Secularism in India is one of the ideals of our Constitution. The word ‘secular’ was inserted in the Indian Constitution by the 42nd amendment, 1976.
However, this does not hint at the fact that India was not a secular nation before the aforesaid period.
The founding fathers of our country were clear on the stand of establishing a secular state immediately after the independence. The very purpose of the insertion of the word ‘secular’ was to re-emphasize on the importance of the secular nature of our country.
Components of Secularism:
The meaning of a secular state is that the government shall not indulge in the formulation of policies which differentiate between different religious communities living in the different parts of the country. Each of the citizens shall enjoy the same rights irrespective of whatever religious beliefs they hold.
The three main components of Secularism are:
(i) Equality of all religions;
(ii) The distancing of the State from all religious groups; and
(iii) The grant of right of freedom of religious beliefs and practices.
The components of secularism do not denote that the State is against the religion. However, it gives freedom to practice, profess and propagate to every individual and sect. Thus, the concept of secularism grants equality to all the religious groups operating in the country.
Importance Of Secularism:
Secularism is of enormous importance in India as it is based on religious tolerance. The concept is not a mere doctrine in India but a way of life as India is inhabited with people who hold their religious values and beliefs in great value and any misunderstanding can provoke religious and ethnic clashes in the country. The separation of religion from the State also serves another purpose.
It provides safeguards to the minority communities in the country that even they hold an essential position in the society and no one can discriminate against them. On the contrary, it also sends a message to the majority groups in the society that they are not a privileged class and no special assistance will be meted out to them.
Secularism in the Indian Constitution:
Article 14 of the Indian Constitution bars the State from denying to any person, equality before law or equal protection of law. Article 15 lays down that there will be no discrimination against any citizen on grounds only of religion, race, caste, sex, place of birth or any one of them. Article 16 talks about the equality of opportunity to all the citizens of the State in the matter of employment or appointment to any office of the State.
Religion shall not be a ground for disqualification. Article 17 declares abolition of untouchability and its practice in any form. Article 25(i) says that all persons are equally entitled to freedom of conscience, and the right freely to profess, practice and propagate religion, subject to public order, morality and health and to other provisions of this part.
Thus, secularism is an integral part of India. It is a concept which is recognized and upheld by a majority of Indian citizens belonging to different religions because the underlying belief of each religion is that every man is equal in the eyes of God.