We all know that India is a hub of various religions and cultures residing all together. Despite its flaws and faults, we claim to be united and secular to the world proudly, celebrating its 75 years of unity. Indian Constitution is said to be the glue behind it for many years. What about now? Is this still true?
Do Indian citizens still have this secular mindset and opinion, or its found in the books only? Is secularism a myth or reality in India? Let us look into the reality of today along with the fresh opinions of some Indian citizens.
The majority of us have never felt any racism or discrimination during our childhoods and early school life. Most religious-based school foundations express and allow students to practice their religious beliefs to a certain level e.g. Christian convent schools and the Marathi community-based. Despite growing up in such schools, many people did not find any such bias or racist remarks in their personal life with their classmates, teachers, and other staff members during school days.
When they grew up and were exposed to external surroundings and environment, directly or accidentally, they have witnessed or experienced some level of racism and discrimination towards their religion or culture. Snehal Rananavare, a computer science graduate, said she felt this after stepping into her graduation life. Most people agreed that the graduation period got them exposed to those realities directly or indirectly in their lives. Many others choose to maintain a balanced and peaceful life by being diplomatic in such situations, said one person in my interview.
Shahid Afridi, a Hyderabadi student, explains how exposure to social media affects people’s mindsets, making them support religious extremists and orthodox organizations and political parties and eventually turning into one of them. He also explains how the current lockdown restricts people from getting access to on-field or crude information regarding topics, that are religiously or culturally controversial.
When I asked people if secularism is a myth or reality in India, I got mixed responses, which pretty much explain the undefinable blurring line of secularism’s existence in our country. Many people believe that secularism in India is neither a myth nor a reality. All the factors that affect secularism and ideology, such as racism, discrimination on caste or religion, exist but aren’t strong.
Abhishek Nair, who is pursuing post-graduation in journalism says that we have no such uniform civil code or any separation of law firms for religion and state in India, which technically says that secularism doesn’t exit properly from the start. But when it comes to reality, then secularism is seen among people. Racism or religious discrimination doesn’t occur when people are face to face with each other. People generally tend to live in peace and harmony with each other until some external factors or circumstances take places, such as a social gathering or notorious group activity whose intention is to spread hatred among people that affects or offends them personally.
People rarely felt, witnessed, or observed such issues in their lives. But when they do, not only the people who belong to minority caste, religion, culture, or community faces this. But people from the majority feel it too. Things like the change in tone of talking and different treatment methods from others, getting hurtful cunning puns or getting dragged into unlikeable group discussions, small quarrels, and subtle discrimination in class or job life are faced by all sometimes.
Every person I interviewed agreed that the human mindset is the most responsible factor for evil rather than media and politics. From generation to generation, the attitude and the pattern of secularism in India changes. A hundred per cent of efficient secularism is not possible. Yet, there is a good amount of this that exists today.
A journalism student said that politicians support and entertain the evil and corrupt mindsets of some humans, and the media showcase this, irrespective of how much they try to be the mouthpiece of politicians or higher authorities. No one can change the reality of Indian unity as long as many people don’t change their good and secular mindsets.
Social media is keeping a little balance when it comes to maintaining the unity of people by keeping and allowing people to express their mindsets to each other either by contradicting it or supporting it, unlike the broadcast media. Most broadcast media today is part of screwed established media and the mouthpiece of higher authority. People are continuing this pattern of media’s dual nature for decades.
Most of the people I have communicated to strongly believe that Indian laws are just when it comes to keeping religious laws. And the firm belief in the constitution fairness. But there are some laws which some of them suggested has to be reformed. Many others opined that general, and binding rules for the future, like introducing a uniform civil code in India should be created.
It might get criticisms at first, but it will be great for the long term in the future. India needs to have sovereign state laws regarding religion because each state knows its people’s diversity and commonness better. And it will lead to proper customized state-to-state religious laws rather than making a “one size fits all” type of religious law for everyone overall.
“Some sections under IPC like 153A and 295A needs reforming when it comes to defining many terms like religious enmity so that people can’t use it as a loophole and can’t misuse it for their benefit”, says Abhishek Nair.
In conclusion, India should make secularism exists in-laws as it exists in the hearts of Indians. And in return, Indians should keep their mindset in check, striving hard to maintain secularism and a sense of unity for India.
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