Volume: IV, Issue: I, January-June 2013
POSSIBILITY OF RELIGION: A MODE OF INDIAN SECULARISM
In this paper, I shall explore secularism, as it is used in the west and also in India. In the west, secularism is found to have been originated as a strong antidote against sacerdotal dogmas, prejudices and anti-social superstition. Indian secularism, unlike the west, of course, does not believe in absolute separation between religion and State. Indian secularism rather keeps a principled distance of the State from religious institutions in order to secure an acceptable minimal standard of living and to avert unbearable sufferings for the ordinary citizens. But the question arises: Why must religion be separated from the State? Is separation between religion and the State the only viable solution? My contention will be that there shall not be absolute separation between religion and the State. This is because the invasive religiosity of the people and the pluralism of religious faiths require, an ethico-politically appropriate pattern of relationship between religion and State which has to be one, that gives equal respect towards all religions, rather than keeping an insuperable chasm between religion and the State. Finally, I shall wind up this discussion with the views of Gandhi’s idea of secularism and his notion of the democratic-secular State.
Secularism: An Introduction
The word ‘secularism’ has its origin in Europe. It is first used at the end of the Thirty years’ war in 1648, where there is a transfer of properties of the church to the princes. References can also be found about the transfer of the church properties to the State during French revolution. George Holyoke uses the term ‘secularism’ to refer to the rationalist movement of protest in England [Pantham 1997: 524]. The spirit of Renaissance has destroyed the belief of the medieval period, which has been under the control of the religious faith. The control of the Roman Catholic Church in all matters becomes unbearable for the public and they want a change. It is a period when religion is so dominant that a king cannot go against the will of the Church. The ecclesiastical set up of the medieval period comes under the attack of the Protestants who believes that men are not for religion but religion is one segment of human life [Kaintura 2011: 38]. The encounter between the Church and the human values in the medieval Europe continues to endeavour the significance of secularism.
This is the first use of the term ‘secularism’, according to which, secularism is a modern political discourse that comprises the values of ethics, natural justice and human welfare. It talks about the equality of all people belonging to the different faiths and sections of the society, who are equal before the law and the Constitution. In its pursuit of the project of enlightenment and progress through the replacement of the mythical and religious world views with the scientific and technologico-industrial approach, Europe brings about a separation of the political sphere from religion. Their argument is that religious tolerance can come only from the devaluation of religion in public life and from the freeing of politics from religion. The less politics is contaminated by religion, the more secular or tolerant a State will have [Nandy 1985:14]. Therefore, during the period of enlightenment and reason, secularism is found to have been originated in the west as a strong antidote against sacerdotal dogmas, prejudices and anti-social superstition. Against this position, secularism is rather committed to the free flow of unflustered rational enquiry.
Jawaharlal Nehru is inclined towards this form of secularism. Nehru opposes religious traditions for their superstition, dogmatism, ritualism, bigotry and conservatism. In his autobiography he writes, “I have frequently condemned [religion] and wished to make a clean sweep of it. Almost always it seemed to stand for blind belief and reaction, dogma and bigotry, superstition and exploitation, and the preservation of vested interests” [Nehru 1982:374]. Nehru feels that without the secularisation of the State by separating religion from the field of politics, there cannot be neither equality of opportunity nor economic or political democracy. In early part of 1928, he declares that he stands for divorcing religion not only from politics but also from life itself. He says, “We have to get rid of that narrowing religious outlook, that obsession with the supernatural and metaphysical speculations....We have to come to grips with the present, this life, this world, this nature which surrounds us in its infinite variety. Some Hindus talk of going back to the Vedas; some Muslims dream of an Islamic theocracy. Idle fancies, for there is no going back to the past; there is only one-way traffic in Time” [Nehru 1946: 633]. However, it should be noted that Gandhi’s account of secularism is different from Nehruvian secularism. A detailed account of their differences in the context of Indian secularism is mentioned at the last part of this paper.
There is also another use of the term ‘secularism’, which is popular in India. There is no doubt that Indian secularism is influenced by western concept of secularism, but one has to undergo their differences also. After independence, our Constitution is framed on the motto of secularism and the right of equality is introduced along with other fundamental rights for citizens. In this paper, I shall try to bring out the basic nature of Indian secularism, of which Gandhi and Nehru are the pioneers. Here, I am neither much concerned in giving a detailed historical account of secularism nor contextualising secularism in any spheres (whether it may be political, legal, sociological etc.).
India is declared as a democratic-secular State, as distinctly opposed to a theocratic form of government. The Preamble to the Constitution of India has made significant use of the term ‘secularism’ in its 1976 amendment. It must be noted that the original Constitution does contain several provisions of the secular (i.e., non-theocratic and non-communal) character of the Indian State. But in 1976 amendment, the term ‘secularism’ comes into an important feature of the Indian Constitution. In our Constitution, it is written that, “India...is a “Secular State”, i.e., a State which observes an attitude of neutrality and impartiality towards all religions and religious practices. A secular State is founded on the idea that the State is concerned with the relation between man and man and not with the relation between man and God which is a matter for individual conscience” [Das Basu 1994: 111]. The attitude of impartiality towards all religions is secured by the Constitution and the Political functioning must not be intervened by any religious institutions. A citizen must be equally treated irrespective of the religion/faith, he occupies or does not occupy. The philosophy contained in the Preamble highlights that each individual shall not only have the fundamental rights in Part III of the Constitution to ensure his liberty of expression, faith and worship, equality of opportunity and the like, but also a corresponding fundamental duty, such as to upholds the sovereignty, unity and integrity of the nation, to maintain secularism and the common brotherhood amongst all the people of India. Some of the important Articles (Arts. 25-28) of the Indian Constitution provide for a ‘democratic secular State’ are as follows [Das Basu 1994: 111-12]:
There shall be no “State religion” in India. The State will neither establish a religion of its own nor confer any special patronage upon any particular religion. It follows from this that:
(a) the State will not compel any citizen to pay any taxes for the promotion or maintenance of any particular religion or religious institution [Art. 27].
(b) no religious instruction shall be provided in any educational institution wholly provided by State funds.
(c) while religious instruction is totally banned in State-owned educational institutions, in other denominational institutions it is not totally prohibited but it must not be imposed upon people of other religions without their consent [Art. 28].
1. Every person is guaranteed the freedom of conscience and the freedom to profess, practice and propagate his own religion, subject only—
(a) to restrictions imposed by the State in the interests of public order, morality and health (so that the freedom of religion may not be abused to commit crimes);
(b) to regulations or restrictions made by the State relating to any economic, financial, political or other secular activities which may be associated with religious practice, but do not really appertain to the freedom of conscience;
(c) to measure for social reform and for throwing open of Hindu religious institutions of a public character to all classes and sections of Hindus. Subject to the above limitations, a person in India shall have the right not only to entertain any religious belief but also to practice the observances dictated by such belief, and to preach his views to others [Art. 25].
2. Not only is there the freedom of the individual to profess, practice and propagate his religion, there is also the right guaranteed to every religious group or denomination—
(a) to establish and maintain institutions for religious and charitable purposes;
(b) to manage its own affairs in matters of religion;
(c) to own and acquire movable and immovable property; and
(d) to administer such property in accordance with law [Art. 26].
It is to be noted that the scope of the freedom of religion guaranteed by Arts. 25-26 has also been widened by the judicial interpretation. This is evident because what is guaranteed by Articles 25 and 26 about the right of the individual to practice and propagate not only matters of faith or belief but also all those rituals and observances which are regarded an integral part of a religion by the followers of its doctrines is also protected by law.1  Moreover, each religious denomination or organisation enjoys complete autonomy in the matter of deciding as to what rites and ceremonies are essential according to the tenets of the religion it holds.2  Regulation by the State, again, cannot interfere with things which are essentially religious. But the Court has the right to determine whether a particular rite or observance is regarded as essential by the tenets of a particular religion3 , and to interfere if a particular practice offends against public health or morality, or not being an essentially religious practice, contravenes any law of social, economic or political regulation.4 
This implies that each person has the freedom to adopt a religion of his choice, and the State must not discriminate against a citizen, in any matter (Article 15(1)), on the ground of religious practices [Das, Basu 1994: 115]. Furthermore, equality and non-discrimination, which are the hallmarks of secularism, are also enshrined in our Constitution (Article 14−16). While the principle of equality is generally stated in Articl14, which extends to all persons,-citizens or aliens, Article 15 is particularly confined to the prohibition of discrimination of the State against any citizen in any matter at the disposal of the State on any of the specified grounds, namely, religion, race, caste, sex or place of birth. The scope of the Article 15 is very wide. Two clauses of this article are particularly noteworthy here. Clause (1) says that any act of the State, whether political, civil or otherwise, shall not discriminate as between citizens on grounds only of religion, race, caste, sex, place of birth or any of them. The contention behind this Clause is that no person of a particular religion, caste, etc. shall be treated unfavourably by the State when compared with persons of any other religion or caste merely on the ground that he belongs to a particular religion or caste. But if a person is discriminated on grounds of religion, race etc., he “can obtain relief direct from the highest Court of the land, by means of a petition for an appropriate writ...” [Das Basu 1994: 91]. Clause (2) provides that so far as places of pubic entertainment are concerned, no person shall be subjected to discrimination on the grounds of only of religion, race, caste, sex, place of birth or any of them, whether such discrimination is the result of an act of the State or of any other individual. Article 16 is also confined to citizens, but it is restricted to one aspect of public administration, namely, employment under the State. Article 16 says that: (1) There shall be equality of opportunity for all citizens in matters relating to employment or appointment to any office under the State. (2) No citizen shall, on grounds only of religion, race, caste, sex, descent, place of birth or any of them, be ineligible for...any office under the State [Das, Basu 1994: 92].
Moreover, further maintaining the ethos of social equality, the Constitution of India provides for the abolition of the evil of ‘untouchability’. Art. 17 of the Constitution says that, “‘Untouchability’ is abolished and its practice in any form is forbidden. The enforcement of any disability arising out of ‘untouchability’ shall be an offence punishable in accordance with law” [Das Basu 1994: 93]. Again, the Parliament is authorised to make a law prescribing the punishment for this offence (Art.35), and in exercising this power, Parliament has enacted the Untouchability (offences) Act, 1955, which has been amended and renamed (in 1976) as the Protection of Civil Rights Act, 1955.
We have thus found that the Constitution of India has maintained equality and non-discrimination among all sections of people on the grounds of religion, race, sex, place of birth; and the violation of these will lead to serious crimes and invite strict punishments by law. Further, the concept of equality has played a pivotal role in preserving the democratic-secular character of the Indian State by adhering to the principles of (1) freedom of conscience and of belief to be enjoyed by all individuals; (2) non-preference towards any religion; (3) equal opportunities and equal respects to all citizens; and (4) the special protection of the religious and cultural rights to the religious minorities and the Dalits. Secularism thus, stands in the Indian context liberal-secular ideal of the freedom of conscience, equality and freedom to propagate religious practices, and maintaining equality and impartiality among all its citizens.
Secularism: A Debate
Thus, the basic idea of secularism, as it prevails in the west, is to separate religion from the functionaries of the State. Indian secularism, unlike the west, is of course, does not believe in absolute separation between religion and the State. The Indian democratic set up keeps ‘equidistance’ between religion and the State. Thereby, it means that the socio-political and other decisions of the State should be free from the intervention of religion(s). It does not mean that the government will suppress or dominate all religions and supports a strong down beating policy for them.
Several critics of the Indian secularism like Ashish Nandy , T.N. Madan  etc., however, maintained that in a multi-religious country like India, secularism defined as the separation of politics or the State from religion is an unacceptable modernist imposition on Indian society. Ashish Nandy for instance, one of the critics of modern version of secularism points out that Nehruvian secularism, which separates State and religion and which has been imposed on the Indian people is part of a larger modern western package of scientific growth, nation-building and development. According to Nandy, “To accept the ideology of secularism is to accept the ideologies of progress and modernity as the new justifications of domination, and the use of violence to achieve and sustain the ideologies as the new opiates of the masses” [Nandy 1994: 192]. Nandy says that this modern western rational-scientific secularism that Nehru has sought has failed to eliminate religion from politics. This form of secularism, therefore, cannot guide moral or political action. Rather, it generates and nourishes religious communalism, which the State combats by resorting to the use of the ideology of secular or non-religious nation-State. According to Nandy, the best possible alternative then lies in the non-modern, pre-secular conceptions of religion as accommodative tolerant faiths or ways of life as hold by Gandhi and others. He further points out that Gandhi’s religious comes from his anti-secularism, which in turn comes from his unconditional rejection of modernity [Nandy 1994: 192].
Similarly, T.N. Madan has also maintained that both religion and politics have equal importance and hence, it will be inappropriate to separate one from the other. He supports Gandhi, not only for emphasizing the relation between religion and politics but also for opening the space of inter-religious tolerance (sarva dharma sambhava). In his words, “The only way secularism in South Asia, understood as interreligious understanding, may succeed would be for us to take both religion and secularism seriously and not reject the former as superstition and reduce the latter to a musk for communalism or mere expediency” [Madan 1987:758].
But the question arises: Why must religion be separated from the State? Is separation between religion and the State the only viable solution? The question can be put in another way: is absolute separation between religion and the State possible? Although, my contention is that there should not be absolute separation between religion and the State. But we may think of such a separation, at least for the following reasons:
First, religious and political institutions must be kept separate from one another because both are very powerful institutions that command people’s unqualified allegiance. If the two are identical or strongly overlap, then the resulting intermix is likely to thwart autonomy more than when they are separate [Bhargava 2012: 489].
Secondly, No person by virtue of being a member of one institution should be guaranteed membership in another institution. Separation is required in order to ensure equality [Bhargava 2012: 489].
Thirdly, separation is required to curb political and religious absolutism. Democracy requires that there shall not be concentration of power in any one institution or in any one group [Bhargava 2012: 489].
These are some of the arguments for separation between religion and politics or from the State. Given that these arguments are equally very strong and influencing will not justify absolute separation between religion and politics in India. This is because the invasive religiosity of the people and the pluralism of religious faiths, an ethico-politically appropriate pattern of relationship between religion and State has to be one that gives equal respect towards all religions, rather than keeping an insuperable chasm between religion and the State. As mentioned earlier, Art. 25 and Art. 26 of the Indian Constitution give to all persons ‘freedom of conscience’ and the ‘right freely to profess, propagate and practice religion’ and the State will be given enough power to make any law for the sake of ‘public order, morality and health’ and for ‘regulating or restricting any economic, financial, political or other secular activity which may be associated with religious practice.’ Thomas Pantham rightly points out that, “The justification for... reformist intervention by the State rests on a differentiation or relative separation of the political and religious spheres” [Pantham 1997: 527].
The State is neutral in so far as its citizens can choose his or her religion according to his or her choice and the State gives equal respect and protection to them. At the same time, it also intervenes seriously to prevent religiously approved social evils like sati, devadasi, infanticide, child marriage, widow marriage, untouchability etc. Indian secularism in this sense, is not acquiescent to the social evils and discriminations that are perpetrated by the name of religion. This form of secularism, which accommodates both interventions and abstention of State institutions in relation to religious practices is, according to Rajeev Bhargava, a contextual secularism [2012: 486-542]. Contextual secularism is a modest form of secularism that keeps a principled distance of the State from religious institutions in order to secure an acceptable minimal standard of living and to avert unbearable sufferings for the ordinary citizens. Bhargava writes, “The relation between religion and politics requires neither fusion nor complete disengagement but what I call principled distance....principled distance be distinguished from mere equidistance. In the strategy of principled distance, the State intervenes or refrains from interfering, depending on which of the two better promotes religious liberty and equality of citizenship. If this is so, the State may not be able to relate to every religion in exactly the same way, intervene to the same degree or in the same manner. All it must ensure is that the inclusion of religion into politics or its exclusion from it be guided by non-sectarian principles consistent with a set of values constitutive of a life of equal dignity for all” [Bhargava 2012: 512].
Thus, in spite of keeping a strict chasm between religion and the State, a proper way will be to keep equidistance, which will secure both freedom of faith and a dignified life for all. This is best illustrated in Donald Eugene Smith’s book, India as a Secular State [1963:4], where he has mentioned three types of distinct but interrelated relationships among the State, individual and religion. The first relation concerns that the individuals and their religion from where the State is excluded. Individuals are thereby free to decide the merits of the respective religions without the coercive interventions of the State. The second relation concerns that between individuals and the State from which religion is excluded. Here, the State considers individuals without considering their religious affiliations. The rights and duties of citizens are not affected by the religious beliefs held by individuals. Thirdly, for Smith, the integrity of both these relations is dependent on the third relation between State and different religions. Here, he argues that secularism entails separation of power that is, the mutual exclusion of the State and religion in order that they operate effectively and equally in their own spheres.
If we consider Donald Smith’s view to be a model for our secular discourse, then my submission will be that it best resembles Gandhi’s concept of the democratic-secular State. Gandhi believes that the State must be neutral in giving freedom of choice to the individuals in choosing his or her religion and must give equal respect to all religions and freedom of conscience. At the same time, he also believes that the State intervention is also necessary to prevent any dispute that arises in the name of religion. In the next section, therefore, I shall take a glimpse at Gandhi’s idea of secularism.
Gandhi’s idea of a Democratic Secular State
Gandhi underscores a close connection between religion and politics throughout his life. His patriotism, his work in the public and the political field, his deep social commitment are based on and inspired by religious beliefs. At the end of his autobiography The Story of My Experiments with Truth, he writes, “...my devotion to truth has drawn me into the field of politics; and I can say without the slightest hesitation, and yet in all humility, that those who say that religion has nothing to do with politics, do not know what religion means” [Gandhi 1927: 420]. In January 1921, he has also declared, “I certainly do introduce religion into politics. It is my humble view that not a single activity in the world should be independent of religion” [Gandhi Harijan, hereafter Hn: 02.03. 1924]. At least Gandhi’s earlier view is that there can be no politics without religion. He highlights this point in a speech which has a remarkable contemporary tune. He says, “If I seem to take part in politics, it is only because politics today encircle us like the coils of a snake from which one cannot get out no matter how one tries. I wish to wrestle with the snake....I am trying to introduce religion into politics” [Quoted from Gill 2001: 170-71].
According to Gandhi, the religious impulse alone can provide a moral basis to all human activity, his motive is to ‘spiritualise politics’, because “politics divorced from religion was like death-trap because they kill the soul” [Gandhi Young India hereafter Yn: 03.04. 1924]. In asserting that politics should be based on religion, he clearly means that it should have a moral base in dharma or a code of conduct, or for Gandhi in truth and non-violence. Thus in Gandhi, the moral, the political and tshe religious become inalienable elements of a moral sense of the world [Puri 2004: 79].
When Gandhi speaks about religion, he does not mean religion in the denominational or sectarian form. It is not the Hindu religion, but the religion that transcends Hinduism, which changes one’s very nature. This he tells many a times that, that there can be no politics without religion. He remarks, “Yes, I still hold the view that I cannot conceive politics as divorced from religion. Indeed, religion should pervade every one of our actions. Here religion does not mean sectarianism. It means a belief in ordered moral government of the universe...This religion transcends Hinduism, Islam, Christianity etc” [Gandhi Hn: 10.02. 1940].
Interestingly, during 1940 onwards, Gandhi begins to change his earlier formulation regarding the relationship between religion and politics and argues that religion means denominational religion and politics should be kept separate from it. From 1946, Gandhi relates the individuation of the worshipper to another insistence that has been developed from the early 1940 onwards, namely, ‘religion is a personal matter, which should have no place in politics in a free India.’ He is critical of the views of the RSS and its concept of a Hindu-Raj. He realises that in order to propagate communal politics and to promote a communal divide, again to propagate the two-nation theory, the communalists are using the sense of belonging to a system of religious beliefs, using religion in its organised denominational form [Sangari 2004: 88]. Therefore, he thinks that the remedy to all these problems are to separate politics from the sphere of religion. He therefore, points out in 1940 that, “If a free India is to live at peace with herself, religious divisions must entirely give place to political divisions based on considerations other than religious. Even as it is, though unfortunately religious differences loom large, most parties contain members from various sects” [Gandhi Hn: 27.04. 1940]. He further says in June 1940, “If religion is allowed to be, as it is, a personal concern and a matter between God and man, there are many dominating factors between the two (Hindus and Muslims) which will compel common life and common action” [Gandhi Hn: 08.06. 1940]. In August 1942 he tells, “Religion is a personal matter which should have no place in politics” [Gandhi Hn: 09. 08. 1942]. In October 1946, he expresses his view that, “In the central and provincial governments, there is or should be no Hindu, Muslim or any other communal distinctions. All are Indians. Religion is a personal matter” [Gandhi Hn: 20. 10. 1946].
The State can be secular and democratic if religious worship is individualistic. The universal ethical core of religions allows Gandhi to posit the religious freedom of the individual as against that of mere recognition of ‘religious communities’. He says, “I do not believe in State religion even though the whole community has one religion. State interference will probably always be unwelcome. Religion is purely a personal matter. There are in reality as many religions as minds. Each mind has a different conception of God from that of the other” [Gandhi Hn: 16. 03. 1947]. Gandhi opposes State aid to religious bodies and freeing the State’s function by separating it from the propagation of discrete-religions; State schools should be confined to only ‘ethical teaching’, since the “fundamental ethics are common to all religions” [Gandhi Hn: 16. 03. 1947].
There is an important reason why Gandhi has mentioned that ‘religion has to be a personal matter,’ because for him, there may be various denominational religions like Hinduism, Islam, Christianity, Sikhism and so on with different religious practices but the road to God is One. Every individual chooses his religion, his culture, and his environment. In other words, religion has to be a personal matter; it should not be imposed by the State or society.
The State must honour all faiths and gives equal respect and opportunities to all religions. This is one of the essential features of the Gandhian principle of the democratic- secular State. After partition, Gandhi bears a bigger personal trouble for the peaceful preservation of the multi-religious character of the independent Indian nation and the democratic-secular character of the Indian State. He dedicates most of his energies to cease partition related communal carnage and to legitimize the democratic-secular State, which he wants to bring with the inter-religious dialogues at prayer meetings, fasts, democratic non-partitions etc. Even in his last will, he calls for the formation of a Lok Sevak Sangh with a desire to promote the ideal of inter-communal unity, equal respect and regard for all religions and equality of opportunity and status for all irrespective of race, creed or sex [Pantham 2001: 61].
While stating Gandhi’s view on secularism, we can also differentiate it with Nehruvian secularism. There are certain striking differences between Gandhi’s and Nehru’s socio-political thoughts. On the one hand, Nehru’s political philosophy is centred mostly on the liberal-democratic and the socialist strands of western post-enlightenment and the secular political thoughts of the west. Nehru has also mentioned in his autobiography about his ‘thoughts and approaches to life are more akin to what is called Western rather than Eastern.’ On the other hand, Gandhi’s social and political philosophy is moulded by his spiritual outlook, because he believes that our spiritual urge can provide a moral basis to all our actions. Gandhi in his autobiography says, “What I want to achieve−what I have been striving and pinning to achieve these thirty years−is self-realization, to see God face to face, to attain Moksha. I live and move and have my being in pursuit of this goal. All that I do by way of speaking and writing, and all my ventures in the political field, are directed to this same end... the essence of religion is morality” [Gandhi 1927: X]. But Nehru does not like Gandhi’s spiritual philosophy of life. As already mentioned at the beginning of this paper, Nehru opposes religious traditions for their superstitions, dogmatism, ritualism, bigotry and conservatism. Nehru argues in his Discovery in India that, “The belief in a supernatural agency which ordains everything has led to a certain irresponsibility on the social plane, and emotion and sentimentality have taken the place of reasoned thought and inquiry. Religion, though it has undoubtedly brought comfort to innumerable human beings and stabilized society by its values, has checked the tendency to change and progress inherent in human society” [Nehru 1946:543].
Nehru feels that without the secularisation of the State, i.e. separating religion from its domain, there can be neither equality nor political or economic independence. At least, Nehru’s initial view is to separate religion from the sphere of politics for bringing equality and sovereignty to our nation. But Nehru incidentally under the influence of Gandhi changes his earlier position and later upholds that, “We talk about a secular State in India. It is perhaps not very easy even to find a good word in Hindi for ‘Secular’. Some people think it means something opposed to religion. That obviously is not correct...It is a State which honours all faiths equally and gives them equal opportunities” [Quoted from S. Gopal 1980: 330]. Moreover, Nehru’s earlier view that religion as a totally abominable and outdated instrument of dogmatism, bigotry, ritualism, superstition etc., has changed. He thinks that religion has a dual character, i.e., religion, specially organised religion is basically ‘blind belief and superstition, dogmatism’ etc. On the one hand and religion is something, qualitatively different, ‘which supplies a deep, inner craving of human beings and which has brought comfort to human souls’ on the other. Nehru’s approach to secularism is based on an uncompromising critique of religion in the first sense and a deep appreciation and respect for religion in the second sense.
Thus, Gandhi’s influence has brought tremendous changes to Nehru’s thought about religion, secularism etc. Nehru now comes to see religion as an integral part of human life and argues in favourably for a democratic-secular State committed to give equal respect and opportunities to all religious faiths (sarva-dharma-sanmāna and sambhāva).
Throughout my discussion on secularism, I reiterate my argument that there should not be absolute separation between religion and the State. I shall be in favour of that form of secularism, which accommodates both intervention and abstention of State institutions in relation to religious practices or keeps a principled distance of the State from religious institutions, which will secure both freedom of faith and a dignified life for all. In this way, I have found that Gandhi’s idea of secularism, which Nehru also later prescribed, are best suited for this purpose.
1. Commissioner, Hindu Religious Movements V. Lakshmindra, (1954) S.C.R. 1005. (Quoted from Durga Das Basu, Introduction to the Constitution of India, p. 134).
2. Hanif Quareshi V. State of Bihar, A. 1958 S.C. 731.
3. Sarup V. State of Punjab, A. 1959 S.C. 860 (866); Moti Das V. Sahi, A. 1959 S.C. 942 (950); Jagadiswaranand V. Police Commissioner.,A. 1984 S.C. 51 (para10).
4. Ratilal V. State of Bombay, (1954) S.C.R. 1055.
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