Secularism-India vs West

In the light of recent events, compare and contrast how secularism is viewed and practised in India and France. (200 Words)

The term Secularism has different connotations in India and France. The concept of Secularism has evolved differently in both the countries.
France was a largely homogeneous Catholic country, where the clergy had an unduly high degree of influence over the state’s apparatus. This bred resentment in the people which manifested itself in anti-Clericalism during French Revolution. Thus, Secularism in France came to denote a strict division between Religion and State. This was given statutory backing by a law passed in 1905.
On the other hand, India was a very diverse nation with a lot of different religions. Even the majority religion, Hinduism, was divided into a number of sub-sects. Thus, no single religion had a perverse influence on the state. Thus the Indian concept of Secularism evolved to denote equal respect to all religions.
This difference of the concept has led to difference in its practice as well. In India – state provides Hajj subsidy to Muslims, administrative support for Amarnath Yatra to the pilgrimages, and allows Sikhs to carry Kripans along with them. Whereas in France, people are not supposed to wear any religious signs in the public institutions like Schools, instances of banning Muslim girls from wearing headscarves in schools. Also, in India the various religious laws are given importance and identification like Sharia-based personal law of Muslims whereas in France only uniform civil law prevails. Indian constitution allows the right to preach and spread his/her religion and individuals can convert to another religion. Where as in France, any act which shows signs of preaching one‘s religion, the act is banned in the society.
On the other hand, religion has been a part of Indian polity and politics. Major issues like a Uniform Civil Code have been blocked due to religion. Decisions are frequently taken or overturned due to religious pressures. There has also been attacks on religious symbols, communal riots, religion based mobilisation of people during elections etc. which are harming the secular fabric of our country.
Though European model enjoyed success early on due to its homogenous nature of society, these laws were suited, this practice has been criticised of late by various religious leaders as imposed secularity and distortion of their faith. India on the other hand has always encouraged heterogeneous society and tried to create equidistance between all religions and also intervened in the religious beliefs when required addressing the issue of malicious conversions.
“The idea of secularism as expressed in our Constitution and as articulated over the years through the political process is embedded in the concepts of equality and democracy rather than in the Western concept of secularism which denies religion any space in the public sphere.” In the light of the statement, critically analyse how India’s version of Secularism is different from that of West’s. (200 Words)
Secularism is one of the core principles of Indian constitution and is highlighted by Articles 25 to 28. Indian Secularism over a period has demonstrated equality and democracy as part of secularism and is based on equal treatment to all religions as ‘Sarva Dharma Samabhava’. Whereas, in the West, secularism is defined as: not allowing religion into public space.
The protection of minority religions by state, organizing peaceful processions like during ‘Ram Navami , ‘Pir’ etc., providing holidays on major religious festivals of all religions, providing reservations to weaker sections which include religious minorities, allowing to establish, administer and develop educational and religious institutions of minority religions etc. are examples of state intervention in religion.
India is an old civilization with inherent secularism that absorbed many cultures over the years and this ability helped in its continuing till today as a vibrant one and is responsible for the emergence of Equality of religions concept instead of western secularism concept which is very recent one emerged post Westphalian treaty.
Religion is a private affair in west and states does not sponsor religious processions like in India. It is harmony that is behind Indian concept of secularism and is a must for a diversified culture and for peaceful society. The recent incidents like Charlie Hebdo attacks, Many Muslims from UK, France etc. joining the Islamic state shows their feeling of alienation, discrimination, lack of opportunities compared to majority that is making them to take extreme steps.
India with second most Muslim population has shown much resilience in restraining from such IS activities and is a perfect example that Indian secularism is much more than mere religious aspects but peace, harmony, unity in diversity which is eternal and inevitable for the world in Modern day
Indian secularism is considered as pseudo-secularism by certain sections of the society. Do you agree with this view? Critically analyse. (200 Words)
Indian Constitution included word Socialist and Secularism after 42nd Constitutional Amendment 1976, because it was felt that India as a nation of various religions and shown positive religious tolerance. It was also to make it clear in future that no particular religion can claim more share in policy implementation or declare herself as holier, representative than other.
In last 4 decades, India has set example in front of world by its positive secularism where state has no religion and it promotes every religion existence and prosperity equally as envisioned by our forefathers.
But certain section of society thinks otherwise and considers Indian secularism as pseudo-secularism because:
  • Secularism real meaning is zero favour to anyone, while in India all religions are promoted equally by government.
  • Minority religions are given extra advantages like Haj subsidy, subsidy for missionary buying lands and setting up schools, minority can set special guidelines for their schools and university and can deny anyone’s admission there based on religion. This is against the spirit of Secularism.
  • With continuous polarisation of religion as political agendas also degraded the value and essence of secularism.
Hence, while constitution claims India as secular nation but as a society we have to cross the barrier of communalised feeling both at heart and action.