Secularism in India is to be understood at the three levels of the individual, society and the State, which are complementary to each other. Comment. (250 words)
- Explain multiple religions in India and concept of Secularism
- Explain significance of secularism at all three levels
- Explain how they are complementary
- Conclude appropriately
India is characterised by great diversity of religious beliefs and practices. India is renowned for its practice of religious tolerance for thousands of years. Even in modern India, Constitution ensures that India is a secular state and all citizens and religions enjoy the fundamental right to freedom of religion under Articles 15, 25 and 26. However, the idea of secularism has to understood at the following three levels:
Individual level: Every citizen of India has a right to follow his religious beliefs and practice and promote it peacefully. But simultaneously, secularism demands that the individual must be tolerant of others’ beliefs and practices and should not practice any religious discrimination.
Society level: Secularism at society level can be understood by Indian philosophy of ‘Sarva Dharma Sambhav’ (all Dharmas (truths) are equal to or harmonious with each other). Indian societies have great religious diversity and peaceful coexistence is only possible when all religions are respectful and tolerant of other religions. Almost all communal riots are a result of people of one religion taking an antagonistic stance against other religions or people of other religions.
State level: India is a secular state where all religions are treated equally, and people of all religions are treated equally. The State does not promote officially any religion as state religion. The objective is to uphold Indian philosophy of peaceful religious coexistence, and not allow any community to dominate other. Despite the multifarious religions and conflicting beliefs, Indian state has mostly been exemplary in upholding secularism.
The idea of secularism is complementary at all three levels because the individuals live and act within society, while society exists to serve individuals. State links individuals to groups and organisations, and establishes balance and reconciliation between them. The secular ideals at the three levels must combine in such a way as to enhance or emphasize the qualities of each other or another.
Thus, secularism can only be truly upheld when it is practised at all the three levels – individual, societal and the State. For example, Quami Ekta Committees has been found very effective in maintaining peace between communities. In these committees, state administration interacts with society’s leaders to solve any conflicts between individuals/groups of different communities.