The Practicality of Secularism in our Country

By | November 15, 2017
The Practicality of Secularism in Our Country - Legal Bites

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Introduction

The country which believes in the concept of “vasudhaiva kutumbakam” and celebrates the diversities within it has another face of it where atrocities have been happening against the people of different communities, which has no specific reason behind it. The orthodox mentality of few people and political support backed had shown many incidents in the past where one mob of a particular community attacking the other.

These atrocities can be termed as Hate Crimes, where one specific religion or sect of people are against the other and create havoc to the peace and tranquillity of the general public. Such events can be traced back to the freedom fight, Bengal partition and also the British India partition.

The recent trend of such atrocities has been done against the Muslims, According to official statistics, India witnessed more than 700 outbreaks of communal violence last year that killed 86 and injured 2,321 people. The actual number, however, could be higher as many cases go unreported, adds the report by the Mumbai-based Centre for Study of Society and Secularism (CSSS) and the UK-based Minority Rights Group International (MRG)[1]

The issue started two years ago, when a 52-year-old Muslim man in a village near Delhi, was killed by a mob in 2015, as rumours spread that he had eaten beef and was storing cow meat at home and the recent issues in Haryana, where a dairy farmer was beaten merely because they have seen a dead cow outside his home, In Jharkhand where a 19-year-old was beaten to death because he was in a relationship with a Hindu girl and this list could be never-ending.

Is this is secularism, is this the peaceful co-existence of the people, and is this the meaning of unity in diversity?

What freedom does a person have in this country if he is being killed for his choice of food or choice of his life partner? The concept of freedom sounds so shallow, is the rights and duties of freedom and liberty confined only to the books and texts and theory or has any practical implication.

Reasons for such communal outbursts:

  • Historical causes
  • Orthodox Thinking
  • Religious fundamentalism
  • Socio-economic status
  • Invisible hands of political parties controlling certain groups of such communists

Constitutional and Legal Framework of these Issues:

  • Article 14 which provides equality and equal protection of laws
  • Article 15(1), which states the state wouldn’t discriminate anyone on the grounds only of religion, race, caste, sex, and place of birth or any of them.
  • Article 16, which states regarding state would give equal opportunity to the citizens regarding the public employment and wouldn’t discriminate on the grounds on only of religion, race, caste, sex, descent, and place of birth, residence or any of them.
  • Article 21, which states No person shall be deprived of his life or personal liberty except according to procedure established by law.
  • Article 25, Subject to public order, morality and health and to the other provisions of this Part, all persons are equally entitled to freedom of conscience and the right freely to profess, practice and propagate religion.
  • Article 26, Subject to public order, morality and health, every religious denomination or any section thereof shall have the right – (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
  • Article 27, No person shall be compelled to pay any taxes, the proceeds of which are specifically appropriated in payment of expenses for the promotion or maintenance of any particular religion or religious denomination
  • Article 30, states, all minorities, whether based on religion or language, shall have the right to establish and administer educational institutions of their choice and the State shall not, in granting aid to educational institutions, discriminate against any educational institution on the ground that it is under the management of a minority, whether based on religion or language.

The Indian Penal Code, 1860 provides for:

  • Section 153, which penalises any activity Promoting enmity between different groups on ground of religion, race, place of birth, residence, language, etc., and doing acts prejudicial to maintenance of harmony and public tranquillity with three years of imprisonment or fine or both.
  • Section 295, which penalises any who with deliberate and malicious intention of outraging the religious feelings of any class of citizens of India, by words, either spoken or written, or by signs or by visible representations or otherwise insults or attempts to insult the religion or the religious beliefs of that class, shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to three years, or with fine, or with both.
  • Section 296, which penalises anyone who voluntarily causes disturbance to any assembly lawfully engaged in the performance of religious worship, or religious ceremonies, shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to one year, or with fine, or with both.

Consequences of these violent acts:

  • Loss and destruction of the life, limb and property by the wrongdoers,
  • Distrust among people of various religions and sects,
  • Hampers the economic status of the country,
  • Weakens the country’s unity.

Steps that have been taken by the government to address this issue:

The Prevention of Communal and Targeted Violence (Access to Justice and Reparations) Bill, If passed into law, this would help to address the increase of and impunity of communal riots, particularly of public officials. It would also improve victim’s rights, through the establishment of required standards of relief, reparation, and rehabilitation.

Progress was abandoned in early 2014, in large part due to opposition from the BJP; however, recently there has been international pressure on India to renew efforts to bring the Prevention of Communal and Targeted Violence bill into law, but the present status of the bill is withdrawn.

Other developments have included a private member’s bill introduced in the Lok Sabha in March 2017 to advance an anti-discrimination law which could help bring important redress to marginalized groups in India through promoting a broader and more intersectional approach towards discrimination.

There have also been recent measures introduced to address sexual violence in the context of communal violence, namely the Criminal Law Amendment Act 2013 which led to the inclusion of Section 376(2) (g) in the IPC. This legal reform explicitly addresses and prescribes punishment for rape during communal violence, which has been a common feature of recent riots, such as in Gujarat in 2002 and Muzaffarnagar in 2013.

Conclusion

The ways to address this issue is by

  • Condemning the intolerance and hold to account public officials involved in committing or provoking religious violence;
  • Review, The Prevention of Communal and Targeted Violence (Access to Justice and Reparations) Bill or some other similar bill;
  • Adopt measures to address long-standing economic, social and cultural discrimination against religious minorities.

Apart from this, the people’s mindsets must be changed towards other sects and religions and also the education system should be formulated in such a way which doesn’t glorify the Hindu kings only, but should be about the other prominent Muslim kings, so that it doesn’t build in the mindsets of the younger generation that the other religion are rivals to them and should be taught about secularism and unity of the people.


– Vaishnavi Sabhapathi

Content Writer @ Legal Bites


References

[1] http://www.scmp.com/week-asia/politics/article/2100513/modis-party-stokes-anti-muslim-violence-india-report-says