Why ‘secularism’ is not an Indian concept


A school girl with her face painted in the colours of the Indian national flag holds flags during Independence Day celebrations at a school in Patna


CowSanjeev Nayyar

The concept of secularism was imported into India by the British. It was a strategic tool to suppress and deny India’s quest for independence by repeatedly asking the Indian National Congress that was predominantly Hindu, to address the concerns of the minorities, says Sanjeev Nayyar   

Narendra Modi rattled the Congress by accusing it of hiding its inability to govern under the burkha of secularism. This statement has once again brought the issue of secularism into national focus.

Every leader claims to be secular. No one is asking, however, what is the meaning of the word secular?

This article seeks to provoke thought by giving the origin of the word secular and benchmarks, briefly, it with other countries worldwide.

The founders of the Constitution deemed it appropriate to use the concept of secularism without spelling out its meaning. The word ‘secular’ was made part of the preamble of the Indian Constitution during the Emergency (1975-77). However, the word was left undefined.

During the Emergency, former Prime Minister Indira Gandhi made the word ‘secular’ part of the preamble of the Constitution but did not define it. When the Janata Party came to power in 1977 an attempt was made to define ‘secular republic’ to mean a ‘republic’ in which there is equal respect for all religions’. The Janata government had a majority in the Lok Sabha but was in a minority in the Rajya Sabha where it was voted down by the Congress.


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