What Makes India? Religious Majoritarianism Or Pseudo-Secularism?
ABSTRACT The essay is concentrating on the influence of religion in Indian politics and nationalism. It deals with the historical perspective of religion as a tool of nationalism and how it gets modified as a means of power in present India. The analysis has been made to showcase how religion is used to bring individuals under the penal… Read More »
The essay is concentrating on the influence of religion in Indian politics and nationalism. It deals with the historical perspective of religion as a tool of nationalism and how it gets modified as a means of power in present India. The analysis has been made to showcase how religion is used to bring individuals under the penal laws and codes made by the legislation? How policy decisions like the beef ban portray the majoritarianism? How judiciary plays its role balance the powers of three pillars of the country (Legislation, Executive and Judiciary) without affecting the rights of the individuals. It becomes relevant to analyze how the majority is benefitted by majoritarianism and how religion is targeted by other groups? Majoritarianism proves to be a dynamic concept which varies from region to region and the influence is not only at the central level but a state, district and even in municipal level. An attempt has been made to portray the impact of religion on nation and society as a whole through policy decisions and cases discussions.
India is a country with diverse groups which are determined by various factors like ethnicity, language, caste, religion etc. The most unique feature of India is its composed subsistence with a huge population comprised of differences in each and every realm. However, India is not devoid of the risks of Proportional representation which take one form or the other with Politics and Government being the major sectors of influence. This essay will be concentrating on the influence of religion over Politics and Government which affects the nation as a whole by influencing the concept of Nationalism. As a coin has two sides it would be essential to look into the influence of majority and opposition against the majority for the only cause of being more in number. Though there are various factors, this composition will be concentrating only on the feature that lives with human beings from time immemorial called Religion.
RELIGION IN POLITICS: AN HISTORICAL PERSPECTIVE
Religion is said to be intertwined with the functioning of the country from the time immemorial. The provinces were considered to be goddesses to be worshipped and a sense of belonging was created by linking the territories with the religion. Hinduism prevailed in India for a long time and it efficiently utilized the concept of idolizing the objects to unite propel towards a specific goal. The notion remained the same even during the period of the Mughal invasion, and even before independence during the British Rule. The British understood the valiance and placebo effect of religion on Indian people through the resistance shown by us irrespective of the religious mixture which was evident through the Sepoy Mutiny in 1857. Religion played a crucial role in securing independence, it is evident from our national song Vande Mataram portraying India as a goddess and a bond is created towards the nation. Thus, to successfully break through this hurdle, the British adopted the concept of Divide and Rule, where the Indians were assorted based on region and religion to stay like an unsolved jigsaw puzzle.
Fortunately, the division did not subsist more than a century but created a scarring impact on the minds of Indians. Even now, we can experience people to be in the distance though they live near us. We cannot forget and forgive the bloodbath during 1947 to create separate India and Pakistan shattering the aim of forming a huge country with religious tolerance.
Post-independence, our country observed the optimum utilization of the religion through the collaboration with politics. Religion was started to be used as a mean of division instead of integrity. India slowly adopted the Proportional Representation indirectly where the political parties started targeting people based on religion. There was also a clear abuse of the democracy and the fundamental right by forming the political parties for a particular religion. The ultimate aim of those parties was to protect only the religions (more specifically the particular caste sect in that religion), making them successfully move away from integrity and nation as a whole.
No government can satisfy the needs of all their people, in a policy decision, there will be benefiters and losers. But recently the nation is treading towards a path of Pseudo-secularism where the people in the neutrality are bluntly opposing the decisions making the nation stagnant with no development and progress. Since no policy is perfect and subject to change, we can see people in the name of neutrality oppose the decisions to be only in favour of the majority. It not only applies to any religious decision but to any direction rendered by the government. It serves as a perfect example of the exploitation of the religious sentiments of the public.
Religious majoritarianism is a traditional concept where the religion having majority status in a region is given primacy and they are allowed to make a decision which will cause an impact on the functioning of the other religions. It is not a new term to India as our country had witnessed the colossal conversion of Hindus and Muslims into Christians during British colonization for money or needs or under coercion. In present India, the religious majoritarianism has taken a new form where the religion having a majority in a particular area was only given importance in India. It is one of the reasons for introducing laws that are more westernized without considering the impact it will bore on us who followed a different legal system.
The people’s representatives are seldom selected on qualities but the influence the person has over the people in that region. The decisions and measures taken are focused on the people who are in majority and often the minorities are alienated. This concern for votes totally moulded the present Indian Politics and eventually made our nation driven by religion.
India is a secular country and our feature of secularism is completely different from other countries. In general, Secularism means, raising a wall between policy and religion whereas, in India, it is the status of the country which welcomes all the religions as the same and essentially restraining the government from not intervening in the affairs of religion. In recent times we can see splits within religions and conflicts among them as a result of the clash of the individual rights.
Unequals cannot be treated equally – that is why the Indian Constitution provides special statuses to various kinds of minorities. Even allows the religion to practice, profess or propagate their religions with reasonable restrictions but due to the greediness of power and votes, we can see the attempt to convert the minority privileges into rights. Ultimately the affected parties are the people who have a holy connection among religions. In the name of Minority Alleviation, most of the political parties misdirect the public and we can see opposition in each and every policy decision. Pseudo-Secularism is the condition where the minorities group up together and oppose the majority sect only for the reason that the group is having majority status.
TWO SIDES OF A COIN
The position in India is different from other countries as we act as a pool for all religions and proves to be the most comfortable place for tolerance. But we can frequently visualize the conflicts and dominance of the above two concepts. What is the result? We are again tracing back to the blood pool that arose because of the division. We can visualize the fading tolerance and increasing revolts. One significant factor to this condition is the failure to update laws according to the tide of time.
The outcome is the dilution of democracy and losing faith in elections. With the advent of technology and the Internet, it is becoming easy to spread rumours and easy to broadcast them. Here we can see the conflict between the freedom of speech and expression and need to reframe the reasonable restrictions. In the name of fair comment and expression, abusive and volatile comments are passed. On the other hand, the laws are broad and evasive to bring any action within its ambit.
In Shreya Singhal case, the scope of § 66A was questioned and the Hon’ble Supreme Court held that the Section was ambiguous, vague and evasive and it is against the freedom of speech of expression. As a consequence §, 66A was struck down being constitutionally invalid. The background of the case is a perfect example of religious majoritarianism where the girl was arrested for commenting on the funeral procession of Former Minister Bal Thackeray as the unfair expenditure of state money. Since the political party Shiv Sena held a dominant position in Maharashtra and funeral being one of the important elements of Hinduism, the girl met a fateful allegation.
Moreover, the issue is evident in cases sedition which is often misused. The nation as a whole has to be protected which mandates the presence of offences against the state as active provisions. The scope of sedition was brought to consideration again in Kanhaiya Kumar case, where a campaign was organized in JNU Campus, raising slogans against India and supporting a criminal sentenced with death. Though the case shows the ingredients of sedition, it brought us the need of reconsideration of the provision and the decision rendered by the seven-judge bench in Kedarnath Singh case. Law serves to be a perfect tool to be used against people who are anti-government by portraying them as anti-nationals. This necessitates a perfect balance between freedom of speech and expression and reasonable restrictions which have to be updated with the tide of time and proves to be an effective religious majoritarianism method.
On the other hand, there comes pseudo-secularism in the name of individual rights. The issue of Sabarimala was dwelling for straight three decades where we can see the feminists protest against the denial to enter into one of the six Lord Ayyappa temples. Here we can visualize the conflict between the right to religion and equality. Here the religious denomination is having the right to set their own rules and customs to be followed and except to affect public policy, decency or morality, the religious denomination is allowed to follow the norms which they were feel fit. But the issue has been heated up due to the political parties influences making them forget that deity is an artificial juristic entity having all the rights as that of the individual. Similarly, the temple is having the right to protect its rights and faith as religion is a bundle of faiths.
With the aim of getting power, the political parties often enter into coalition government system where the parties with contradicting motives and objects join together and form the government with the temporary aim of defeating the majority. Many religious parties enter into a coalition to form a government but these governments cannot function for long or with enough progress. One such example is the coalition government formed by Bharatiya Janata Party and All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam which proved to be futile during no-confidence motion. We can trace the similar situation where all the parties unite to defeat BJP in present India.
NATIONALISM AND POLICY MAKING
Due to the conflicts of opinions and ideologies, the people started moving towards forming valiant groups instead of communalism and nationalism. The people’s mindset has changed towards obtaining the perks of an institution similar to that of trade unions, clubs etc. post-independence, any government followed either religious majoritarianism or pseudo-secularism both not the both.
Let us consider the controversial topic of Beef Ban, technically it cannot be called a ban but a regulation put forth to check the count of the cows in India. The cows can be slaughtered only in the registered Slaughter-houses and cows must be weak, old or incapable of doing any work. The private cow slaughtering was banned which were maintained by Muslims a lot. It was considered to be a Colourable legislation by affecting the livelihood of the other sects for the only reason that cow is a goddess in Hinduism. There were counter-points like it is not a ban on the beef but only a regulation and emphasis was made on the difficulty in killing a cow which undergoes abnormal pain to the animals. The government was competent enough to make laws for the protection of animals and said to have legislative competence too. It depicts the aspects favouring Hinduism and minority rights infringement.
Similarly, the judgment on Triple Talaq case, created huge debate that it is because of the Central Government upholding Hindutva, the judgment was given against the Islamic principle but there were also counter-points like giving importance to the rights of women, striking down arbitrary law and Triple Talaq was not an essential principle of Islam. Thus, even judiciary is brought in this hubris and was compelled to deal with the religious irregularities. Even though politics was held in the clutches of subjective religious concepts, the judiciary does the perfect role of interpreting and highlighting what is essential to Indian citizens. It is evident from Ayodhya Case, where on Presidential Reference; the Supreme Court held that the court is not having the power to deal with a religious issue.
Secularism is the basic structure of the constitution of India which cannot be amended or violated. From the above discussion we can see that the nation is not integrated but dismantled because of the religious differences. Initially, religion played an important role in unifying the people and creating attachment towards nation. But with the increase in want of power, religion was used as a means of votes attraction and segregation. India eventually experienced the change in the nature of the religion from being an element of nationalism to the enemy of nationalism.
The judiciary played a crucial role in fixing the nature of the religion and preventing it from causing chaos. Religion is not a detriment to society but a perfect social control. Due to the interplay by the political parties and executives, religion was shown as a barricade among different sects. We face both the benefits and repercussions of religion and as social beings we cannot evade from it. The Constitution and other statutes perfectly demarcate religion from the territory of governance. It is we people who must understand the limitations of religion in Nation.
By – B. PRAGASH
SASTRA DEEMED UNIVERSITY
 Shreya Singhal v. Union of India, (2013) 12 SCC 73.
 Kedar Nath Singh v. State Of Bihar, AIR 1962 SC 955.
 Shayara Bano v. Union of India and Ors.
 Special Reference No.1/1993 relating to Ram Janmabhum, (1993) 1 SCC 642.
 S.R. Bommai And Others Etc. Etc. vs Union Of India And Others, AIR 1994 SC 1918.
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