“State of India is practising secularism; citizens are yet to become secular”
Religious tolerance has been the basic precept and feature of India's ancient civilisation and history. For centuries, people practising various religious faiths have lived side by side in peace. India's varied tradition of religious plurality has been a symbol of social and religious harmony. However, such utopian social situation has been changing in recent times as religious intolerance has emerged as an overriding factor in parochial politics of India. Religious violence, communal polarisation and intolerance have increased in contemporary India. The organised violence, inhuman acts and atrocities against religious minorities are being carried out with full impunity under the eyes of law enforcement authorities. The growing environment of religious intolerance and violence has been on the spree of claiming many lives in India.
Indian constitution has been the most prominent source not only of rule of the land but also as a guarantor of our religious right, equality rights and even moral rights. Article 25 of the Indian constitution provide all individual “equally entitled to freedom of conscience” and has the right “to profess, practice and propagate religion” of one’s choice. Practicing religion or the act of propagating it should not, however, affect the “public order, morality and health.” Similarly, as per the Indian constitution, it is the fundamental duty of an Indian citizen to promote harmony and the spirit of common brotherhood among all the people of India, transcending religious, linguistic and regional or sectional diversities.
These were thought to be enough for our forefathers to provide India the continuum of diversity in religion, religious tolerance and fraternity among different faiths. Unfortunately all such norms are being violated amidst petty politics and malicious propaganda. Partition of India in 1947 on religious line however, is still considered to be the source of ongoing religious hatred by many intellectuals.
The religious hostilities between the two major communities of India appear far from healing even after almost 70 years. Contemporary intolerance can also be considered to be an offshoot of the same unfortunate event. Many political parties are adopting shameless acts and methods to polarise naïve voters in the name of religion. Various cultural organisations are misinterpreting and propagating half-cooked truths to affirm revivalist predispositions.
India is reputed for its diverse ethnicity, community, religion, language and culture, which few nations can boast of. Assimilation with accommodation, stable patterns of pluralism, inequality and integration etc. constitute the basic fabric of Indian society. Among which Secularism acts as a special and critical pillar, which has been loudly supported by people like Gandhi, Swami Vivekanand and even preamble of our constitution.
As the growing religious extremism and increasing violence against religious minorities in India is putting the secular credibility of India at risk, which has been one of the founding virtues of the land of Buddha and Gandhi. In these backgrounds, religious groups, communal political parties and various other cultural organisations in India have the responsibility to desist from spreading communal hatred and false religious propaganda. People of this great nation should be reminded of the value and guiding principles in life that have nurtured compassion, forbearance and accommodativeness in the people of the subcontinent from time immemorial.