Secularism is the principle of separation of the state from religious institutions. But various interpretations of the principle across the world have led to multiple models of “Secularism”. Indian form of secularism emerged out of its Past experiences, Historical necessities and values system.
- Tolerance as a value is an integral part of Indian culture since ancient times. This is reflected in
- Syncretism: Budha was taken into Hindu fold and adopted various features of shramana traditions. Various schools of philosophy are also result of this syncretic quality.
- Emergence of various Bhakti sects.
- Tolerant policies of rulers from Ashoka to Akbar. Ex: “Dhamma”, “Din-i-ilahi”
- Other religions introduced on Indian soil assimilated into the Indian culture and this fusion of different cultures created a richer composite culture. Ex: Caste like division in Islam; Reverence of Sufi saints by Hindus.
- This composite culture could be preserved by Indian form of secularism which allowed different socio-cultural groups retain their respective identities but also form a part of a bigger politico-economic entity called the Indian nation.
- Being a multireligious and culturally diverse nation, India could ensure religious harmony based on religious egalitarianism (equality for all religions) rather than separation of religion from the state. It is evident in the “Sarva dharma sambhava” idea promoted by Gandhi.
- The idea of secularism based on equality was a necessity in inculcating a sense of nationalism in various socio-cultural groups during anti-colonial struggle.
Thus, India adopted its own form of secularism, different from the western one, which is not a divorce of religion from the state but one that gave equal treatment to all religions.