The Wall of Separation or Unification?

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The European continent was in a dark age for a long period of time. This period can be roughly traced back from 5th century to 14th century. During this period there was no development in the field of science, technology, literature, philosophy, history etc. Church dominated the Europe. The church was controlling the entire state affairs. After 14th centuary people started questioning such power and control of church. In the year 1517 there was a protestant revolution lead by Martin Luther. There began a thirty-year war between the protestants and the catholic from 1618 to 1648. The war ended by the treaty of Westphalia in 1648.

The Treaty of ‘Westphalian 1648’

Separation of religious institutions from the state, freedom of religion, and no discrimination based on religion were some key points of this treaty. In the 14th century Europe saw a period of Renaissance or rebirth or revival this was followed by the reformation movement then the enlightenment period, the scientific revolution, industrial revolution. In this period European people questioned the authority of the church people like Machiavelli from Italy gave their concept of state. There was great progress in the field of science people like Copernicus, Newton, Galileo, Charles Darwin came up with their scientific theories which went against the church. In political discourse people like Gean Bodin, John Locke, Thomas Hobbes, Francis Bacon came up with their theories of the origin of state and power. All these thinkers questioned and opposed the control of the church on the state. We can see that the concept of secularism emerged during this period.

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The word Secularism was coined by George Jaccob Holyoake in the year
1851, though the idea of secularism emerged much earlier in Europe but the term was coined in the 19th century.

Holyoake gave few characteristics of secularism they were, the state should be neutral towards religion, scientific temper, morality with out religion. He said that the state should be neutral towards religion. Another thinker named Charles Bradlaugh gave his idea of secularism, according to him the state shall not be neutral towards religion but oppose the religion.

The essential characteristics to be a secular state are : the state shall not have any official religion, the state and religion should be separated, there shall be freedom of religion, there should be equality among all religions.

Western Secularism –
In France ‘Laicite’ is the word used for secularism. In France negative or closed secularism or rigid secularism is followed. In 1905 the France government passed an Laicite act or secular act which made France a secular state officially. In 2004 France passed an act which
banned wearing of any religious symbol or anything representing a particular religion in public schools, this act was then extended to public hospitals and then to all public places. So, any religious symbol cannot be worn in public places this shows that France is following a negative secularism not positive.

England’s secularism is different, we can say England follows open/ positive/ liberal
secularism. But there is an exception to this that in public schools of England there shall be
more than 51% prayer which needs to be of the Christian religion

The Queen of England is the head of the Church of England and the coronation of Queen or King is done by the Church. In England, the functioning of the parliament begins with a Christian poem. By analyzing this we can say that England is secular as they have freedom of religion but England can be called a state influenced by a particular religion.

In America, in the year 1801 the then president Thomas Jefferson had said that there shall be a wall of separation between church and state.

America follows a positive secularism approach,

but has some exceptions to it. All the judges and people elected to congress take an oath, not in the name of the constitution of America but the name of the Bible. By analyzing the
the secularism of three western countries France, England, America we conclude that the interpretation of the concept of secularism is different for different countries.

Sarv – Dharma Samabhav –

‘India is not becoming secular but is secular’

John Locke the ‘father of liberalism’ once said, ‘One predicable consequence of state sponsored religion was that states would go to war over religion’

Most of us know that the words ‘secularism’, ‘socialism’, ‘Integrity’ was inserted in our preamble by the 42nd amendment of 1976 but we don’t know that these principles were one of the basic values of our constitution and were present in the constitution from the beginning in its implied form.

This is evident from the honorable supreme court’s verdict in the ‘Keshavnanda Bharti vs The state of Kerala’ case of 1973.

In this landmark judgment, the honorable supreme court introduced the ‘doctrine of the basic structure of constitution’ and declared ‘secularism’ as a part of the basic structure of the Indian constitution this meant that parliament could amend any part of the constitution except the basic structure.

This is quite paradoxical as the word secularism was added in the preamble in the year 1976 but supreme court declared the core concept of secularism as one of the part of basic structure of our constitution three years prior to the 42nd amendment.

Thus we can infer that concept of secularism was not incorporated in the constitution in 1976 but it was only the word that was added.

Supreme court again in 1993 case of ‘SR Bommai vs Union of India’ stated that state cannot follow a particular religion and disscused at length the concept of secularism as one of the basic principle of the constitution.

Thus after considering the provisions related to freedom of religion in our constitution and judgments of our honorable supreme court we can infer that secularism is one of the core pillars of Indian Democracy.

This means that a person who does not respect and follow the core concept of secularism is disregarding the constitution of our country and such a person should not hold any constitutional post because the person holding any constitutional position has to abide by the constitution and the values of our country.

This particular concept of secularism is an Indian concept. This concept neither advocates complete divorcee of religion and state nor complete neutrality. It advocates that all religions shall be treated equally without favoring a single religion. The concept of Sarva
Dharma Samabha
v was popularised by Mahatma Gandhiji. Indian secularism is completely
different from the western approach.

As per our constitution article 14 is equality before the law and equal protection of the law, article 15 talks no discrimination on basis of religion, article 25 lays down freedom of religion, Article 19 talks about freedom of speech and expression, Article 21 lays down Right to life and liberty, article 44 uniform civil code, 51(A) – F and G, etc makes our country by sprit secular. Section 123 (3) of the People’s representation act of 1951 bars any person to ask for votes based on religion.

Though our constitution is by birth and by spirit secular the word secular was inserted in the preamble in the year 1976 by the 42nd amendment. But India doesn’t divorce itself from the domain of religion, the government gives subsidies to the hajj yatra, Amarnath yatra, Kumb Mela, etc. India accommodates all religious diversity and celebrates unity in diversity. India follows the principle of tolerance. India’s is secularism based on the concept of Sarva Dharma Sambhav.

Till now no Prime Minister in India has taken oath on any religious book as seen in America,where maximum President’s have taken oath on Bible. In India we are allowed to wear any religious symbols or anything representing a particular religion in public places as opposed to the French model of secularism which restricts wearing religious symbols in public places.

The concept of secularism is the basic structure of Indian constitution as held by the supreme court in Kesavanda Bharti case.

Unity in Diversity

According to me, the state shall not be completely blind towards the religious faiths of its citizens nor it shall actively engage with the same, there shall be a balance between the two.

If the religious faith is not consistent with the fundamental rights or is violating the
fundamental rights the state shall interfere and uphold the constitutional morality. Example
Indian parliament recently passed the law of criminalizing instant triple talaq because it was
infringing the fundamental rights of women. So, in this case, the state interfered in the religious matter and upheld the fundamental rights. If the faith is not harming the fundamental rights the state shall not interfere in such situations because India is having the freedom to practice religion under article 25. Hence the approach of Sarva Dharma samabhav is very different as compared to the Western model of secularism.


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