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The farce called secularism in India

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The farce of Secularism in India

“India is the only country in the world where students are taught to hate their own heritage as regressive and glorify those invaders who tried their best to destroy that heritage as progressive—and to call this absurdity ‘secularism’, ” Sankrant Sanu and Tarek Fatah noted.

Offering chadar at dargahs, and government-sponsored iftar parties are signs of secularism, whereas participating in the pran pratishtha puja of a temple is called a grossly communal act. The government must have control over the offerings made at Hindu temples, while offerings made at the places of worship of other religions may go unaudited. We do not seem to appreciate that, while the State must be secular, it is neither possible nor necessary for an individual to be secular.

Fact is, the lofty ideals of our Constitution notwithstanding, in India; secularism in practice was reduced to minorityism or minority appeasement. In the name of secularism, the conspiracy has been whitewashing the communalism of Muslims and branding any opposition to that as communalism.

If the country is truly secular; the government should not be providing Haj subsidy; cycles to Muslim school-going girls exclusively; financial aid to marriages of only Muslim girls, and so on. On all such occasions, the “secularism is under threat” brigade conveniently turns a blind eye to such moves.

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Outrageous minorityism

The farce of Secularism in India 2

As a very relevant illustration of the extra-constitutional privileges enjoyed by the Muslims, you may recall that, the minimum age of marriage as 18 years for girls and 21 years for boys was prescribed by the 1978 amendment to the Child Marriage Restraint Act, 1929 (popularly known as the Sarda Act), essentially to curb child marriages and consequent sexual or other abuse of children and provides for jail sentence for violation. Section 5 (iii) of The Hindu Marriage Act, 1955 and the Special Marriage Act, 1954 conform to this amendment. On the other hand, for Muslim girls, the marriage of a minor who has attained puberty, defined as 15 years in the case of Muhammad Ibrahim Rashid (1912) is considered valid. One hundred and ten years later also in August 2022, in the case of Fija, the Delhi High Court also ruled that as per Mohammedan Law, a minor girl who had attained the age of puberty could marry without the consent of her parents on attaining puberty, has right to live with the husband even when below 18 years. Earlier, in June 2022, the Punjab and Haryana High Court had also ruled the same in the case of Gulam Deen. The Supreme Court has yet to clarify its position on this issue. Thus the position so far is that the entire enlightenment, spirit and punishments under the Prohibition of Child Marriage Act, Special Marriage Act, Rape laws pertaining to the age of consent and POCSO Act are for Hindus and non-Muslims; if a 15-year-old Muslim girl is married off and goes on to produce kids thereafter, that does not amount to child sexual abuse, rape or any other exploitation.

Secularism – only for India, not for Islamic nations?

N. N. Ayubi, a contributor to ‘The Oxford Encyclopaedia of the Islamic World’, explains that an Islamic state is a state that has a form of government based on Islamic law. As Abdullahi, Islamic scholar and professor of law at Emory University, informs, non-Muslim minorities within an Islamic state do not enjoy rights equal to those of the Muslim majority—as simple as that; and it is indeed fundamentally different from the Christian States that are ‘secular in practice’.

Has the Left-Liberal-Muslim Right Cabal ever expressed their disapproval of these nations being Islamic states or called for their boycott? Then, on what moral or even legal ground can they criticize a Hindu Rashtra even as it would guarantee no discrimination on the basis of religion?

England, widely regarded in the world as the citadel of democratic and secular values, has been a Christian state since over three centuries. Since the Act of Establishment, 1701 AD, England’s official State Church has been the Church of England, a Protestant church; the monarch being its supreme governor and ‘defender of the faith’. The monarch, together with the Parliament, has a say in appointing bishops. N. Doe, professor of law at Cardiff University, points out that 26 of them have ex officio seats in the House of Lords. Edward Eberle informs, “Under the established church approach, the government will assist the state church and likewise the church will assist the government. Religious education is mandated by law to be taught in all schools, public or private.”

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Have England’s secular credentials ever been questioned on account of it being officially a Christian State? Has England been a Christian State ever come in the way of non-Christians enjoying their rights there? England continues to be gloriously ‘secular in practice’. Then on what basis are some people so apprehensive about India designating itself a Hindu Rashtra? The opposition to the idea of Hindu Rashtra is not based on merit; it is based on the Left-Liberal cabal’s hatred of all things Hindu.

Also Read: Does any religion permit (mis)use of public places?

Although England’s secular credentials need no explanation an illustrative example of their ‘secularism in practice’ can be had from their position regarding halal meat. England has passed The Welfare of Animals (Slaughter or Killing) Regulations 1995. It is based upon the reasoning that all animals will be slaughtered and killed in a humane manner whereas the traditional method of halal is inherently cruel. Under these Regulations, it is an offence to cause or to permit, unavoidable excitement, pain or suffering to any animal during restraint, stunning, slaughter or killing.

The British Veterinary Association; Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals; and Compassion in World Farming have long-run campaigns against slaughter without stunningly arguing that the scientific evidence shows that non-stun slaughter allows animals to perceive pain, and thus compromises animal welfare. Yet, as reported by Emma Downing of the University of Missouri, even as the UK Government has officially stated in November 2014 that, based on a large body of research, it would prefer all animals to be pre-stunned before slaughter on welfare grounds but it recognises and respects the rights of religious communities to continue religious slaughter practices like halal (Muslims) and shechita (Jews). The pseudo-seculars of India must note that, in spite of the permission granted to Muslims and Jews, about 80% of meat in the UK prepared by the halal method is pre-stunned, including supermarket own-brand meat—the Muslims in the UK have agreed to it voluntarily.

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Why cannot Indian Muslims do something similar in deference to the sentiments of others? Halal is not objected to in India. However, many do object to slaughter by halal in the open. Regarding slaughtering animals in public places, according to Rule 3, of Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, (Slaughterhouse) Rules, 2001 and Chapter 4, Food Safety and Standards Regulations, 2011, animals must be slaughtered at registered abattoirs and follow certain guidelines such as stunning before killing (in Karnataka, for example), hygiene and disposal of waste, etc. However, it is well-known that, in the case of most ritualistic animal sacrifices, these are not followed and animals continue to be slaughtered in open shops, houses, residential complexes, housing societies and, in some localities, even roads. Gujarat, Bengaluru and UP have issued orders banning slaughter in public. 

Hasan Suroor, the author of ‘Unmasking Indian Secularism: Why we need a new Hindu-Muslim Deal’, forcefully drives the point home that it is a mistaken notion that the only alternative to a secular State is a theocracy. It is not. A State can have an officially recognised religion—in India’s case, it will be Hinduism—and yet remain secular in practice by treating all citizens as equal and making sure that their religious and civil rights are protected by law—as in many western liberal democracies including Britain where the state is Christian, but government practices are secular.

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Dr N C Asthana IPS (Retd)
Dr N C Asthana IPS (Retd)
Dr. N. C. Asthana, IPS (Retd) is a former DGP of Kerala and ADG BSF/CRPF. Of the 51 books that he has authored, 20 are on terrorism, counter-terrorism, defense, strategic studies, military science, and internal security, etc. They have been reviewed at very high levels in the world and are regularly cited for authority in the research works at some of the most prestigious professional institutions of the world such as the US Army Command & General Staff College and Frunze Military Academy, Russia. The views expressed are his own.


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