Write a detailed note on secularism as provided in Indian Constitution. What are the threats to Indian Secularism?
The Preamble of Indian Constitution describes India as a ‘sovereign socialist secular democratic republic’, and the words ‘socialist’ and ‘secular’ were added by the 42nd Constitutional Amendment. The word ‘secular’, though was specifically added in the Preamble in the year 1976, yet the original spirit of the Constitution was completely secular in nature. Its insertion into the Preamble has ensured that secularism has now become a source from which the constitutional provisions on secularism draw their authority and it has now become the central object which the Constitution seeks to establish. It is also one of the basic structures of our Constitution and no compromise can be made on this by any government.
Unity and fraternity among the people of India is sought to be achieved by enshrining the ideal of a secular State in India. It implies that the State protects all the religions equally and there is no religion which can be termed as the State religion. The liberty of belief, faith and worship provided for in the Preamble is sought to be achieved by the fundamental right of freedom of religion under Articles 25 to 29 of the Constitution, dealing with freedom of conscience, free profession, practice and propagation of religion by every citizen.
The State is supposed to have an attitude of neutrality and partiality towards all religions. No taxes can be imposed by the State for promotion or maintenance of any religion and no religious education can be imparted in any educational institution wholly funded by the State. Partially State funded schools and educational institutions are allowed to impart religious education only after the consent of the student or his guardian. Such an instruction cannot be imposed on anyone without one’s consent.
Further, every person is free to profess, practice and propagate his religion, subject to some reasonable restrictions imposed by the State in the interest of public order, morality and health. Every religious group is allowed to establish and maintain the institutions of religious and charitable nature and manage its affairs in the matters of religion. Such institutions can also own and acquire moveable and immoveable property.
It may be observed that the scheme of secularism as provided in the Indian Constitution is highly progressive. The scope of these provisions has been widened further by various pronouncements of the Supreme Court of India. Even the rituals and observances which are integral to any faith are allowed to be practiced. The religion has been regarded as a doctrine of personal belief and the State regulations cannot interfere with the things which are essentially religious.
But there have been certain serious threats to Indian secularism. The fundamentalist forces of various religions occasionally tend to overstep the constitutional provisions. Communal acts by some of the political outfits in the country have continued to threaten the very ideal of secularism. Efforts on part of the politicians to divide people on communal lines are a very dangerous trend and if not checked at this stage, may create serious problems at a later stage.
The communal demands like reservations to the religious minorities and proportional representation on the religious lines are matters of serious concern. The controversy on the uniform civil code for all citizens as provided in Article 44 of the Constitution has also resulted in communal talk by various political parties.