Day 31 – Q. 2 How has the concept and practice of secularism evolved in India, and how has it been affected by global and domestic political developments? Analyse.

  • IASbaba
  • December 28, 2022
  • 0
GS 1, Indian Society
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How has the concept and practice of secularism evolved in India, and how has it been affected by global and domestic political developments? Analyse.

भारत में धर्मनिरपेक्षता की अवधारणा और व्यवहार कैसे विकसित हुआ है, और यह वैश्विक और घरेलू राजनीतिक घटनाक्रमों से कैसे प्रभावित हुआ है? विश्लेषण करें।


In this question candidates need to write about how the concept of secularism has evolved in India , in second part of answer write about how its been affected by global and domestic political developments.

Introduction –

Secularism is a doctrine where all religions are given equal status, recognition and support from the state or it can also be defined as a doctrine that promotes separation of state from religion.however global and domestic events created challenge before it .

Body –

Secularism in Ancient India-

  • Before the arrival of Islam in the 12th century, followed by Mughal and colonials, Indian religions are known to have co-existed and evolved together for many centuries.
  • In ancient India, the Sanatan Dharma (Hinduism) was basically allowed to develop as a holistic religion by welcoming different spiritual traditions and trying to integrate them into a common mainstream.

Secularism in Medieval India-

  • In medieval India, the Sufi and Bhakti movements restored the secular character of Indian society. They spread the different facets of secularism like tolerance, a sense of brotherhood, universalism, harmony, and peace in society.
  • The leading light of these movements were Khwaja Moinuddin Chisti, Baba Farid, Saint Kabir Das, Guru Nanak Dev, Saint Tukaram, and Mira Bai.
  • Religious toleration and freedom of worship marked the State under mughal emperor Akbar in medieval India.

Secularism in Modern India-

  • British East India Company pursued the policy of divide and rule, even then the spirit of secularism was strengthened and enriched through the Indian freedom movement.
  • The policy of “divide and rule” to some extent contributed to communal discord between various communities.
  • In India, the first face of Secularism is reflected in the Preamble of India where the word ‘Secular’ is read.
  • Indian Secularism is also reflected in its fundamental rights (Article 25-28) where it guarantees each of its citizens the right to practice any religion.
  • With the 42nd Amendment of the Constitution of India (1976), the Preamble to the Constitution asserted that India is a “secular” nation.

Globalization led to enhanced secularization in India in following ways-

  • Access to education-Globalization has aided in the explosion of information on the web that has helped in greater awareness among people about various religions, customs, practices and the concept of secularism itself. It also had led to questioning the age-old exploitative traditions like Devadasi and Triple-talaq.
  • Employment-There is an increase in the number of multinational companies operating in India. MNC’s recruit based on talent, not based on affiliation to religion or caste.
  • The Teamwork concept in such companies promotes brotherhood between persons of different religions and enhances secularization.
  • Urbanization-It has been estimated that by 2050 more than 50% of India’s population will live in cities. The boom of services sector and city-centrist job creation has led to increasing rural to urban migration. It is observed that Urban areas are more secular than in rural areas. People eat together, increased instances of inter-faith marriages are seen in urban areas.
  • Increased exposure to Different cultures:Globalization has increased the exposure of a variety of cultures and religions in the form of movies, festivals, cuisine. These all are increasing understanding of other religion from their lens.
  • Globalization hasn’t led to enhanced secularization in India:
  • Communal Politics-As long as Political parties rely on Vote bank politics, instances of communal flareups continue to rise. The Gujarat riots of 2002, Muzzafarnagar riots of 2013 show that Globalization has no or very little impact on the secularization of India.
  • Spread of Communal violence-Globalization made communal hatred and violence border less. Even peaceful countries such as New Zealand (Christ church attack), European countries like France, Britain etc., are victims of communal violence.
  • Technology-Availability of technology is an outcome of Globalization, sometimes they act negatively as a means to spread religious fundamentalism. Eg.- Radicalization of youth by ISIS, Spread of fake news and resultant mob lynchings.
  • These processes hinder secularization of India as a whole.

Challenges with India’s Secularism –

  • Mingling of Religion and Politics that is mobilization of votes on grounds of primordial identities like religion, caste and ethnicity, have put Indian secularism in danger.
  • Communal politics operates through communalization of social space, by spreading myths and stereotypes against minorities, through attack on rational values and by practicing a divisive ideological propaganda and politics.
  • Politicization of any one religious group leads to the competitive politicization of other groups, thereby resulting in inter-religious conflict.
  • One of the manifestations of communalism is communal riots. In recent past also, communalism has proved to be a great threat to the secular fabric of Indian polity.
  • Rise of Hindu Nationalism in recent years have resulted into mob lynching on mere suspicion of slaughtering cows and consuming beef.
  • Islamic fundamentalism or revivalism pushes for establishing Islamic State based on sharia law which directly comes into conflict with conceptions of the secular and democratic state.
  • In recent years there have been stray incidences of Muslim youth being inspired and radicalized by groups like ISIS which is very unfortunate for both India and world.

Way Ahead –

  • There is need to shift focus from a politically-led Secularism project to a socially-driven movement for justice.
  • Second, a shift of emphasis from inter-religious to intro-religious issues, without completely ignoring inter-religious issues


Indian secularism is not an end in itself but a means to address religious plurality and sought to achieve peaceful coexistence of different religions.

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