iranian government.