“Sarva Dharma Sambhava” is what defines Secularism in Indian Democracy. All religions have been given equal status and treatment under the Indian Constitution. Secularism is indifferent to politics, economics, and social and cultural aspects and hence is considered a purely personal matter of a person. It is akin to the Vedic concept “Dharma Nirapekshata” which means the state is indifferent to the religion. All in all, it tries to promote the doctrine of separation of state from religion.
Secularism stands for no discrimination and equal opportunity to every citizen to follow all religions. It is given as a personal choice to every citizen to adopt the religion of their choice without any different treatment.
Indian religions for decades have always co-existed and evolved together, although the adoption of various religions by the Indian community gave rise to differences between them.
However, the quest to maintain tolerance and bonhomie amongst the citizens even after the advent of the other religions like Buddhism, Jainism etc., remained at the forefront of the Indian Secular principles. The Indian states were tolerant of the different religions and hence granted citizenship to each individual irrespective of any religious bias.
In Medieval India, the different movements initiated by the Sufis and Bhakti tried to secure the religious character of Indian society. With the invasion of colonials in India, the secular policy started to dim with the effect of the “divide and rule” policy. This policy led to communal discord between the various communities.
To the stark effect, the Indian freedom movement gave a jolting effect to this discordance and provided a constructive and successful path for building harmony and brotherhood amongst different religious communities. In the present context, the core principle policy of Indian Secularism lies in the non-discrimination by the State towards different religious communities.
What is known as the “Mini Constitution of India” i.e. 42nd Amendment of the Constitution of India(1976), the term “Secular” was inserted in the preamble of the Indian Constitution in the same amendment. The term ‘secular’ means the state does not prioritize one religion over another and it respects pluralism as a whole.
There are few provisions under the Indian Constitution where the principle of secularism finds its place i.e. Article 15 enlarges the concept of secularism to the widest possible extent by prohibiting discrimination on grounds of religion, race, caste, sex or place of birth.
Article 25 protects for its citizens ‘Freedom of Conscience’, that is, all persons have equal right to freely profess, practice and propagate religion. It covers both the doctrines i.e. religious belief as well as religious rituals. Any citizen or a non-citizen can avail this right.
In India, secularism is a positive concept, which takes within itself all the communities in India following different religions.
Diversity can only be effective if the secularism works as a foundational value
India’s multireligious, multilingual, multiracial, multicultural society will only flourish if secularism works successfully.
Secularism in the globalizing world has many advantages.
The Supreme Court in its landmark judgment of SR Bommai held that if the politics is not kept separate from the religion, the religion of the ruling party will become the state religion. It is also observed that during the elections the political party stresses upon the religion in order to make their vote bank. There is an urgent need to separate religion from politics. It is just expectation to practice religion as a purely personal and private matter and it has nothing to do with running the government of the country.