Is India a Secular State?

Is India a Secular State?

Bilal Ahmad Dar

‘In practice, India has been neither secular nor socialist. It has always functioned as an upper-caste Hindu state.’
Arundhati Roy

The Constitution of India is based on the premise of secularism and unbiased principles. But the question is: Are these secular principles practised in true sense of the term? The answer suggested by events and episodes in the past many years is: No with a capital ‘N’.
India was once known for its communal harmony. Indian culture was characterised by amicable co-existence, brotherhood, and religious tolerance. The country had extraordinary ethnic, linguistic and religious diversity. But all these positive aspects are in decline and regression. Casteism, bigotry, religious intolerance, and communal disharmony are the characteristics of the country at present. The Ganga-Jamuni tehzeeb seems to be terminally ill. India has become unsafe for its religious minorities. A country loses all claims to be secular when religious minorities are lynched in broad daylight. We hear about the lynching of Muslims and Christians on regular basis. Muslims are lynched for eating beef by goons masquerading as vigilantes. Sometimes Muslims are lynched for the so-called Love Jihad. Christians are lynched on false charges of converting people to Christianity. The first Christian who became the victim of Hindu fundamentalism was Graham Staines. Staines was an Australian Christian missionary. He was working in Odisha for poor people. He was caring for people who had leprosy. In 2003, he along with his two sons was burnt alive in a van. Those who did this heinous act alleged that he had forcibly converted many Hindus to the Christian faith. The Wadhwa Commission later found that there was no evidence of forced conversion.
Recently, a 14-year-old Christian boy, Samaru Madakami, was lynched mercilessly by a group of religious fanatics in Odisha. Dalits are also targeted on regular basis. These heinous acts committed by Hindu fanatics tell us that India is no longer a secular country. Had the country been true to secular principles, there would have been strict punishment for the perpetrators of these acts. Muslims and Christians have been increasingly targeted for not chanting “Bharat Mata Ki Jai”. Sometimes they are defined as anti-nationals. This is done to make them scapegoats for any problem that the nation cannot deal with.
The atrocities against religious minorities do not bode well for the democratic and secular fabric of our country. The secular structure of our country can only be maintained by safeguarding the religious minorities. Every religion is sacred and pious. No religion advocates violence. People who use violence actually defame their religion. Where the people of every faith and religion are treated equally, where minorities feel safe and secure, there is secularism. Religious pluralism is the essential identity of any secular country.

The writer is a research scholar at the Department of English, AMU. [email protected]

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