Posts Tagged ‘Secularism’

Secularism – Sarva Dharma Sambhav – A beautiful phrase that drags us back to the newsreels with Gandhiji and his strong belief that said “I do not expect India of my dreams to develop one religion, i.e., to be wholly Hindu or wholly Christian or wholly Mussalman, but I want it to be wholly tolerant, with its religions working side by side with one another.” During the freedom struggle, secularism was emerging as the most dominant principle. The leaders: Gandhi, Maulana Abdul Kalam Azad, Nehru and others were deeply committed to the ideal of secularism, though each expressed it in very different manners.

Indian Constitution claims India to be a secular state. Secularism is normally defined as something that has nothing to do with religion. Also, Government or other entities should exist separately from religion and/or religious beliefs. India is a country where religion is very central to the life of people. India’s age-old philosophy as expounded in Hindu scriptures called Upanishad is Sarva Dharma Sambhav, which means equal respect for all religions. The reason behind this approach is the fact that India has never been a mono-religious country.

The term ‘secularism’ was first used by the British writer George Holyoake in 1851. An agnostic himself, Holyoake argued that “Secularism is not an argument against Christianity; it is one independent of it. It does not question the pretensions of Christianity; it advances others.”

‘A secular country will not make decisions based on a person’s religion and the citizens of such a country will be free to practice any religion of their choice’. This is the actual definition of a secular country. While the second part is more or less true in India, it still has a long way to go as far as the first part goes. In the end, secularism begins in the heart of every individual. There should be no feeling of ‘otherness’ as we all have a shared history. Let us instead concentrate our efforts at making India a powerful and progressive nation!

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The debate about the meanings of secularism and pseudo secularism are enduring in India. But for a moment, if we pause and have a look, Pseudo Secularism is appeasement of some particular opinion or a group for immediate social and political gains. If we go to a very crude meaning, Pseudo means false. And Secularism means a concept wherein the Government or other entities should exist separately from religion and/or religious beliefs. Every person has a right to preach, practice and propagate any religion of his/her choice.

Pseudo Secularism is said to be a hall mark of the internal politics of India. It is a position of practicing implied non-secular trends in the face of a pledged secularism. The term is used by groups who perceive a double standard revealed within the established secular governing policy towards culturally different groups. Pseudo secularism started from the Khilafat Movement in 1917. It is believed that Mahatma Gandhi first used this concept when Muslims were fighting against the British for their war against Turkey. But during the recent times, the term has gained greater practitioners and admirers.

Today, this term is often used and misused in murky politics to suit the interests of the main players. In India, the Left and the Centrist parties call themselves as ‘Guardians of Secularism’ and hence the Right wing parties are ‘Communal.’ While the Rightists believe their rivals are ‘Pseudo Secular’ and believe in the ‘Anti-Hindu’ ideology.

One common trait of the debate between secularism and pseudo secularism is that they both are for vote-bank politics. In the rush to earn votes and power, the politicians conveniently shift their stands, even if that means hurting the religious sentiments of one religious group or the other. Clarity, both in thought and action is inevitable to save the unity and integrity of our nation.

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