Secularism In India

India is the solitary nation on the planet where the issue of secularism has involved a middle stage in scholarly conversations. Secularism is, concerning its beginning, an outsider idea for India imagining partition of the congregation and the state – an unthinkable suggestion in the Indian circumstance. By and by, notwithstanding, that whole ‘secular’ signifies is that the Parliament will not be skilled to force a specific religion upon any segment of the populace. The idea of secularism isn’t new to India.

The vision of secularism – ‘sarwa dharma sambhava’, i.e., capacity to bear all religions – has consistently been there in our nation and has its foundations in the Yajur Veda, Atharva Veda and Rig Veda and Akbar’s Din-e-Ilahi. Nonetheless, the word ‘secularism’ was not utilized in the Indian Constitution until the 42nd Amendment in 1976, which fused the word expressly in the Preamble. This doesn’t imply that the idea of secularism was not apparent in the Constitution or Indian laws. The entire way of thinking of the Indian Constitution depends on the three precepts of Equality, Fraternity, and Justice. The idea of secularism is embodied in the more extensive idea of the right to fairness for example no resident will be segregated by the state on the grounds of rank, sex, religion, race, or shading. The privilege to the opportunity of religion is a characteristic end product of this idea, which sets out the essential standards of secularism in India. This article will highlight the extent of secularism, particularly in India.

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 concern!

Mahatma Gandhi


Even though Jews confronted segregation for quite a long time all through Europe, in the current situation with Israel, Arab minorities, both Christian and Muslims, are prohibited from social, political, and financial advantages accessible to Jewish residents. Inconspicuous types of separation additionally keep on persevering against non-Christians in a few pieces of Europe. The state of strict minorities in the neighboring conditions of Pakistan and Bangladesh has likewise produced impressive concern. Such models help us to remember the proceeding with the significance of secularism for individuals and social orders in this day and age.


According to Merriam-Webster, “Secularism is indifference to or rejection or exclusion of religion and religious considerations.”

According to Britannica, “Secularism is any movement in society directed away from otherworldliness to life on earth.”

Cambridge Dictionary defines, “Secularism is the belief that religion should not be involved with the ordinary social and political activities of a country.”

According to Collins Dictionary, “Secularism is a system of social organization and education where religion is not allowed to play a part in civil affairs.”

Oxford Learner’s Dictionaries defines, “Secularism is the belief that religion should not be involved in the organization of society, education, etc.

Principle of Secularism

The principle of ‘secularism‘ as perceived in the United States implies that the state and the congregation coincide in a similar human culture without doing anything with one another. In Europe, the vision of secularism advanced as the refutation of everything strict, especially in political working.

In India, it implies the Secularism and the law inverse, i.e., equivalent regard for all religions. A ‘secular state’ in the Indian setting implies one, which secures all religions similarly and doesn’t maintain any religion as the state religion. The Sanskrit expression ‘Sarva Dharma Sambhava‘ is the most fitting Indian vision of a secular state and society. However, it ought not to be failed to remember that the word ‘secular‘ has not been characterized or clarified under the constitution either in 1950 or in 1976 when it was made a piece of the preface.

New Meaning of Secularism

Avijit Pathak, Sociologist in an article in the Tribune newspaper (dated September 08, 2020) expressed his views on the new meaning and the changing scenario of Secularism. He highlighted four points relevant to it which are stated as follows:

  • Even however strict customs and practices may empower individuals to train their life directions, our strictness—a journey for the importance of life and passing, or the quest for consolidation with the otherworldly power—need not be constantly compared with the coordinated religion, its conventionality, organization, and formality. All things being equal, our strictness—the happiness of affection and connectedness—may rouse us to oppose the oppression of brotherhood, conquer the brain research of dread that the hefty stuff of formality produces, and even rise above the ascriptive personalities of being a Hindu or a Muslim. This doesn’t imply that the holy messages related to various beliefs become immaterial. All things considered, a searcher deciphers strict writings with her own existential/profound journey. This makes the ground for pluralism, discourse, and a combination of skylines.
  • Educationist/deterministic science or scientism need not free our awareness and sustain the morals of sympathy and care. All things being equal, it may cause disappointment or a feeling of negligibility. With objectivism or instrumental soundness, we may wind up making a type of callous secular teaching of ‘salvation’ in gratification and limitless techno-financial advancement.
  • Communalism—or the demonstration of decreasing religion into a philosophy of gathering narcissism or clairvoyant limit—abuses us by murdering our stylish and otherworldly sensibilities. It is a deterrent that hampers the chance of a transformative excursion—from limitedness to wealth, or from a confined parochial character to vivacious universalism. Also, consequently, even though in a heterogeneous society like our own larger part communalism is perilous, minority communalism is in no way, shape, or form a response to it.
  • The language of articulating the soul of human fortitude need not correspond with that of the college taught/English-talking secular first class. For example, a country worker in Bengal may feel simpler with the imagery of a Baul vocalist instead of the jargon of a Marxist educator; or, so far as that is concerned, Kabir and Narayana Guru (however not MN Roy or Nehru) may sound good to the inferior.

Basic Propositions of Secularism

Secularism as a modern political and constitutional principle involves two basic propositions which are as follows:

  • People having a place with various religions and organizations are equivalent under the watchful eye of the law, the constitution, and the public authority strategy.
  • There can be no stirring up of religion and legislative issues. It follows that there can be no oppression of anyone based on religion or confidence nor is there space for the authority of one religion or majoritarian strict feelings and goals.

It is in this twofold sense – no oppression of anyone on grounds of confidence and partition of religion from legislative issues – that our constitution shields secularism.

Religious Dominations

In our own country, the Constitution declares that every Indian citizen has a right to live with freedom and dignity in any part of the country. Yet in reality, many forms of exclusion and discrimination continue to persist.

Inter-religious Domination

In this regard, the starkest examples of discrimination can be shown as follows:

  • More than 2,700 Sikhs were slaughtered in Delhi and numerous different pieces of the nation in 1984. The groups of the casualties feel that the regret was not rebuffed.
  • Several a huge number of Hindu Kashmiri Pandits have been driven away from their homes in the Kashmir valley; they have not had the option to re-visitation of their homes for over twenty years.
  • More than 1,000 people, generally Muslims, were slaughtered during the post-Godhra riots in Gujarat in 2002. The enduring individuals from a large number of these families couldn’t return to the towns in which they lived.

They all have to do with segregation in one structure or the other. For each situation, individuals from one network are focused on and deceived because of their strict character. All in all, the fundamental opportunities of a bunch of residents are denied. All things considered, it’s possible that these occurrences are examples of strict abuse and they reflect strict mastery.

Intra-religious Domination

A few people accept that religion is only the ‘opium of the majority’s’ and that, at some point, when the fundamental requirements of all are satisfied and they lead an upbeat and placated life, religion will vanish. Such a view comes from a misrepresented feeling of human potential. It is impossible that individuals will have the option to completely know the world and control it. We might have the option to draw out our life yet will never get undying.

Religion has a lot of some profound established issues. For instance, one can barely think about a religion that treats it’s male and female individuals on an equivalent balance. In religions, for example, Hinduism, a few segments have confronted persevering separation. For instance, Dalits have been banned from entering Hindu sanctuaries. In certain pieces of the nation, Hindu lady can’t enter sanctuaries. At the point when religion is coordinated, it is habitually taken over by its most moderate group, which doesn’t endure any difference.

In this way, strict mastery can’t be distinguished distinctly with interreligious control. It takes another prominent structure, to be specific, intra-strict mastery. As secularism is against all types of systematized strict control, it challenges not only interreligious yet additionally intra-strict mastery.

Constitutional Secularism

Constitutional secularism is marked by at least two features as stated below:

Critical respect for all religions- In contrast to certain secularisms, Indian secularism isn’t aimlessly hostile to strict yet regards religion. In contrast to the secularisms of pre-overwhelmingly single strict social orders, it regards not one but rather all religions. In any case, given the virtual difficulty of recognizing the strict from the social, as B.R. Ambedkar broadly noticed, “each part of strict teaching or practice can’t be regarded. Regard for religion should be joined by investigating”. It follows that our state should consciously disregard religion yet also intercede at whatever point strict gatherings advance shared disharmony and separation on grounds of religion (a between strict issue) or can’t shield their individuals from the mistreatments they sustain (an intra-strict issue).

The Indian state abandons strict separation but keeps a principled distance from all religions- For example; it can’t endure unapproachability or leave all close to home laws as they may be. Similarly, it might non-specially finance schools run by strict networks. Hence, it needs to continually choose when to draw in or separate, help or upset religion relying totally upon which of these improves our sacred obligation to opportunity, equity, and brotherhood. This established secularism can’t be supported by governments alone yet requires aggregate responsibility from an unbiased legal executive, a trustworthy media, secular society activists, and a ready populace.

Party-Political Secularism

Conceived around 40 years prior, is an odious precept polished by every single ideological group, including by purported ‘secular powers‘. This secularism has dissipated all qualities from the center thought and supplanted them with advantage. Shrewd distance (commitment or withdrawal), however primarily crafty union with strict networks, especially for sure-fire appointive advantage, is its implicit trademark. Apathetic regarding opportunity and balance based strict change, it has eliminated basic from the term ‘basic regard’ and strangely deciphered ‘regard’ to mean cutting arrangements with forceful or conventional segments of strict gatherings — opening the Babri Masjid/Ram sanctuary for puja and spurning ladies’ privileges in the Shah Bano case. It has even been complicit in lighting mutual brutality.

This gathering political ‘secular‘ state, cozying up on the other hand to the over the top edge of the minority and the lion’s share, was readymade for takeover by a majoritarian party. This was refined by eliminating the word ‘all‘ and supplanting it by ‘majority‘: regard just the lion’s share religion; never condemn it, yet carelessly trash others, and freeing the condition of the bad act of shrewd distance not by reestablishing principled distance yet mystically annulling distance inside and out. This is unencumbered majoritarianism taking on the appearance of secularism, one that contradicts ‘pseudo-secularism’ without looking at its own similarly unscrupulous practices.

Provision in Preamble

India is a multi-strict society and the endurance of quite a general public is conceivable just it all religions are given equivalent treatment with no kindness or segregation. The parcel of the nation was founded on religion and this was a shocker for the producers of the constitution when they were occupied with the undertaking of giving a solid shape to the constitution of our nation.

The word ‘secular‘ was not there in our constitution when it came to the being. It was consequently consolidated into the introduction of the constitution by the 42nd Amendment Act of 1976. The conventional consideration of the descriptive terms ‘secular‘ is principally the consequence of meeting out the exigencies of the overall conditions, a prerequisite of gathering legislative issues, and philosophical window-dressing. To some degree, it likewise mirrors the obliviousness and detachment of the ideologues that they added only to the introduction and didn’t take care to achieve appropriate changes inside the constitution.

It tends to be called attention to that the term utilized after the word ‘Socialist‘ is repetitive as a communist popularity-based state has fundamentally to be secular. Taking into account the different articles showing up to a limited extent in part III of the constitution, it very well may be said that India was at that point a secular state and there was no need for such expansion. It rather gave a bogus impression that beforehand India was not a secular state.

Secularism in Indian Constitution

Although the word ‘Secular’ was not there initially in the constitution, a mere perusal of the various articles of it would amply demonstrate that ‘Secularism’ is an integral part of the Indian constitution. These are highlighted as follows:

  • Article 14 of the constitution provides for equality before the law for all people.
  • Article 15, lays down that the state shall not discriminate against any citizen on the ground of religion.
  • Article 16 provides for equality of opportunity in matters of employment under the state, irrespective of religion.
  • Article 25 provides for freedom of conscience and the right to profess practice and propagate the religion of one’s choice.

The constitution not only guarantees a person’s freedom of religion and conscience, but also ensures freedom for one who has no religion, and it scrupulously restrains the state from making any discrimination on grounds of religion. Provisions for the same are highlighted as follows:

  • Article 26 provides the freedom to manage religious affairs.
  • Article 27 prohibits compulsion to pay taxes to benefit any religious denomination.
  • Article 28 states that no religious instruction shall be provided in any educational institution wholly maintained out-of-state funds.

The analysis of the above said constitutional provisions makes it amply clear that Indian secularism is unique and it treats all religions alike.

Non-Secular Provisions of the Indian Law

The basic feature of secularism as understood in the west can be seen that the state has nothing to do with religion and there will be no discrimination between citizens based on their religion or form of worship and that everybody will be equal before the law. If this is true secularism, India ceases to be secular for it has different sets of laws for different communities. For instance, in the case of Muslims, a separate civil code exists, though Article 44 requires the state to frame a uniform civil code. Some more examples of the same are highlighted as follows:

  • Under section 494 of the Indian Penal Code, bigamy is an offense and a person, who contracts a second marriage while the first marriage is subsisting, is guilty of the offense. But this provision applies to those people who can have more than one wife as per their religion.
  • The enactment of the Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Divorce) Act, 1986 to circumvent the apex court’s decision in theShah Bano case’ and to treat the divorced Muslim women differently from their counterparts in other religious faiths cannot be termed as secular.

Although Article 15 of the constitution prohibits discrimination based on religion, even today the rights and liabilities of people relating to maintenance, inheritance, etc. differ according to their religion.

Judicial Precedents on Secularism

The Supreme Court expressed its views on the secular nature of the Constitution for the first time in Sardar Taheruddin Syedna Saheb v. State of Bombay (AIR 1962 SC 853, 871) wherein Ayyangar, J., explained:

Articles 25 and 26 embody the principle of religious toleration that has been the characteristic feature of Indian civilization from the start of history. The instances and periods when this feature was absent being merely temporary aberrations. Besides, they serve to emphasize the secular nature of the Indian democracy which the founding fathers considered to be the very basis of the Constitution.”

In Kesavananda Bharati v. the State of Kerala ((1973) 4 SCC 225) the Supreme Court reiterated that secularism was a part of the basic structure of the Constitution. Enumerating the basic features of the Constitution, Sikri, C.J. named the “secular character of the Constitution” as one of them. Shelat and Grover, JJ. stated that the “secular and federal character of the Constitution” were among the main ingredients of the basic structure enumerated therein. Jaganmohan Reddy, J., stated clearly that “Liberty of thought, expression, belief, faith, and worship” could not be amended at any cost as they are part of the basic features of the Constitution.

Matthew, J., and Chandrachud, JJ. The case of Ahmedabad St. Xaviers College Society v. the State of Gujarat ((1974) 1 SCC 717) gave a new dimension to the concept in the constitutional context thus:

The Constitution has not erected a rigid wall of separation between the Church and the State. It is only in a qualified sense that India can be said to be a secular State. There are provisions in the Constitution that make one hesitate to characterize our State as secular. Secularism in the context of our Constitution means only an attitude of lives and let live developing into the attitude of life and helps live.”

In Ziyauddin Burhanuddin Bukhari v. Brijmohan Ram Das Mehra ((1976) 2 SCC 17) the Supreme Court went on to define the concept of secularism in the realm of philosophy and utilitarian terms. The Court set the role of the State to be neutral or impartial in extending its benefit to citizens of all castes and creeds and cast a duty on the State to ensure through its laws that disabilities are not imposed based on persons practicing or professing any particular religion.

In the landmark judgment of S.R. Bommai v. Union of India ((1994) 3 SCC 1) the Court in no uncertain terms declared that secularism is part of the basic structure. The Court in Bommai ruled that religion and temporal activities do not mix. Freedom and tolerance of religion are only to the extent of permitting the pursuit of spiritual life that is different from secular life. The Court further said that “the encroachment of religion into secular activities is strictly prohibited.

In A.S. Narayana Deekshitulu v. the State of A.P. ((1996) 9 SCC 548)  Ramaswamy, J. quoting extensively from the scriptures states:

The word ‘Dharma’ or ‘Hindu Dharma’ denotes upholding, supporting, nourishing that which upholds, nourishes or supports the stability of the society, maintaining social order and general well being and progress of mankind; whatever conduces to the fulfillment of these objects is Dharma, it is Hindu Dharma and ultimately ‘Sarwa Dharma Sambhava’. Dharma is that which approves oneself or good consciousness or springs from due deliberation for one’s happiness and also for the welfare of all beings free from fear, desire, disease, cherishing good feelings and sense of brotherhood, unity, and friendship for the integration of Bharat.”

Secular State

Maybe one method of forestalling strict separation is to cooperate for shared edification. Training is one method of assisting with changing the outlook of individuals. It is continually moving to peruse accounts of Hindus saving Muslims or Muslims saving Hindus amidst a lethal shared uproar. However, it is impossible that simple training or the decency of certain people will kill strict segregation. In present-day cultures, states have huge public force. How they work will undoubtedly have a significant effect on the result of any battle to make a general public less ridden between network strife and strict segregation.

A state can forestall mastery by any strict gathering as a state should not be controlled by the tops of a specific religion. Religious states, for example, the Papal conditions of Europe in bygone eras or lately the Taliban-controlled state, lacking division among strict and political foundations, are known for their progressions, and mistreatments, and hesitance to permit opportunity of religion to individuals from other strict gatherings. On the off chance that we esteem harmony, opportunity, and uniformity, strict organizations and state establishments should be isolated.

A few people believe that the partition of state and religion is adequate for the presence of a secular state. This doesn’t seem, by all accounts, to be so. Numerous states which are non-religious keep on having a nearby coalition with a specific religion. For instance, the state in England in the sixteenth century was not run by a holy class yet unmistakably preferred the Anglican Church and its individuals. Britain had a set up Anglican religion, which was the official religion of the state. Today Pakistan has an official state religion, specifically Sunni Islam. Such systems may leave little degree for inner dispute or strict equity.

To be genuinely secular, a state should decline to be religious as well as have no formal, legitimate coalition with any religion. The partition of religion-state is, be that as it may, a vital yet not an adequate element of a secular state. A secular state should be focused on standards and objectives which are at any rate mostly got from non-strict sources. These finishes ought to incorporate harmony, strict opportunity, independence from strictly grounded mistreatment, separation, and prohibition, as additionally between strict and intra-strict equity.


In India, secularism gets difficulties from numerous fronts. On one hand, casteism and communalism have all the earmarks of being losing their belief, in light of the spread of science and innovation and correspondence, just as a liberal and reformist viewpoint. On the other, casteism and communalism are getting another rent of life due to the shallow arrangements of intensity hungry lawmakers and the restricted viewpoint of the chairmen and the pioneers. Rather than continuing on the way articulated in the Constitution, the pioneers fanned the collective and rank interests of the individuals, with the end goal of procuring the gather of votes and accomplishing their hardliner closures. The politicization of station and religion and spoiling of collective pioneers is making incredible mischief the body politic of the country. The opportunity has arrived to reinforce the secular esteems, organizations, and practices in a firm way and to quicken the speed of progress in India.


Anuradha Dingwaney Needham, Rajeswari Sunder Rajan, The Crisis of Secularism in India, Duke University Press, 2007

N. Chatterjee, The Making of Indian Secularism: Empire, Law and Christianity, 1830-1960, Palgrave Macmillan UK, 2011

Vikramjit Banerjee, Sumeet Malik, Changing Perceptions of Secularism, ebc-india

Rajeev Bhargava, The significance of the term ‘secular’, The Hindu, February 19, 2020

Avijit Pathak, New meaning of secularism, The Tribune, September 08, 2020

Secularism, Chapter 8, NCERT, 2015-2016

Secularism and the Law, National Foundation for Communal Harmony, New Delhi, ISBN – 81 – 887772-19-4, August 2010

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