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Day 25 – Q 4.Do you find any contradictions in the prevalent notion, understanding and practice of secularism in India? Critically comment.

4. Do you find any contradictions in the prevalent notion, understanding and practice of secularism in India? Critically comment. 

क्या आप भारत में धर्मनिरपेक्षता की प्रचलित धारणा, समझ और अभ्यास में कोई विरोधाभास पाते हैं? समालोचनात्मक टिप्पणी करें।


Secularism means separation of religion from political, economic, social and cultural aspects of life, religion is treated as a purely personal matter. It stands for equal opportunities for followers of all religions, and no discrimination and partiality on grounds of religion.


Understanding the concept of secularism:

  • 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 the 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 the idea of democracy– All citizens are considered equal irrespective of their religious affiliation and universal human rights precedes religious demands.

Prevalent notion and Practice of secularism in India:

  • Secularism in India does not mean that the state cannot intervene in religion and its affairs, but that any intervention should be within the limitations prescribed by the Constitution. 
  • According to the concept of principled distance, a secular state may keep a principled distance from religion to promote peace between communities and it may also intervene to protect the rights of specific communities.
  • Indian philosophy of secularism is related to “Sarva Dharma Sambhava”  which means equal respect to all religions rather than western philosophy of  ‘Dharma nirapekshata’ i.e. the indifference of state to religion.
  • 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
  • Freedom of Religion as guaranteed under article 25, 26,27 and 28, supporting the idea of practicing any religious practice as long as it does not harm the social and moral order of society.
  • Article 29 and 30 provides special protection to religious minorities and their educational institutions.
  • Article 44 in DPSP makes a constitutional obligation on State to bring uniform civil code.
  • Article 51A call upon the citizens to upholds principles of fraternity and brotherhood, and to endure religious diversities
  • Freedom for individual and community- Religious minorities have the right to practice and propagate their religion.

There are few contradictions too:

  • Problem of Uniform Civil Code:  Till now no progress has been made in the evolution of a uniform Civil Code and today its adoption appears to be more problematic than it was at the time when the Constitution was framed.
  • Rise of communalism– Riots, Mandir-Masjid issues keep cropping up every now and then.
  • Politics and Religion:  The Supreme Court had observed in the Bommai case that if religion is not separated from politics, the religion of the ruling party tends to become the state religion.
  • 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

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