The head and heart of secularism

News: Whether a particular religious practice offends the principles of secularism is often debated in India.

The French model of secularism

It is clear of all religious considerations. It debars the public officials to demonstrate their religious affiliation, does not permit the wearing of Cross or, if worn, cannot be shown and prohibits the wearing of the hijab, in public places.

India’s Secularism Model

In India, the model of Secularism is different from the laicite in France. It is decided on case by case, whether a particular practice is against the core principles of secularism, or not.

In India, the decisions are often taken based on heart, compassion and tolerance.

Issues of Indian Model of Secularism

In reality, every policy needs one steadfast instrument for its implementation. But, in India, multiple instruments are employed to implement secularism.

Decoding the Indian Secularism

In India, it is the tenets of citizenship that should guide the state policy on secularism.

Case of banning of cow slaughter

The Directive Principles of our Constitution (DPSP) recommended for banning cow slaughter because it does not “harm” citizenship, it doesn’t degrade public space, it doesn’t inhibit acquiring educational and health facilities, it doesn’t impair the functioning of public institutions and eating beef is not compulsory for Muslims and it was also not acceptable to Hindus.

In fact, there are various countries which have banned the slaughter of different kinds of animals for food, even without getting into the question of religion.

Others cases

Various regulations are made on the use of loudspeakers in mosques and temples because these are an invasion of public space and a health hazard as they contribute to noise pollution.

Regulations have been made on carrying out the religious ceremony because it curtails public space, and causes problems to other persons using those spaces.

The CPCB regulates the immersion of idols in rivers, say of Goddess Durga or Lord Ganesh are supposed to be of eco-friendly material because they can lead to water pollution.

Case of Burqa and Hijab

The objections are being made on the wearing of the Burqa and Hijab in the public spaces. Without going into whether wearing them is essential to Islam or not, such practice impair the functioning of public institutions like it restrict vision, mobility and communication. It promotes barriers in socialisation and cooperation between men and women as equal citizens of India

They entail the issue of “harm”. There whether its is “essential” to a religion, or not should not matter.

Way Forward

The decision on secularism in India should be based on citizenship considerations alone. Instead of choosing between the heart [Indian Model] and the head [France Model].

Source: The post is based on an article “The head and heart of secularism” published in the Business Standard on 21st June 2022.

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