The future of Indian secularism


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Not much

Mains level: Paper 2- Challenges to secularism in India

Secularism in India faces multiple challenges. This article analyses challenge the Indian secularims faces from the party-political secularims.

Features of constitutional secularism in India

  • Constitutional secularism is marked by at least two features.
  • First, critical respect for all religions.
  • Unlike some secularisms, ours is not blindly anti-religious but respects religion.
  • It respects not one but all religions.
  • Every aspect of religious doctrine or practice cannot be respected but respect for religion must be accompanied by critique.
  • Second, intervene whenever religious groups promote communal disharmony.
  • Thus, it has to constantly decide when to engage or disengage, help or hinder religion depending entirely on which of these enhances our constitutional commitment to freedom, equality and fraternity.

How populism is harming secularism

  • Secularism has paid a heavy price in our country for being at the centre of public and political discourse.
  • Populism based politics is indifferent to freedom and equality-based religious reform, it has removed critical from the term ‘critical respect’.
  • It has even been complicit in igniting communal violence.
  • This party-political ‘secular’ state, cozying up alternately to the fanatical fringe of the minority and the majority, was readymade for takeover by a majoritarian party.
  • This takeover was accomplished by removing the word ‘all’ and replacing it by ‘majority’.
  • Today, Indian constitutional secularism is swallowed up by this party-political secularism, with not a little help from the Opposition, media and judiciary.

Way forward

  • 1) There is a need for a shift of focus from a politically-led project to a socially-driven movement for justice.
  • 2) Also, a shift of emphasis from inter-religious to intra-religious issues.
  • Such focus on intra-relisious issues may allow deeper introspection within, multiple dissenting voices to resurface, create conditions to root out intra-religious injustices, and make its members free and equal.
  • 3) Europe’s secularism provided a principle to fight intra-religious oppressions. 
  • In India, secularism was not only a project of civic friendship among religious communities but also of opposition to religion-based caste and gender oppressions.
  • A collective push from young men and women  may help strengthen the social struggle of emancipation from intra-religious injustices.
  • 4) Inter-religious issues also should not be ignored.
  • Distance, freedom from mutual obsession, give communities breathing space.
  • Each can now explore resources within to construct new ways of living together.

Consider the question “How populism in the politics thretens the idea of secularim in India? Suggest the ways to deal with it.”


Needed today are new forms of socio-religious reciprocity, crucial for the business of everyday life and novel ways of reducing the political alienation of citizens, a democratic deficit whose ramifications go beyond the ambit of secularism.

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3 years ago

can we write against political party ?


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