Secularism

Secularism involves two basic principles. The first principle says that people of different faiths and sections of the society are equal before the law, the Constitution and government policy. The second principle says that there should be no mixing up of religion and politics.

This means that there can be no discrimination on the basis of religion or faith. There is no room for the hegemony of one religion, or majoritarian religious sentiments and aspirations. There should be separation of religion from politics. The Constitution of India safeguards secularism on these two principles.

People of India are allowed the freedom to practice their religious beliefs in a way each individual finds it suitable. To ensure religious freedom for all, India has adopted a strategy to separate the power of religion and the power of the State.


Importance of Secularism

Secularism is important for each democratic country. More than one religious group lives in almost all countries of the world. There are more chances that one group is in a majority in a given country. If the majority religious group gets access to State power, there is always a risk of the majority group using this power and financial resources to discriminate against people of other religions. This is called the tyranny of the majority. The tyranny of the majority community may result in discrimination, coercion and even killing of people from the minority communities. People from the minority communities can be easily prevented to practice their religion in such a situation. Religious domination in any form is in violation of the rights which a democratic country guarantees to each citizen irrespective of religion. So, it is important to separate the State and religion in a democratic country.

Some people may want to exit from their religion, in order to embrace another religion. Some people may want to interpret religious teachings differently. Such freedom needs to be protected. So, it is necessary to separate religion from the State in a democratic society.


Indian Secularism

The Indian Constitution mandates that the Indian State be secular. According to the Constitution, only a secular State can realise its objectives to ensure the following:

The Indian Constitution mandates that the Indian State be secular. According to the Constitution, only a secular State can realise its objectives to ensure the following:

The Indian State works in various ways to prevent the domination of majority community. First, it uses a strategy of distancing itself from religion. The Indian State is not ruled by a religious group and nor does it support any one religion. In India, government spaces like law courts, police stations, government schools and offices are not supposed to display or promote any one religion.

The second way in which Indian secularism works to prevent the domination of the majority community is through a strategy of non-interference. But there are some exceptions to the principle of non-interference. In certain cases, the government does interfere in religious matter. Sometimes, this is done to maintain the peace in the society. Sometimes, it is done in order to safeguard and promote the cultural identity of a particular community.

The Indian State is secular and works in various ways to prevent religious domination. The Indian Constitution guarantees Fundamental Rights that are based on these secular principles. But violation of these rights takes place in Indian society. There are some constitutional mechanisms in place to prevent such violations.



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