Que. 1. How do the Indian debates on secularism differ from the debates in the West? (UPSC - 2014) [150 Words]
Ans.: Secularism is a political or social philosophy that talks about separation of state from religious institutions. It is an ideology that emphasize on restriction of religious activities in public sphere like education, polity, economy etc.
The Constitution of India stands for a secular state however, Indian notion of secularism is quite different from western notion like:
|Western notion is of negative concept of Secularism i.e. hedge between state and religion
||Indian Constitution embodies the positive concept of Secularism i.e. giving equal respect to all religions.
|In the West, the State is separate from the functioning of all religious institution and groups.
||Secularism in India means that the state is neutral to all religious groups but not necessarily separate
|Non-interventionist in nature .The state believes in total non-interference of religion.
||Reformist in nature. In India, the concept is not restricted to the question of how religious groups are to be treated. Instead, the essence of secularism lies in forging a positive relationship between the state and religion.
|The Western concept of Secularism does not believe in an open display of religion with except for places of worship.
||In India, all expression of Religion is manifested equally with support from the state.
|The distinction between state and religion is clear and set in stone
||There is no clear distinction between the state and religion in India.
|The state treats all religions with equal indifference. It does not aid any religious institutions through financial means or taxes them.
||The state gives financial aids to a religious institution and taxes them as well
However, apart from all these differences there are some similarities as well between Western and Indian debate of Secularism like:
Legislature is prohibited from declaring any religion as official.
Que. 2. Define Secularism and Secularisation. What are the challenges before Indian Secularism? [150 Words]
Ans.: Secularisation is a process whereby the religious institutions and religious conceptions and understanding have lost control in wordily matters economy, polity, justice, health, family , and so on. Instead, there emerged empirical and rational procedures and conceptions about the world in general.
- Bryan R. Wilson defines secularisation process as "the various social institutions gradually become distinct from one another and increasingly free of the matrix of religious assumptions that had earlier informed...inspired and dominated their operation”
"Secularism" has a broad range of meaning. While its definition as the separation of religion from civic affairs and the state is the most common, it has different connotation for political, economic , philosophical and so on.
- As a philosophy, secularism seeks to interpret life on principles taken solely from the material world, without recourse to religion. It shifts the focus from religion towards "temporal" and material concerns.
- In political terms, secularism is the principle of the separation of government institutions from the prism of religion.
- Secular spirit or tendency, especially a system of political or social philosophy that rejects all forms of religious faith and worship.
Challenges before Indian Secularism
It becomes a problem in a secular state with Muslim minorities because there is an inherent clash between the requirements of a secular way of life on the one hand and religious orthodoxy on the other.
The roots of the caste system are very deep. The ancient ‘varna’ scheme is supposed to be the basis of the caste system. It may be said, that originally caste was associated with a specific occupation and village community and village economy.
The policies in India, especially at the state level, cannot be understood without the study of the caste in that particular state. There are some political parties which are organized to represent castes. Thus, caste consciousness has become the very core of the Indian polities and it has become the greatest roadblock to the furtherance of secularism in our polity.
Some of the political parties in India are organized on communal lines. These parties represent the interests of a particular region or a particular group. Some of the regional parties even desire and struggle for a separate independent State. They play communal politics for achieving and safeguarding their political interests. It has been remarked, that the known secular parties are not very secular in terms of composition and working.
Obscurantism is one of the obstacles of the Indian secularism. Despite the progress in almost all the directions of life, obscurantism still persists. In all the religions, there are obscurantism elements which create obstacles in the way of evolution of human and dynamic social order. It is because of obscurantism, that the people give importance to customs and traditions rather than reason.
The Indian people in general whether Hindus, Muslims, Sikhs etc. are traditional in their outlook, and see many of the things in their traditions and customs. Thus, obscurantism is a great hurdle in the way of secularism in the Indian society.
Conservatism/ Status-quoist attitude of society
As secularism seen as a threat to our culture as :
Stopping of festival practices- Secularisation of Festival . Valentine day , Father’s day etc
Effects on family values.
These are some of challenges before Indian Secularism. Secularism provides a check on the tyranny of the majority that is a natural part of any democratic society. It must, therefore, be defended.