This article describes 10 impediments to the growth of secularism in India.
Gandhi and Nehru was the two practitioner of secularism in their own strikingly different ways. They did not provide a modern national model. They of course provided the ideal for the model which was expected to evolve over a period of time. This evolutionary process-has been struggling to find full expression in the midst of persisting distortion and mounting violence. There is a strong feeling that the foundations of secularism in India have grown weak. The factors and forces which have worked against the growth of secularism or which impede its progress can be analyzed as under.
1. Untimely, Deaths of great National leaders –
(i) Secularism can survive if it goes hand in hand with nationalism and (ii) if there is no death of genuine national leaders in the country. Unfortunately for the new Indian Republic, the Congress leadership of the national movement did a great harm to the cause of secularism by agreeing to partition on an essentially religious basis, though it had for long time been committed to build up a non-religious nationalist basis for India’s future polity.
2. Unworthy Role of Post-Nehru Leaders –
The politicians who have held on to the stage-since Nehru’s death have failed to impress the country with their earnestness to be principled and resolute in their fight against all those forces which impede the growth of secularism. They have of course, used secularism to misrepresent right, wing political parties as potential threat to the secular ideals of India and as a clever ploy to court, paradoxically, the most reactionary minority fundamentalism for their political support. Instead of making the Indian masses remarkably secular in their political outlook they have themselves violated all norms of secularism. The failure of leaders of good will, culture and courage to come forward and reaffirm their faith in national values and redefine secular principles has been another misfortune for the growth of both nationalism and secularism in the country.
3. Failure to develop economic order –
It has become a matter of universal knowledge now that poverty is no longer inevitable. It can be removed by human action. The People’s Republic of China in our neighborhood has overcome the problem of stark poverty within two decades. But even after three decades of planning India continues to be the single largest country of the worlds poorest of the poor. The Indian leadership takes pride in its crusade on the international stage for bringing about a new world economic order while it has failed to introduce a new and just economic order at home. The differences between the haves and have knots in India have considerably widened. No form of society, no system of Government, and no political ideology has the slightest chance of gaining strength through the loyalty of the people if it does not respond- to their need for just economic order.
4. Weak Commitment:
While secularism has been proclaimed as a political objective no political party or leader feels genuinely committed to it. There is hardly a party which has not exploited communal and cast affiliations for electoral purposes. This practice of non-secularism has undermined the objective of democracy. As a matter of fact, secularism in India does not owe its inspiration to the will of the people. The national leaders of the freedom movement were the sole interpreters of the Indian concept of secularism. So it continues to have weak foundations. As for the leadership there is a marked difference between the image and the reality. Only a modern minded and forward looking Prime-Minister with strength of character and deep commitment to secular ideology can provide the right key to unlock the people’s dormant energies and then divert them alone constructive lines. But we do not have one at the helm of affairs.
5. Irrelevance of Indian intellectuals:
Intellectuals of free India were expected to play a creative role in the making of a new society based on the principles of democracy, secularism and a just social and economic order. But partly because of their own lust for money and power and mainly because of Mrs. Gandhiji’s Policy to harness the intellectuals or her own term to serve her political ends, they have degenerated to the extent of becoming irrelevant to the Indian political system. Today the situation has become more depressing. For Rajiv Gandhi has imported computers and electronic technology to establish the origin of professionals. This naturally ejects the intellectuals from the mainstream of national life. The activities of the educated and liberal minded intellectuals have now become quite limited; they no longer dominate the nation’s social, educational, political and moral life. This situation has also given set back to the cause of secular.
6. Failure of the educational system
Our educational system has failed to foster to the growth of secularism. The educational institutions neither radiate secularism for do they make any determined effort to inculcate secular ideas in the minds of the young students. Instead of helping to harmonize differences between various communities and groups by cultivating spirit of large-hearted tolerance of mutual give and take, they fan communal sentiments and harden communal identities. The content of education is also imbued with elements of communalism. There’s hardly any effort on the part of the teachers to secularize and democratize the consciousness of the young students.
7. No ideological secular movements
In the multi-religious society of India there are still millions who hold belief in secularism. But there is no one to organize them on the ideological plane. The Congress which used to be the rallying point for such people has lost its credibility and vigor. It is in a state of decadence. Its leadership neither inspires confidence nor does it have the era of Gandhi, Nehru or Lal Bahadur Sashtri. Another misfortune of the country is that while there are socio-religious organizations like R.S.S. and Shiva Sena etc.
8. Decline of Democratic institutions
Our constitution is the fundamental law of our secular state. Its objective to secure to all our citizens, justice, social, economic and political, liberty of thought, expression and belief, equality of status and of opportunity and above all to promote among them all fraternity assuming the dignity of the individual. The constitution and the democratic institution which have been introduced under it have not helped the nation to achieve its national objectives.
9. Growth of Communalism
It is unfortunate that despite pious platitudes mouthed by top leaders in the Constituent Assembly, Communalism has continued to grow. Partition itself was the outcome of communal politics. One expected that communalism would die its natural death when following independence India chose to become a secular democracy. But communalism has been exploited by ail political parties and politicians in the reckless pursuit of, power. No concerted effort has been made to promote a secular way of life and shed the hangover of the British Raj both by eschewing the politics of divide and rule and pampering one community in preference to the other. As a result our country, men think themselves as Hindus, Sikhs, Muslims, Christians first and Indian afterwards.
10. Electoral Ambitions of Political Parties
The Political Parties have programme based on ideologies and the candidates are expected to espouse both the ideology and the programme of their respective parties. But everyone exploits such traditional institutions and values as caste religion, sect, ethnic membership, region, language and class in order to secure votes. No wonder traditional institutions are strengthened in the process. This is no way conducive to the making of secular India.