A secular society and polity does not mean abandoning religion. It means the religious identity of an Indian has to give way to the primary identity of a citizen. And the state has to guarantee the rights that come with this identity, as the rights of citizenship.
Talking about Indian society its its secular character, I would like to say that secularism goes beyond just politics, although our political parties have attempted to reduce it to a political slogan.
Secularism is deeply tied to the question of the kind of society that we want and questioning this secularism would mean seriously changing the direction that we have intended to give to Indian society.
Being a lawyer barring the technical aspects and from a common man’s perception, if secularism is removed from the constitution then democracy becomes a victim, with an unthinkable future.
To begin with I would like to ask a question that why we would have to identify ourselves primarily by religion, caste or language? Can’t we start thinking of ourselves primarily as equal citizens of one nation?What is secularism and secularising?
Secularism involves questioning the control that religious organisations have over social institutions. The morality fundamental to secularism goes beyond any single religion and extends to the functioning of the entire society.
Secularising is the process by which society changes and recognises the distinction between what secularism is and is not !!!
The term was first used in 1851, secular had only one basic meaning. It did described the laws relating to morals and social values as having been created by human society in order to ensure the well-being and harmonious functioning of the society.
These laws were neither the creation of divine authority nor did they require the sanction of divine authority. Authority lay in working out through reasoning and sensitivity what was best for society in keeping with generally accepted values of tolerance and social responsibility, by those who constituted that society.
Authority was exercised through laws. Social values therefore grew out of rational thinking, debate and discussion. This was needed to establish a moral code agreed to by the entire society and was not linked to any particular religion, caste or class.
However, the civil laws were sanctioned and upheld by secular authority and did not require the sanction of any religion.
Secularism therefore is not what it is sometimes said to be – a denial of religion but a curtailment of the control that religious organisations have over social functioning.
Religion had originated as a personal emotional need. This was then extended to explanations of how one experienced life and beyond that how the universe functioned. This was all attributed to a supernatural power.
Gradually however, this personalised religion became a complex organised religion and took the form of institutions ambitious to control society and politics.
With this change, religion became powerful both as the focus of belief and as an authority controlling social institutions through various religious organisations.
In some places, its power paralleled that of the governing authority the state. It is this particular aspect of religion the control that religious organisations have over social institutions that the secular person wishes to keep separate from the state.
Secularism then takes on an additional meaning. The state having authority over the making and observing of laws by human agencies should be distinct from religion since religion has its sanction from faith and from deity.
Social laws are the spine of a society. They should protect the right to live and they should ensure that there should be no discrimination that affects life and work.
To make this link effective, social laws have necessarily to provide the basic aspects of welfare in a modern state – the absolute minimum of which are equal access to education and to health care for all members of society, and to employment, and this is to be irrespective of religion and caste.
The acceptance of coexistence together with equal status before the law can certainly be a first step in developing a state which will have stress tolerance!!
A democratic majority is formed on each occasion when a large number of people come together in support of a particular opinion. The number has to be larger than of any other group, and those that join it are not restricted to membership of any previous affiliated organisation. Forming a majority, therefore, is not based on any pre-existing religious, caste or linguistic identities.
The process of secularising society will have to address both religion and caste, and to that extent it requires a different kind of analysis from that of religions elsewhere.
We have internalised the colonial version of the relationship between our religions and our society, and are experiencing its aftermath in the stridency of dominant religious organisations.
We have also allowed some of these to become mechanisms for political mobilisation.
Secularisation therefore will have to be thought through with sensitivity, care and thoroughness.
The state has to guarantee the rights that come with the religious identity, as the rights of citizenship. This demands that the state provides and protects human rights, a requirement that at the moment cannot be taken for granted.
At the out set we have to ensure the secular in education, and the secular in civil laws.
Our civil laws were drawn up in colonial times. In a turn to the secular, we shall have to go through the existing civil laws to ensure that they conform to equal rights for all citizens with no exceptions.
Resolving the differences between the civil laws and the laws of each religion and caste, will have to be discussed with the communities concerned and not only with those currently controlling religious and caste codes.
A uniform civil code does not mean merely doing away with the laws of one religious code. It means reconsidering jointly the social laws of all religious codes and arriving at a common secular civil code.
In this process, injustice and discrimination against minorities and against the underprivileged – whether because of religion, gender or caste – will need to be annulled.
The overwhelming projection of religiosity – not religion but the excessive display of religiosity – in the world that surrounds us sometimes appears to be a surrogate for not coming to terms with real life problems; or perhaps it is due to our having become a competitive society with all its unexpected insecurities.
Implicit in democracy is the upholding of the ethic of human action and secularising society is an advancing of that very ethic.
Hope to be the last of this change and do need your support…
Love and respect for her as my all posts reflect…