Secularism like Religion for most of us is a way of life, specially till the moment we are not enlightened of the fact that some difference lies between us not only materialistically but religiously too.I for example have been practicing secularism since my childhood days, I use to go to mosque , Dargah , use to play, dine with Muslim ,christian , Parsi and Sikh Kids . Most of my Kurta’s in my childhood were use to be the gifts of some of my father’s muslim frns and above all , To me Hafiz g the most reputated figure in my village and the Sadhu baba at the Hanuman Garhi temple were the people of same faith as once I asked my Father why do u address , Hafiz g asslam vale hukum and the baba at the temple as Baba charan Sparsha, Father Replied “ Well both are religious luminaries and the only difference is, that the hafiz g is more familiar too me and when father was of my age , hafiz g was his teacher…That’s my experiment with secualrism
Now further moving forward in the direction of exploring topic which I blv is Secularism as a doctrine to grass root freedom , I wud like to discuss topic in five parts
- Secualrism as doctrine
- Western concpetion of secularism
- Indian Gandhian and Nehru conception of secularism
- Indian constitutional secularism as a generator, propagator and facilitator of Freedom at the grass root
- Secularism and Its Fault lines
There are two views on Secularism , One is though atheistic in principle but yet recognizes one’s liberty to exercise his ideological followings irrespective of the fact that the State is completely Secular in its orientation. The second Which I would call Indian Experiment with Secularism, though thought as New to the subcontinent but yet practiced since “Harappan civilization”. Ashoka’s Dhamma to Akbara’s Din –e – Elahi , we have our Distinguished Place in Exercising Secularism for more than 4000 years.In the Indian Context we will see How state is secular but Society is Religious.
Western Conception Of Secularism
It is the mark of educated mind to entertain thought without accepting it …Aristotle ..
It ‘s the man’s quest of knowledge and his zeal to explore hidden dimensions of the very unknown , that keeps him lively and free from any subjugation.Knowledge liberates mind and we are free , Free from any moral assertions and religious denominations which hampers our intellectual as well as intelligence growth. To identify one self with an idea is to become fanatically part of the idea argues and hence liberating violent incites, argues Amartya Sen in his work, “Identity and Violence”.This Identity is the root cause of most fanatic assertions to uproot the Critical voices.One should place effective barriers at regular intervals when dealing with delicate matter like Idea’s.
.One should keep on inventing to prove his / her stupidity or the world will take him as active but inactive ..lol..
The Western Conception of Secularism is Deeply embedded in the Notion that, Intelligence and a deeper Quest for knowledge is what, that liberates man from the subjugation of all superstitious Flaws . The Whole conception is based on Reasoning and scientific arguments.Though Atheistic in principle yet God was characterized as Good and Bad too.
Epicurius has been ascertained as the father of western Secularism ….
“If the gods listened to the prayers of men, all humankind would quickly perish since they constantly pray for many evils to befall one another.”..He once famously argued.Here we can say that secularism found its genesis from atheistic notion arising out of popular dissent of sensitive mind.
The widespread dissent of people with the Church and Its extraordinary powers exercised in brutal manners , Forced people to take steps so as to counter the growing influence of the church and a major role was played by the rise of capitalist forces, which driven by there derive to expand, asserted the exercise of scientific arguments to tackle church and its followers , The Religion was completely annihilated from the public sphere..
To attain it , Protestants used Logical assertions and rational modern and scientific Arguments..And hence followed Epicurus…
“God is all-powerful.
God is perfectly good.
If God exists, there would be no evil.
Therefore God does not exist.
— Epicurus , his logical formulation which we have dubbed the “Epicurean Riddle”; quoted from William Hart, Evil: A Primer (2004), pages 28-29″
In here, its quite clearl while laying the foundation of Atheism he also had propounded the seed of secularism as some thing called negation of religion , Though Voltaire gives a bit different conception of Secularism when he says…
“My dear sir, nature is very cruel. One would find it hard to imagine how the laws of movement cause such frightful disasters in the best of possible worlds. A hundred thousand ants, our fellows, crushed all at once in our ant-hill, and half of them perishing, no doubt in unspeakable agony, beneath the wreckage from which they cannot be drawn. Families ruined all over Europe, the fortune of a hundred businessmen, your compatriots, swallowed up in the ruins of Lisbon. What a wretched gamble is the game of human life! What will the preachers say, especially if the palace of the Inquisition is still standing? I flatter myself that at least the reverend father inquisitors have been crushed like others. That ought to teach men not to persecute each other, for while a few holy scoundrels burn a few fanatics, the earth swallows up one and all.
— Voltaire, on the Lisbon earthquake, in a letter written while preparing the poem La Pucelle, quoted from Jim Herrick, “Écrasez l’Infâme,” in Against the Faith”
In here we can see clearly that , his conception of being secular is being aware of the fanatic behavior of fundamentalist or too much involvement of church into the public as well as state affairs. The need here was directed towards understanding the vicious and vested interest of church and the over manipulation of human mind.The renaissance movement was dedicated towards the liberation of man from the unholy bond and hands of church so as to make him Rational and scientific which eventually will free him from all prejudices and biases.The whole idea was to create a secular man and society where individuals driven by there aspirations will do productive work which will give some meaning to thr life .this is quite clear from the Voltairs following quote..
“Let us therefore reject all superstition in order to become more human; but in speaking against fanaticism, let us not imitate the fanatics: they are sick men in delirium who want to chastise their doctors. Let us assuage their ills, and never embitter them, and let us pour drop by drop into their souls the divine balm of toleration, which they would reject with horror if it were offered to them all at once.
— Voltaire, Homélies prononcées à Londres, quoted from Jim Herrick, “Écrasez l’Infâme,” in Against the Faith”
So the European secularism was a conception where man was made secular to become more like economic man as termed by Adam smith …and less likely a spiritual man
The American experiment with Secularism is quite the most successful one so far , as they successfully separated the State from church and hence made the whole hierarchy secular ..As they creatd
1.Secular state ,
2.Secular institutions and
3.Secular society and
4.Secular man ..
Man was here driven by his intelligence (in the words of Dalai Lama ) not faith,He is the Weber’s Rational man with Siemens- bounded rationality working towards the attainment of satisficing goals. The whole heirarchy was made impartial , impersonal and free from and prejudices and biases as personal considerations were removed from the Arena…The whole Arena was made insular to religion and the religion got confined in man’s closet of prayers.This is also called as Jeffersonian Notion of Secularism …
“…legitimate powers of government reach actions only, & not opinions, I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should ‘make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof,’ thus building a wall of separation between Church & State. Adhering to this expression of the supreme will of the nation in behalf of the rights of conscience, I shall see with sincere satisfaction the progress of those sentiments which tend to restore to man all his natural rights, convinced he has no natural right in opposition to his social duties.”
― Thomas Jefferson, Letters of Thomas Jefferson
It was done on the popular demand of the capitalists as it will seriously hamper there vested interest if the productive forces will be employed in daily prayers ad useless rituals as if some supernatural power will fulfill their basic needs. The aspirations of man which will derive him if he gets freed from the clutch of church will empower the society, and will generate the idea of a wealthy nation aspiring to create fundamental equality and freedom and making pervasive the idea of welfare state …Church was considered as the oppressor of human freedom and his quest for knowledge .It can be well understood in the words of James Madison
“The purpose of separation of church and state is to keep forever from these shores the ceaseless strife that has soaked the soil of Europe in blood for centuries.
[Letter objecting to the use of government land for churches, 1803]”
― James Madison
A society based on religion was considered Fruitless as it will be less rational and scientific in its outlook and the man will become a puppet in the hands of Church.
Thomas Pain said
to quote James Madisson one more time .He argues further..
“Every new & successful example therefore of a perfect separation between ecclesiastical and civil matters, is of importance. And I have no doubt that every new example, will succeed, as every past one has done, in shewing that religion & Govt. will both exist in greater purity, the less they are mixed together.
Though we know for sure that no society is purely secular but yet Americans quite successfully created a system where the state , the institutions , the society and even the man was made secular ……..to more or less good strength . The problem still persists as we will see in the fourth part of the lecture How the America and West driven by Capitalism failed to provide spiritual depth to the man which is essential for his peaceful as well as blissful survival.Reason lead to the foundation of modern Western secular society. A quest deeper imbibed in the assertion that man is born free and every where he is in chains..Hence Secularism Liberated man from all moral , ethical and religious assertions, Created Equality, fraternity among them, to drive them towards more rational and scientific out look so as to generate A society where Justice as Fairness Prevails and remains pervasive ..
Indian( Gandhian and Nehru) conception of secularism
“For the Hindus, struggle for the independence of the country is a sign of love for the land. But for the Musalmans it is a religious obligation and equivalent to jihad in the way of God. And the meaning of jihad includes every effort made to establish justice and truth and human rights and the removal of servitude”.
Maulana Abul Kalam Azad
December1912 issue of Al Hilal
The Assertions here is that Secularism prevails among the masses.
Some One asked me Once , How do u see India??? What is ur conception about India??
I replied , India is an oasis of Pluralistic society and They all merge into one another quite well so as to create a rather whole dynamic society Free from any moral subjugation to fragile ideas…Its is a nation in making with Secularism imbibed in its constitution and its preamble. India is a Reackelss democarcy of reckless people.
Indian Secularism is unique in its aspects and features as it’s a fusion of Reason and Faith. It empowers human with the Reason to seek his aspirations and faith to attain peace of mind. To me The best secularism is the one that acts as the meeting ground for all religion and hence facilitates a dialogue between them so as to resolve if any conflicts.Gandhian and Nehruvian conception are quite different in thr approach yet similar at their core.Among all the developing countries India is distinguished with its successful experiment with Democracy and firm resolve to exercise secularism to extend freedom at the grass root level.
“The conception of Indian secularism is not just an intellectual abstraction; it is
not a product only of logical constructions and academic debates. It acquired
flesh and blood, a moral depth and intensity through the martyrdom of the
foremost leader of India’s freedom struggle, Mahatma Gandhi, and through the
death-defying courage of Jawaharlal Nehru in the pursuit of the secular ideal.
Further, the sacrifice of countless unknown Indians who stood up for secular
nationhood at critical moments in India’s national evolution has qualitatively
transformed Indian secularism from an intellectual abstraction into a powerful
Rightly argued by the Writer of the reputated journal in his scholarly article on Indian secularism.
Hindustan belongs to all those who are born and bred here and who have no
other country to look to. Therefore, it belongs to Parsis, Beni Israelis, to Indian
Christians, Muslims and other non-Hindus as much as to Hindus. Free India will
be no Hindu raj, it will be Indian raj based not on the majority of any religious
sect or community, but on the representatives of the whole people without
distinction of religion. I can conceive of a mixed majority putting the Hindus in a
minority. They would be elected for their record of service and merits. Religion is
a personal matter, which should have no place in politics. (M.K. Gandhi, 1947:
Argued Gandhi. His notion of secularism was of insulating state from any religious prejudice and to imbibe a secular characteristic to state which eventually will help it to facilitate services without any biases .He once said,
I do not expect India of my dreams to develop one religion that is to be wholly
Hindu or wholly Christian or wholly Musalman, but I want it to by wholly
tolerant, with its religions working side by side with one another.
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, but not
your or my religion. That is everybody’s personal concern.
(M.K. Gandhi 1947: 278)
Our forefathers were more upright in there approach as they conceived an India of modern society where Caste , Creed, Gender and religious boundaries will be demolished by the modern conceptions and mutual cooperation so as to generate Humanism at the core and equality as the general principal.
Nehruvian conception of Secularism was influenced by the jeffersonian Notion of Secularism , He wanted to insulate political and social life from Religion and hence tried to maintain a high degree of morality.Our forefathers were idealist in their approach as they were the product of long battle won with principles and ideals in hand.As Nehru Once said,
“In a country like India, which has many faiths and religions, no real nationalism
can be built except on the basis of secularity. Any narrower approach must
exclude a section of the population and then nationalism itself will have a
restricted meaning than it should possess… We have not only to live upto the
ideals proclaimed in our Constitution, but make them a part of our thinking and
living and thus build up a really integrated nation. That does not mean absence
of religion, but putting religion on a different plane from that of normal political
and social life. Any other approach in India would mean the breaking up of India.
-(Jawarharlal Nehru ).”
But the experiment soon was manipulated to serve vested interest and as the time moved further minorities were merely converted into Vote banks and appeasement policies lead to destruction of their freedom that has been guaranteed by the constitution itself.
Thus we can say the state became secular but the society remained Religious which lead to contradictions as vested interest made their hole into the vulnerable portion of the development .The Nehruvian conception was successful to some extent but it failed to create a completely secular democracy because the political as well as the Bureaucratic class was recruited from the same Religious society. Religion is way of life in here, so is secularism but identification with Religion and not with secularism facilitated fanatic assertions of one’s identity leading to Revival of communalistic Idea’s which cost us Gandhi’s life too.
Secularism & Grass Root Freedom.
“’ThE CONCEPT OF EQUAL SOCIAL, economic
. and political justice, of fraternity and dignity of the
individual, of liberty in matters of ‘belief, faith and
worship’ is a positive preambular proclamation of
secularism. Single citizenship, be his religion what it
may, (Art. 5) reinforces this value. Every Indian enjoys all.the fundamerital rights guaranteed in Part III regardless
of religion, caste, creed, race or sex. Untouchability,
which downgrades ‘some Hindus on considerations of’
religious devaluation, is abolished punitively by Article.”
Writes Justice V.R. Krishna Iyer
Our Preamble ensures us with a constitution imbibed with the philosophy of Secularism and fundamental rights , directive principles and fundamental duties so as to ensure proper implementation of the philosophy at the grass root level.The right to religious freedom ensured by Article 28 and 29 and the right to deal with our own religious affairs ensures free exercise and propagation on one’s cultural as well as religious notions and ideas , Though subjugated to certain restrictions prohibiting Sedition and playing with public order . In the Sr Bomaiyya case Supremecourt even went further and argued that Even anti casteism is a part of secular notion there fore established it as the basic feature of our constitution.This Facilitates Equality at the grass root level. One can forcefully demand his right to abolish any partiality or discrimination on the basis of religion caste creed or sex ..This ensures Freedom for even the most deprived and destitute people of impoverished nation.Secularism provided the much needed boon to the self esteem of the people and they went out of their home to exercise their will to attain their aspirations with much zeal and vigor.
Schedule 5 and 6 of the Indian constitution provides tribal with the much autonomy in thr social and cultural as well as administrative affairs and even goes further to allow them to run thr own Judicial courts. Hence the secular ideas have generated the much needed freedom of exercise of once social and cultural practices without any hindrance from the state.
Art 51 A (e) obligates every
Indian, whatever his religion, “to promote harmony and
the spirit of common brotherhood amongst all the
people and the spirit of common brotherhood amongst
“all the people of India transcending religious diversities”,
“to have compassion [(Art. 51A (g)]to develop the
scientific temper, humanism and the spirit of inquiry
and reform (51) A (h). Secularism par excellence!
Indeed, the great postulate of a just social order
expressed in Art. 38 is dynamic secularism applicable
to the whole of society, repelling any divisive or
prejudicial criteria based on religion, caste or creed and
emphasising economic justice, human solidarity and
Republic is expressed with the meaningful objective:
“Art. 38 (l):The State shall strive to promote the
welfare of the people by securing and protecting as
effectively as it may a social order in which justice,
social, economic and political, shall inform all the
institution of the national life.”
The DIRECTIVE PRINCIPLES OF STATE Policy,
with a strong socialist flavour, mandate the state to
go socialist and secularist, placing accent on such
matters of human justice as free legal aid, decentralized
government, just and humane conditions of work,
promotion of educational and economic interests of
weaker classes, health,justice to the common people,
distributive justice vis a vis the material resources of the .
community, better agriculture and animal husbandry,
elimination of environmental pollution, and a wealth of
programmes of material uplift. There is no hint or
whisper that the State can or will respect or reject
religion or like considerations in the wide range of
developmental activities, human rights or other matters
of life and death. It is fair to state that secular values
govern all departments of State activity vis a vis the
citizenry, irrespective of either brands of faith or
theistic, agnostic or atheistic views. Basically, the State
adopts the Jeffersonian philosophy of actual neutrality
in our society of religious pluralism. President Jefferson
“I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of
the American people which declared their legislature
should make no law ‘respecting an establishment of
religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof, thus
building a wall of separation between the Church and
Justice Douglas explained ~
“The’ First Amendment leaves the Go rnment in
a position not of hostility to religion but 0 neutrality.
The philosophy is that the atheist or agn stic- the
non-believer- is entitled to go his 0 way. The
philosophy is that ifgovernment interfere in matters
spiritual, it will be a divisive force. .The First
Amendment teaches that a government neu tral in the
field of religion better serves all religious nterests.”
“ADULT FRANCHISE, TOTALLY AN THEMA-
:rISING religion’s role in elections, is n insignia
of secular politics under the law. No religio criterion
for public’ office is permissible, const tutionally
speaking. No Party based on religion, no appe Ifor vote
based on religion, no pollution of the poll pr ocess by
religious infiltration, has legal sanction. One person,
one value, and one adult, one vote, is the rule of lawwhich
bears a secular badge on its bosom.”
Argues J V R Iyer
Secularism thus empowered democracy by empowering each and every individual at the grass root . Now even a cobler, an illiterate , a labour can vote for the party whom they consider working for there concerns without fear and favor.
Panchayati raj Institutions at the grass root facilitated democratic ideas at the grass root and empowered citizens with a taste of self governance.and thus guaranteed freedom of choice …Individualism got an impetus ..
Constitution hates communal instrumentalities;
. In law and life, India is a
marvellous oasis of secularism.”
Yojana , 1988 (secularism)
Secularism and the Fault Lines
Of the major Fault Lines,
Communalism and Fundamentalism
Development , Tribals, Infrngement of secular ideas
These two are my major concerns.
Communalism is important as it plays with the very social fabric that binds us all. The Downplaying of secular notions to serve vested interest is a Vicious effort and needs to be nipped in the bud. The economic recession and extensive Rise in the inequality has furthered the effect as it did in the Pret II world war Germany.The recession forced man to seek refuge of Religion and when this happens , Man becomes more vulnerable to fundamentalist ideology and fanatic notion.Even the nationalism is a part of the very same ideology where one asserts his notions as the supreme one and tries to curtail the freedom of other’s expressions , specially secular and critical one’s by the exercise of same Freedom of expression Art 19.
It therefore is the responsibility of the people of India who believe in secular constitution, to maintain comity and firmly oppose and denounce such fanatic notions, No matter even if they are pronounced as pseudoseculars.The self proclaimed nationalist who wish to revive past are regressive in thr ideology and should be win over by compassion love, forgiveness tolerance self discipline honesty and just as well as rational arguments , but not by force because at the core of Secularism lies tolerance, patience, love and compassion.
Development , Tribals and infringement of secular ideas
Sustainable development is the most misconceived notion and needs to be understood well. Afforestation is no answer to deforestation , we have a major problem of development vs environmentalism. Tribal’s are dislocated without being rehabilitated. There fundamental rights are compromised so as to serve capitalist notions. We must argue to our selves Innovation does not means development of only modern ideas but instead is a cumulative approach comprising of traditional knowledge as well. Freedom can only be provided, if the secular ideas of our constitutions will be implemented with great enthusiasm and a will to empower each an every individual with the much needed Rights granted by the constitution.
As rawls put’s
“In a just and fair society the rights of each an every individual is as important as that of the majority. “
So therefore we can conclude that secularism enhances the freedom of an individual at the very grass root level and there fore we as the active students of Indian democracy have a responsibility to carry forward ideas of our constitutional forefathers and we must strive diligently to attain a healthy society in which right of no individual be transgressed or compromised for the rights of majority or anyone else.In the end I would say only a scientific quest ca save the day and this is quite clear from the words of Bertrand Russel.
“Sceince can teach us and I think our own hearts can teach us , no longer to look around for imaginary supports, no longer to invent allies in the sky , but rather to look to our efforts here below to makes this world a fit place to live in”