Saturday, May 24, 2014

Unfounded Meaning of Secularism in India

I wish to begin this post by exploring the basic meaning of Secularism. Secularism is the principle of the separation of government institutions and persons mandated to represent the state from religious institutions and religious dignitaries. One manifestation of Secularism is asserting the right to be free from religious rule and teachings, or, in a state declared to be neutral on matters of belief, from the imposition by government of religion or religious practices upon its people. Another manifestation of Secularism is the view that public activities and decisions, especially political ones, should be uninfluenced by religious beliefs and/or practices. Secularism draws its intellectual roots from Greek and Roman philosophers such as Marcus Aurelius and Epicurus; from Enlightenment thinkers such as Denis Diderot, Voltaire, Baruch Spinoza, James Madison, Thomas Jefferson, and Thomas Paine; and from more recent freethinkers and atheists such as Robert Ingersoll and Bertrand Russell.
The purposes and arguments in support of Secularism vary widely. In European laicism, it has been argued that Secularism is a movement toward modernization, and away from traditional religious values (also known as secularization). This type of Secularism, on a social or philosophical level, has often occurred while maintaining an official state church or other state support of religion. In the United States, some argue that state Secularism has served to a greater extent to protect religion and the religious from governmental interference, while Secularism on a social level is less prevalent. Within countries as well, differing political movements support Secularism for varying reasons.
The term Secularism stands conveniently abused by many a learnt member of the Indian Polity. Although the term was new, the general notion of free thought on which it was based had existed throughout history. While in India, the term assumed a rather sorry state of use. Anything and everything related to a specific religion i.e. Hinduism and thoughts related thereof were propagated to be non-secular while holding thoughts in line with other religions were not included in such a definition – absurd abuse of position by political masters and intellectual retards, to say the least.
The term Secularism should have been used to describe a class of political views that promote a social order separate from religion, without actively dismissing or criticizing religious belief. While at it, if we were to look at the Indian Political Landscape, most of the Political Parties which profess religious views and seek to represent a certain section of the society will have to be termed Non-Secular. It is important that we understand that Secularism is not an argument against any religion, it is one independent of it. It does not question the pretensions of any religion or faith; rather it helps separate the State from Religion, thus fostering general wellbeing. Secularism does not say there is no light or guidance elsewhere, but maintains that there is light and guidance in secular truth, whose conditions and sanctions exist independently, and act forever.
Few confused hard-line Secularists seek to advocate religious propositions related to particular faith/religion to be epistemologically illegitimate, warranted by neither reason nor experience, thus fostering support for other religions. It is imperative to understand that movement away/towards a particular religion does not necessarily constitute Secularism. I hope to see the new breed of Politicians in India are well-educated and understand the true essence of what Secularism stands for.
                                                                                                            -          Abhijith Jayanthi
Place: Hong Kong

Date: 16th May 2014