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Day 39 – Q 3. What are the characteristics of a secular society? How does India perform on the yardsticks of secularism? Examine.

3. What are the characteristics of a secular society? How does India perform on the yardsticks of secularism? Examine.   

एक धर्मनिरपेक्ष समाज की विशेषताएं क्या हैं? धर्मनिरपेक्षता के मापदंड पर भारत कैसा प्रदर्शन करता है? जांच करें।


Secularism as a Western concept is defined as separation of powers of church and state. In context of other societies, it is near-complete freedom of religion and lack of authority of religious leaders over political matters.


Characteristics of a secular society:

  • Separation of state and religion- Religious groups don’t interfere in affairs of state, and the state doesn’t interfere in religious affairs.
  • Religious freedom- Defend the absolute freedom of religious and other belief. It protects rights of both believers and non-believers.
  • Equal access to public services- No discrimination is allowed to access public services on the basis of religion. State-funded schools are non-religious in character.
  • Protection of free speech and expression- Religious people have the right to express their beliefs publicly but so do those who oppose or question those beliefs.
  • Promote idea of democracy- All citizens are considered equal irrespective of their religious affiliation and universal human rights precedes the religious demands.

Performance of India:

  • No clear distinction between state and religion- State interferes in religious issues when they involve human rights, for example banning untouchability and passage of triple talaq bill.
  • Constitutional provisions- India has provided religious safeguards under constitution through fundamental rights especially Article 14, 15, 17, 19 and 25-28.
  • Freedom for individual and community- Religious minorities have right to practice and propagate their religion.

There have been several fallouts too

  • Rise of communalism- Riots, Mandir-Masjid issues keep cropping up every now and then.
  • Minority appeasement- Vote bank politics has resulted in minority appeasement at the cost of basic pillars of democracy.
  • Uneven development among different religious groups- Political mileage has prevented necessary interventions in some communities resulting in their backwardness.


Indian secularism is sometimes criticized for being interventionist, but it is this intervention that has helped maintain a balance in society. Political masters need to look beyond vote bank and step forward to undertake some long due religious reforms.

Best answer: Arvind Senta

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