Has India Been Lied About Being A Secular Country…
When people in India debate secularism and communalism they often forget that secularism isn’t one well-defined entity. There are three distinct forms of secularism.
The form that India has followed allows for differences in laws across religion. Especially personal laws. It allows for children to be indoctrinated in religious institutions instead of being educated in schools. It allows for the rights of human to be crushed in the name of religion. It creates a divide between people of different religions through the law themselves. This is not secularism.
If you do not support equal treatment of all citizens under law, you are not secular.
Here is why I assert that Indian State is not so secular-:
1) Different Laws For Hindu, Muslims and Christians In a truly secular country, all citizens irrespective of religion would be covered by a single set of laws. In India, however, people of different religion beliefs are covered by different laws. While Hindus, Sikhs and Buddhists are covered by the Hindu code bills (Hindu Marriage Act, Hindu Succession Act etc.), Muslims are covered by Muslim Personal laws and Christians are covered by Christian Personal laws. So, Hindus, Muslims, Christians & Parsis inherit property differently; have different rules for marriage, divorce and adoption among other things. Some separations of religion and state indeed.
2) Different laws for minority schools and “majority” schools
Did you know that even though minority schools (not all, but many) receive money from the government in the form of grants/aid, they need not comply with the regulations of the Right to Education Act? While the government has clearly not spared even private schools that receive no money from the government, from RTE regulations that force schools to reserve 25 per cent of their seats for children from economically disadvantaged backgrounds (reimbursed by the govt.), it had not dared to go anywhere near minority schools. Note that Hindu schools receive no such exemption.
One law for minority schools and another for “majority” schools – exemplary secularism!
3) Government control of temples but not of mosques or churches
How many people know that while Hindu temples are under governmental control, mosques and churches are completely autonomous? The Hindu Religious and Charitable Endowment Act allow state governments to take over temples and control their vast properties & assets. Bizarrely, the state government can use the money generated by a temple (donations, income from assets etc.) for purposes that have absolutely nothing to do with not just the temple, or other temples but even those which have nothing to do with Hindus or Hinduism! Interestingly, none of this applies to mosques, churches or gurudwaras. The government has no legal authority to take over the management of a non-Hindu place of worship.
As I write this, the questions – “In which universe is this fair?” and “What business does the government have in places of worship?” pop into my head. I have no answers.
The bottom line
The vast majority of Hindus, Muslims, Christians, Parsis, Sikhs, Agnostics and Atheists live peacefully in India-as they should. Communal violence is not very common with roughly 54 communal incidents a month in a nation of 1.25 billion people. Of course, the ideal would be to have 0 communal incidents in the country. India should aim to get there over time and become the model state for the rest of world to emulate. But, the way to get there is surely not to discriminate between its citizens on the basis of religion. It is not just counter-productive, but I would argue – morally wrong.
At the end of the day, India must become a truly secular country where the state treats all citizens equally irrespective of their religious beliefs. I am not asking for the majority community to receive preferential treatment – just that the State of India makes no distinction between its citizens.
IS IT TOO MUCH TO ASK FOR???