This article deals with topic titled ‘Secularism’.


Note : Note : This is part of our series on Society for UPSC examination. For more articles , click here.


Secularism is defined as the principle of separation of state from religious institutions and religious dignitories.


But nature and extent of separation may take different forms depending upon different values it intends to promote.



Three models

Models of Secularism
  • Religion is private affair of person and state passively respects all religions


Arm length distance is maintained between state and religion.


  • Laicite / Militant Secularism
  • In France, due to long battle against religious influence on laws and government, Laicite was introduced.
  • There is total separation between religion and state (ie  religious activities and symbols are banned in public sphere).


French secularism has come under criticism that rather than promoting diversity, freedom of thought and multi-culturism , it is interfering with the basic right to religious self expression


  • The Indian idea and practice of secularism although was inspired by western ideas yet it is rooted in India’s unique socio-historic circumstances like religious diversity and support for all religions .


  • Based on this , features of Indian secularism are as follows
      • Wall of separation between state and religion is porous ie state can intervene in religion to promote progressive voices within every religion . Eg : Abolition of untouchability.
      • However, religion is strictly prohibited to interfere in state matters hence disallowing mobilisation of electoral support on religious line





Provisions regarding Secularism in India

  • Articles 25 to 28 => freedom of religion to all.
  • Articles 14, 16, 44 (Uniform Civil Code) and 51A, by implication prohibit the establishment of a theocratic state.
  • In the Kesavananda Bharati case the Supreme Court (SC) had declared secularism as a part of the basic structure of the Constitution.
  • Doctrine of Essential Practices by SC
  • Section 123(3) of Representation of Peoples Act 1951  prohibits political parties to ask for votes on religious lines
  • Rev Stanislaus vs State of MP held that forcible conversions is not included in right to propagate religion



Challenges to Secularism

  • Frequent recourse to revivalist events such as Ghar Wapsi etc. breeds fear amongst the minorities
  • Incidents of lynching
  • Communal Riots and Targeted Violence
  • Religious hate speech,  falsification of history and dissemination of wrong information




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