Secularism

SECULARISM

To prepare for INDIAN SOCIETY  for any competitive exam, aspirants have to know about Secularism. It gives an idea of all the important topics for the IAS Exam and the Economy syllabus (GS-II.). Important Secularism terms are important from Economy perspectives in the UPSC exam. IAS aspirants should thoroughly understand their meaning and application, as questions can be asked from this static portion of the IAS Syllabus in both the UPSC Prelims and the UPSC Mains exams.

“Secularism was equated with godlessness, an absence or denial of religious values, rather than a separation of church and state in order to guarantee religious freedom in pluralistic societies.”

John Esposito, Islam

 

WHAT IS SECULARISM?

Secularism means the separation of religion from political, economic, social and cultural aspects of life, religion being treated as a purely personal matter.

  • The term “Secular” means being “separate” from religion or having no religious basis.
  • It is the principle of separation of government institutions and persons mandated to represent the state from religious institutions and religious dignitaries. Thus, religion should be separate from aspects of state and governance.
  • With the 42nd Amendmentof the Constitution of India  (1976), the Preamble to the Constitution asserted that India is a “secular” nation. Institutions started to recognize and accept all religions, enforce parliamentary laws instead of religious laws, and respect pluralism
  • A secular person is one who does not owe his moral values to any religion. His values are the product of his rational and scientific thinking.
  • In India, secularism means equal status to all religions. The Secular State is a state which guarantees individual and corporate freedom of religion, deals with the individual as a citizen irrespective of his religion, is not constitutionally connected to a particular religion nor does it seek either to promote or interfere with religion.

 

Some Fact about Minority
  • The term “Minority” is not defined in the Indian Constitution. However, the Constitution recognises only religious and linguistic minorities.
  • Section 2 (c) of the National Commission for Minorities Act, 1992 would be taken as Minority Communities.
  • six communities namely:
    1. Muslims à2%
    2. Christians à3%
    3. Sikh à7%
    4. Buddhists à7%
    5. Jain à4%
    6. Zoroastrians (Parsis) à006%
  • This order is according to Census 2011
  • As per the Census 2011, the percentage of minorities in the country is about 19.3% of the total population of the country.

 

HISTORICAL VIEWPOINT

Secular traditions are very deep-rooted in the history of India. Indian culture is based on the blending of various spiritual traditions and social movements.

  • Secular traditions
    1. In Ancient India
    2. In Medieval India
    3. In Modern India

 

In Ancient India:

  • Indian religions are known to have co-existed and evolved together for many centuries before the arrival of Islam in the 12th century, followed by Mughal and colonial
  • Secularism in India is as old as the Indus Valley civilization. The cities of lower Mesopotamia and Harappa were not ruled by priests. Dance and music were secular in these urban civilizations
  • Consequently, religion was very accommodative and without a rigid structure; it was polytheistic as well as agnostic, atheistic, henotheistic as well as panentheistic at the same time. This tolerance towards and acceptance of other religious beliefs persisted in the Dharmic religions that followed.
  • The people in ancient India had freedom of religion, and the state granted citizenship to each individual regardless of whether someone’s religion was Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism, or any other.
  • Ellora cave temples – built next to each other between the 5th and 10th centuries, for example, shows coexistence of religions and a spirit of acceptance of different faiths
  • Emperor Ashoka– was the first great emperor to announce, as early as the third century B.C. that, the state would not prosecute any religious sect.
  • Ashoka in his 12thRock Edict appealed not only for the toleration of all religious sects but also to develop a spirit of great respect toward them.

 

In Medieval India:

  • In medieval India, the Sufi and Bhakti movements restored the secular character of Indian society. The torchbearers of these movements were Khwaja Moinuddin Chisti, Baba Farid, Saint Kabir Das, Guru Nanak Dev, Saint Tukaram, and Mira Bai. They spread the different facets of secularism like tolerance, a sense of brotherhood, universalism, harmony, and peace in society.
  • In medieval India, religious toleration and freedom of worship marked the State under Akbar. He had several Hindus as his ministers, forbade forcible conversions, and abolished Jizya.
  • The most prominent evidence of his tolerance policy was his promulgation of ‘Din-i-Ilahi’ or the Divine Faith, which had elements of both Hindu and Muslim faith.
  • The construction of Ibadat Khana (house of worship) in Fatehpur Sikri was done to nurture religious harmony by allowing different religious leaders to express their opinions in the same place.

 

In Modern India:

  • After Aurangzeb, India came into control of East India Company and the British Raj
  • Although the British administration provided India with common law, it’s “divide and rule” policy contributed to promoting communal discord between various communities.
  • During British time, separate electorates were provided for Muslims through the Indian Councils Act of 1909.
  • Separate electorates further extended the principle of communal representation by providing separate electorates for depressed classes (scheduled castes), women and labor (workers) through the Government of India Act 1935.
  • However, the Indian freedom movement was marked by secular tradition and ethos right from the start.
  • The formation of INC in 1885 with secular values united the people from all sects and took the freedom movement on a constructive and successful Path.
  • Nehru gave a detailed report (1928) which called for the abolition of the separate electorate to found a secular state.

 

KEMAL ATATURK’S SECULARISM
  • It is not about the principled distance from organized religion, instead, it involved active intervention in and suppression of religion.
  • This version of secularism was propounded and practiced by Mustafa Kamal Ataturk., who came to power after the First World War in Turkey, after the defeat of the Ottoman Empire.
  • He was determined to put an end to the institution of Khalifa in the public life of Turkey.
  • He set out aggressively to modernize and secularise Turkey. He changed his name from Mustafa Kemal Pasha to Kemal Ataturk (Ataturk means Father of Turks). The Fez, a traditional cap worn by Muslims was banned by the Hat law. Western clothing was encouraged for men and women. The western (Gregorian) calendar replaced the traditional Turkish calendar.

 

GANDHIAN PERSPECTIVE

 

“I do not accept any dreams to develop one religion i.e. to be wholly Hindu or wholly Christian or wholly Mussalman, but I want it to be wholly tolerant, with its religions working side by side with one another” – Mahatma Gandhi

 

  • Gandhiji said that religion is both a private and a personnel affair. He added that religion has a set of moral principles that lead the men on the right path of living
  • He regarded all religions equally, and so popularised the concept of “Sarva Dharma Sambhava” (equality of all religions). Ramakrishna and Vivekananda originally observed this concept.
  • Gandhiji did not accept all the practices of Hinduism blindfolded rather he looked at it in the prism of liberal thoughts and modernism so that the secular value of Indian culture would be sustained.
  • He strongly opposed any religious practices that let down the lower caste in the society (an outcome of Hinduism sanctioned Varna system) and those that demeaned women.
  • Gandhi’s vision of the secular state is a place where religious values and discourse are cherished and respected in all spheres of life, the public as well as the private, but in which no single religion is allowed to dominate the others.

 

NEHRUVIAN PERSPECTIVE
  • Nehru’s secularism is based on a commitment to scientific humanism.
  • Jawaharlal Nehru proposed the concept of a secular stat Indeed, the formation of India as a secular state may be accepted as one of his greatest achievements.
  • His emphasis on the development of scientific temperament is a great contribution to India because it initiated the fight against religious obscurantism and superstition which the whole country was steeped in
  • “Equal protection by the State to all religions” is the view of Jawaharlal Nehru towards secularism.

 

DR. B.R AMBEDKAR PERSPECTIVE
  • His main concern was to bring heterogeneous communities under one roof, in a nation which is divided into caste lines.

 

Indian Constitution and Secularism:
  • Though the term ‘secular’ was not initially mentioned in the original constitution, the Indian constitution has always been secular.
  • Preamble – India is called a secular state. It insists secularism in the governance of the country but the term secularism was not precisely used in the constitution until it was inserted after the 42nd amendment (1976) during Indira Gandhi’s regime. But the clear definition of the term “Secularism” is yet to be added in the Constitution though attempt was made during the 45th amendment bill because it was rejected by council of states.

 

CHARACTERISTICS OF INDIAN SECULARISM
  • Rationalization and Reasonableness play an important role in accelerating the secularization process. Rationalism implies the influence of ‘reason’ of conscience’ overall blind faith.
  • Indian secularism is embedded in the rich ancient culture of our country. It respects the traditional customs, beliefs, and practices and also protects them in the interest of citizens.
  • Indian philosophy of secularism is related to “Sarva Dharma Sambhava”(literally it means that the destination of the paths followed by all religions is the same, though the paths themselves may be different) which means equal respect to all religions.
  • No official religion à India does not recognize any religion as official. Nor does it owe allegiance to any particular religion.
  • Religious neutrality à India does not intercept the affairs of any specific religion. It respects all religions on par with one another
  • Freedom to all à It assures religious freedom to the members of all religions. Citizens are free to choose and abide by their religions
  • Indian governance à Religious institutions have a diminutive role in Indian governance. India is not ruled by religious heads. Political parties in India do not advocate or subscribe to any particular religion.
    1. Humanism
    2. Fundamental right
    3. Neutrality
    4. Universal faith
    5. Means of modernization
    6. Cultural heritage
  • Strategy of principle distance à A state does not interfere with changing the crux of religious entities with a View to respecting their traditions customs and belief it might intervene productively to remove obsolete, superstitious, backward looking, and gender biased practices
  • Supremacy of law à The functions of Indian administration are based on Legislation and Constitution. But these are not the beliefs and principles given by the dogmas and customs of any particular religion
  • State is sovereign à None of the religious institutions, be they temple, church or Madrasa, is above the State
  • Not anti-religion à Indian secularism is not atheistic that it questions the existence of any religion. It allows any kind of religious worship.
  • Secularism as fundamental right à Secularism is constitutionally protected. Religions freedom is more protected and is subject to be enforced by judiciary, in case of breach.
  • Secularism as scientific education à Indian education is scientific and predicated on the Western system. Education here is not a reinforcement of religious maxims
  • Secularism as humanism à Indian secularism is humane and is not affected by spiritual beliefs or values of any particular religions. It considers the people “Citizens” but not‘ “sympathizers of a religion”.
  • Secularism as universal faith à Rig Veda (Truth is one; sages call it by various names). The secular ideals of India were not inherited only from those of a very few countries. But they are the collections of East and West.
  • Secularism as means of modernization à Our secularism is not shaped by orthodox, obsolete and narrow beliefs, but it is the replica of modern values, progressive thoughts and scientific outlook.
  • Secularism as cultural heritage à Indian secularism is embedded to rich ancient culture of our country. It respects the traditional customs, beliefs and practices and also protects them at the interest of citizens.

 

THE WESTERN MODEL OF SECULARISM
  • In the West, the word secular implies three things:
    • freedom of religion,
    • equal citizenship to each citizen regardless of his or her religion,
    • the separation of religion and state.
  • No policy of the state can have an exclusively religious rationale. No religious classification can be the basis of any public policy.
  • As per the western model of secularism, the “State” and the “religion” have their separate spheres and neither the state nor the religion shall intervene in each other’s affairs.
  • Similarly, the state cannot aid any religious institution. It cannot give financial support to educational institutions run by religious communities.

State 

Religion

  • Nor can it hinder the activities of religious communities, as long as they are within the broad limits set by the law of the land. For example, if a religious institution forbids a woman from becoming a priest, then the state can do little about it. If a religious community excommunicates its dissenters, the state can only be a silent witness. If a particular religion forbids the entry of some of its members in the sanctum of its temple, then the state has no option but to let the matter rest exactly where it is. In this view, religion is a private matter, not a matter of state policy or law.
  • Thus, the western concept of secularism requires complete separation of religion and state.
  • Finally, this form of mainstream secularism has no place for the idea of state-supported religious reform. This feature follows directly from its understanding that the separation of state from church/ religion entails a relationship of mutual exclusion.

 

THE INDIAN MODEL OF SECULARISM
  • The term ‘secularism’ is akin to the Vedic concept of ‘Dharma nirapekshata’e. the indifference of state to religion.
  • However, in India, neither in law nor in practice any ‘wall of separation’ between religion and the State exists.
  • Indian philosophy of secularism is related to “Sarva Dharma Sambhava” (literally it means that destination of the paths followed by all religions is the same, though the paths themselves may be different) which means equal respect to all religions.
  • In India, both state and religion can, and often do, interact and intervene in each other’s affairs within the legally prescribed and judicially settled parameters.
  • In other words, Indian secularism does not require a total banishment of religion from the State affairs. It resulted in an equal focus on intra-religious and inter-religious domination.
  • Indian secularism equally opposed the oppression of Dalits and women within Hinduism, the discrimination against women within Indian Islam or Christianity, and the possible threats that a majority community might pose to the rights of the minority religious communities. This is its first important difference from mainstream western secularism.
  • Indian secularism deals not only with the religious freedom of individuals but also with the religious freedom of minority communities. Within it, an individual has the right to profess the religion of his or her choice. Likewise, religious minorities also have a right to exist and to maintain their own culture and educational institutions.

 

Indian secularism is not an end in itself but a means to address religious plurality and sought to achieve peaceful coexistence of different religions.

 

 

INDIAN SECULARISM Vs. SECULARISM IN WEST

 

  Indian secularism Western secularism
1. Equal protection by the state to all religions. State is neutral to all religious groups but not necessarily separate. State is separate from the functioning of all religious institution and groups.

 

2. Here’s no clear demarcation between state and religion in India, positive intervention of the state in religious affairs is not prohibited In western society, secularism refers to the complete separation between the state and religion
3. Indian secularism, the state shall interfere in religion so as to remove evils in it In the western model, the State does not intervene in the affairs of religion until the time religion is working within the limits of the law.
4. The Indian Constitution permits partial financial support for religious schools, as well as the financing of religious buildings and infrastructure by the state As per the western model, the state cannot give any financial support to educational institutions run by religious communities.
5. Rights of both individual and religious community are protected Individual and his/her rights are at the centre

 

ADVANTAGES OF BEING A SECULAR STATE
  • Cultural Enrichment à The pursuance of secularism during the freedom struggle and post-independence journey made the communal strain on Indian society disappear, which was created by medieval theocratic regimes and British’s decisive divide and rule policy.
  • Excelling Democracy à Secularism has marked the seven decades of the successful journey of Indian democracy. It has led the democracy on the path of progress and thereby created an inclusive and matured democracy
  • Peace and Stability à Secularism inculcated extreme tolerance among the Indians and aim taught them to revere the belief and practices of other religions
  • Minority protection à Secularism undoubtedly prevents the major religious group from dominating minor religious groups. This principle of secularism deters communal riots as they happened just before Independence. It also resists the religious persecution of minorities
  • Economic Growth à Adherence to secularism would accelerate India to transform itself into the world’s fastest economy This would remove the blemish created by the famines that happened in 1940s. It has drastically improved the overall standard of living of Indian masses by Changing their outlook.

 

CHALLENGES AND THREATS TO SECULARISM
  • Communal politics à Politicians play with the religious sentiments of the masses. It leads to religious polarization of society by forming political parties, trade unions, and student unions on religious lines. All these would result in hatred and create rivalry towards the people of other religions.
  • Forced conversion à Allegations are continuously being made against the Christian Missionaries for exploiting the lower status accorded to the Dalits in the four fold Varna System in order to persuade them for conversion to Christianity for which they use the baits of good social status and a dignified life. As a reaction, Hindutva right wing groups have started Ghar Wapsi (Home coming) movement which aims to bring back the converted people into Hindu fold.
  • Non-separation of religion from politics à the few events in the past like the demolition of the Babri Masjid, anti-Sikh riots in 1984, Mumbai riots in December 1992 and January 1993, Godhra riots in 2002, etc. have shown the well-established problem of communalism raising its head now and then.
  • Practice of pseudo-secularism à Indifferently implementing secularism or pretending themselves as a champion of secularism may explain the pseudo-secularism. For example, the lack of political will to implement UCC and abolish regressive Triple Talaq fearing the loss of Muslim votes.
  • Growing fundamentalism à Religious fundamentalism refers to the blind and unquestioning adherence to particular religious beliefs. It is manifest in orthodoxy, conservatism, and singularity as against democratic norms of modernism and plurality.
  • Anti-religious à It has been argued by some that secularism threatens religious identity. However, as we noted earlier, secularism promotes religious freedom and equality. Hence, it protects religious identity rather than threatens it. It does undermine some forms of religious identity, which are dogmatic, violent, fanatical, exclusivist, and those, which foster hatred of other religions. The politicization of any one religious group leads to the competitive politicizationof other groups, thereby resulting in inter-religious conflict.
  • Rise of Hindu Nationalism in recent years à has resulted in mob lynching on mere suspicion of slaughtering cows and consuming beef.
  • Constitutional contradiction à Constitutional provision meant for secularism has loopholes and is discriminative in nature. There are certain secular principles that are mutually exclusive. For instance, Article 48 bans cow slaughter for respecting the religious sentiment of Hindu but such actions are approved of as a part of Muslim tradition.
  • Exclusion of minorities à The overall participation of religious minorities in the political sphere continues to occupy a tiny space and they are not given their due shares. Sachar Committee reported “while Muslims constitute 14 percent of the Indian population, they comprise only 2.5 percent of the Indian bureaucracy”
  • Defective educational system à which has encouraged the people to think in terms of groups and communities has also failed to inculcate secular ideas in the minds of young students and promote the feeling of mutual give and take.
  • Discriminative state intervention à To retain vote banks, governments show bias in regulating the religious customs and practices. For instance, polygamy is prohibited in Hindu law, but it is allowed in Islam. But the state is not ready to deal with such ambiguities and double stranded nature of law.
  • Communal riots à In recent past also, communalism has proved to be a great threat to the secular fabric of Indian polity e.g Delhi riot 2020, UP riot 2015 among others.
  • International influence à e,g IRAN issue, refuge crisis
  • Growing radicalisation à In recent years there have been stray incidences of Muslim youth being inspired and radicalized by groups like ISIS which is very unfortunate for both India and world

 

STEPS TAKEN BY GOVERNMENT OF INDIA TO PROMOTE SECULARISM
  • 42nd amendment act 1976 à Establishing India as a secular state with many constitutional securities
  • Ministry of Minority Affairs à Created in 2006 as an offspring of the Ministry of Social Justice & Empowerment.
  • National Integration Council (NIC) à It was formed in 1962 under the chairmanship of Prime minister as a means of combating the menace of communalism and to ensure unity and integrity of nation.
  • Open all religious places and institutions to all classes and sections of the people. For example, Sabarimala Temple entry case.
  • The Sachar Committee à was designated to find out the socio-economic conditions of Muslims (2005-2006).
  • Ranganath Misra Commission à was set to ascertain the status of Religious and Linguistic Minorities (2004- 2007).
  • Multi-Sectoral Development Programme à which aims to enhance the socio-economic conditions of minorities, provide basic amenities for improving their quality of life, and reduce imbalances in the identified minority concentration.
  • Introduction of value and moral education along with the regular curriculum.
  • Abolition of separate electorate and introduction of universal adult franchise (Article 326) immediately after the Independence.
  • National Minorities Development & Finance Corporation (NMDFC) à was formed in 1994 to promote economic activities among the backward sections of notified minorities by providing them financial aid with discounts for self-employment activities.
  • Welfare schemes à like Nai Udhan, Nai Roshni (leadership development of minority women), Seekho aur Kamao (Learn and Earn).
  • Skill development cum employment programmes à like Udaan and Himayat to accommodate j&K youth into mainstream development of India were started.
  • Wakf Board à Regularization and computerization
  • Prime Minister’s 15-point programme for minorities.

 

Objectives of PM’s 15-point Programme –

  • Improving access to School Education
  • Greater resources for teaching Urdu
  • Modernizing Madarsa Education
  • Scholarships for meritorious students from minority communitie
  • Equitable Share in Economic Activities and Employment
  • Self-Employment and Wage Employment for the poor
  • Upgradation of skills through technical training
  • Enhanced credit support for economic activities
  • Recruitment to State and Central Services
  • Improving the conditions of living of minorities
  • Prevention & Control of Communal Riots

 

SUGGESTIONS TO IMPROVE SECULAR CREDENTIALS
  • In a pluralistic society, the best approach to nurture secularism is to expand religious freedom rather than strictly practicing state neutrality.
  • Harboring on religious harmony and universal brotherhood by spreading the thoughts of great leaders.
  • Perhaps one way of preventing religious bias is to work together for mutual understanding. Education is a means to effect change in the mindset of people. Individual examples of sharing and mutual help could reduce prejudice and suspicion between communities.
  • Movements for social reform will have to be organized and public opinion mobilized- Minorities should be encouraged to participate in the mainstream of national life.
  • Social reform is a spirit of social justice and equality that must pervade all sections of the population.
  • The prerequisites to implement the social reform initiative like Uniform Civil Code are to create a conducive environment and forging socio-political consensus.
  • Learning more about other religions is the first step towards learning to respect and accept other people and their beliefs.
  • Put an end to communal politics and popularise principle-based secular politics.
  • The need of the hour is to ensure intra-religious and inter-religious equality and freedom (Sarva Dharma Sama Bhava) and accept the universality and plurality in religions (Ekam sat vipra bahudha vadanti – Rig Veda).
  • If we succeeded as a harmonious state, India will acquire a lot more phrases of adulations like “Unity in Diversity” and “melting pot” of multiculturalism, etc.
  • Periodical convention of the National Integration Council with the true spirit of secularism.
  • Recalibrate the contradictions in the constitutions and ensure conformity between various statutes and laws in the light of secular ethos.
  • Consider the suggestions of 2nd ARC (4th report-Ethics in Governance, 5th report-Public Order) to offer secular governance and handle communal clashes effectively and promptly.

 

Judicial Pronouncements Regarding Secularism in India
Kesavananda Bharati case (1973) Secularism has been deemed as one of the pillars of “Basic Structure of the Indian Constitution”. The Supreme Court held that the basic structure of the Constitution cannot be altered by the Parliament
S. R Bommai vs Union of India case (1994) The Supreme Court observed the following, “Notwithstanding the fact that the words ‘Socialist’ and ‘Secular’ were added in the Preamble of the Constitution in 1976 by the 42nd Amendment, the concept of Secularism was very much embedded in our constitutional philosophy” Thus, secularism which was implicit in the Constitution was made explicit.
Stanislaus vs State of Madhya Pradesh case (1977) The Supreme Court held that the right to propagate religion (Article 25) does not include right to forcible conversion as it may disturb public order.
Ratilal vs State of Bombay (1954) It was held that regulations by the state should not interfere with essentials of religion.
Church of God (Full Gospel) in India vs K. K. R. Majestic Colony Welfare Association (2000) It was held that as the right to religion is subject to public order, no prayers (through voice amplifiers or beating of drums) should be performed by disturbing the peace of others.

 

St. Stephen’s College vs University of Delhi (1992) The court held that autonomy of a minority institution cannot be taken away as it will defeat the purpose of right to establish and administer educational institutions by minorities.
Ismail Farooqui vs Union of India, 1994 (famously called Ayodhya Case) Supreme Court held that “the concept of secularism is one facet of the right to equality woven as the central golden thread in the fabric depicting the pattern of the scheme in our constitution”.

 

CONTEMPORARY ISSUES

Uniform Civil Code (UCC)

  • Article 44 (DPSP) of the Constitution states that “the State shall endeavor to secure for citizens a uniform civil code throughout the territory of India.” It essentially means a common set of laws governing personal matters for all citizens of the country, irrespective of religion.

 

Positive aspects of Uniform Civil Code:

  • It will divest religion from social relations and personal laws and will ensure equality in terms of justice to both men and women regardless of the faith they practice.
  • There will be uniform laws for all Indians with regard to marriage, inheritance, divorce, etc.
  • It will help in improving the condition of women in India as Indian society is mostly patriarchal whereby old religious rules continue to govern the family life and subjugate women.
  • Various personal laws have several loopholes, which are exploited by those who have the power to do so. Due to uniformity, such loopholes will cease to exist or will be minimized
  • Informal bodies like caste panchayats give judgments based on traditional laws. UCC will ensure that legal laws are followed rather than traditional laws.
  • It can help in reducing instances of vote bank politics. If all religions are covered under the same laws, politicians will have less to offer to communities in exchange for their votes.
  • It will help in the integration of India as a lot of animosities are caused by preferential treatment by the law in favor of certain religious communities.

 

Challenges in Implementing Uniform Civil Code:

  • Implementation of UCC might interfere with the principle of secularism, particularly with the provisions of Articles 25 and 26, which guarantee freedom relating to religious practices.
  • Conservatism by religious groups, which resist such changes as it interferes with their religious practices.
  • It is difficult for the government to come up with a uniform law that is accepted by all religious communities. All religious groups- whether the majority or minority have to support the change in personal laws.
  • Drafting of UCC is another obstacle. There is no consensus regarding whether it should be a blend of personal laws or should be a new law adhering to the constitutional mandate.

 

Issue of Instant Triple Talaq

  • Instant triple talaq is a form of Islamic divorce practiced in India, whereby a Muslim man can legally divorce his wife by stating the word talaq three times in oral, written, or more recently electronic form.
  • The practice has raised several controversies and discussions regarding issues of justice, gender equality, human rights, and secularism.
  • In the Shayara Bano vs Union of India case (2017), the Supreme Court declared the practice of triple talaq as unconstitutional by a 3:2 majority.

 

Positive Outcomes of the Judgement:

  • It ensures equality by upholding fundamental rights guaranteed by Articles 14 and 21 of the Constitution.
  • It ensures gender equality especially for Muslim women as the provision of triple talaq resulted in feelings of insecurity among them. Arbitrary talaq also impacted their social status and dignity.
  • It upholds core constitutional provisions, as fundamental rights guaranteed by the Constitution override the provisions of personal laws

 

Negative outcomes of the judgment:

  • It goes against Article 26 of the Indian Constitution, which guarantees freedom in matters of religion to every religious denomination and sect (including Hanafi school, which is followed by Shayara Bano).
  • Opponents contend that it is not the court’s role to “determine the true intricacies of faith”. Also, there is the contention that Muslim Personal Law (Shariat) Act 1937, has not codified talaq-e-bidat (triple talaq) into statutory law, thus, it does not fall under Article 13.
  • The challenge is to inform the Muslim masses that the abolition of the practice does not go against the Shariah but it is closer to the original tenets of Islam.

 

Entry Movements to Places of Religious Worship Led by Women’s Organizations

 

  1. Shani-Shignapur Temple:
    • A group of women called the Bhumata Rangaragini Brigade led a movement to break the 400-year-old tradition of the Temple barring women from entering its inner sanctum.
    • Eventually, the Bombay High Court stated that “No law prevents women from entering a place of worship and if men are allowed, then women too should be permitted.”

 

  1. Sabarimala Temple:
    • In Sabarimala temple, Kerala, women between the ages of 10 and 50 are not allowed to enter the temple, since they are in the menstrual age group. A 1991 Kerala High Court judgment supported the ban on women.
    • However, the case has been referred to a three-judge bench of the Supreme Court to deem whether excluding menstruating women constitutes “essential religious practice.”

 

 

  1. Haji Ali Dargah:
    • In 2012, the Dargah Trust barred women from entering the sanctum sanctorum of the Haji Ali dargah. The trust cited verses from the Quran and Prophet Mohammed to claim that Islam does not permit women to enter dargahs/mosques. The trust also claimed the fundamental right “to manage its own affairs” under Article 26 of the Indian Constitution.
    • This was opposed by several women’s organizations. Eventually, the Bombay High Court lifted the ban saying it contravenes the Constitution and women should be allowed entry “at par with men”. It also held that the Trust could not enforce a ban “contrary to the fundamental rights” (i.e. Art 14, 15, and 25) enshrined in the Constitution.

 

CONCLUSION
  • The history of civilizations and the painful experiences felt because of the communal problems have made us realize that the secularism is indispensable to overcome the religious anomalies.
  • Secularism is crucial to restrain the authority of the majority religion and restrict the use of political clout on religious base. It is also to safeguard the freedom of individuals (i.e., to exit from their religion, embrace another religion or have the freedom to interpret religious teachings).
  • Need of the hour is to ensure intra-religious and inter-religious equality and freedom and accept the universality and plurality in religions. If we succeeded as an absolute harmonious state, India will acquire a lot more phrases of adulations like “Unity in Diversity” and “melting pot” of multi-cultualism

 

Other schemes for minority communities:
Seekho Aur Kamao It is a placement linked skill development programme
Nai Manzil A scheme for formal school education & skilling of school dropouts
Gharib Nawaz Employment Training For providing short-term job-oriented skill development courses to youths belonging to minority communities
Pradhan Mantri Jan Vikas Karyakram (PMJVK) It is an area development scheme.

 

Upgrading Skills and Training in Traditional Arts/Crafts for Development (USTTAD) To conserve traditional arts/crafts of our Country and for building capacity of traditional artisans and craftsmen belonging to minority communities,

 

Nai Manzil To engage constructively with the poor Minority youth and help them to obtain sustainable and gainful employment opportunities
Hamari Dharohar scheme Proposed to preserve rich heritage of minority communities of India under the overall concept of Indian culture.
Nai Roshni For Leadership Development of Minority Women with an aim to empower and instil confidence in women.
“Hunar Haat” (Skill Haat) An exhibition of handicrafts, embroidery etc made by the artisans from the Minority Communities

 

PREVIOUS YEAR QUESTIONS
  1. How do the Indian debates on secularism differ from the debates in the West? (200 words)- 2014.
  2. How is the Indian concept of secularism different from the western model of secularism? Discuss. (10 Marks)- 2018
  3. What are the challenges to our cultural practices in the name of secularism? (150 words)- 2019

 

PRACTICE QUESTIONS
  1. ‘Indian secularism is a positive concept, taking along and encouraging all the cultural practices while instilling a scientific temper against superstitions and harmful practices’. Explain
  2. Discuss various threats to secularism in India context.
  3. “Equal protection by the State to all religions” is the view of Jawaharlal Nehru towards secularism. Examine.
  4. Discuss the concept, constraints, and prospect of secularism in India.
  5. Do the Fundamental rights provided under Article 25-28 truly make India a secular state. Examine
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