Here is your essay on the Gandhiji’s views on secularism !
Secularism as a modern political and constitutional principle involves two basic propositions. The first is that people belonging to different faiths and sections of society are equal before the law, the Constitution and government] policy. The second requirement is that there can be no mixing up of religion and politics.
It follows therefore that there can be no discrimination against anyone on the basis of religion or faith nor is there room for the hegemony of one religion or majoritarian religious sentiments and aspirations. It is in this double sense—no discrimination against anyone on grounds of faith and separation of religion from politics—that our Constitution safeguards secularism, however imperfectly.
These political principles imply also the acceptance of a somewhat more general! principle: that the realm of validity of religion in the public arena and society is necessarily limited. Religion, being above all a matter of personal faith, cannot be used as the basis of settling questions of the real world, or of man in society.
While individuals in society may base their values on particular religious tenets, where such questions impinge on society as a whole the basis of discussion and social consensus cannot be religion—much less one particular religion.
This larger principle does not conflict with the historical fact that certain values in a society may have their foundation in religion; these values are re-examined in a rational and humane spirit before they are accepted as the values that govern the functioning of a modern society, and new values indeed are created which are necessary for modern times.
Despite the weaknesses of actual practice, elements of this understanding of secularism have been an essential part of the accepted political values of modern Indian society, leading, for instance, to the rejection of untouchability and sati, to the formal rejection of caste, and to the institution of affirmative action as a means of redressing socioeconomic inequalities. It is this larger principle that is sought to he challenged today by Hindutva; defending it lies, I believe, at the heart of the struggle against fundamentalism and communalism.
Gandhi and Secularism: Mahatma Gandhi was a keen student of all religions. Apart from his study of Hinduism, Buddhism and Jainism, he was an avid reader of Christian and Islamic scriptures as well. All forms of religion attracted Gandhi immensely, and through his thorough understanding of all, he successfully arrived at a composite understanding of religion and God as a whole.
This holistic understanding of man’s spiritual quest led Gandhi to adopt and preach a theory of tolerance and mutual respect founded on truth and maintenance of non-violence. Gandhi was also pained by the caste-based social structure that India has religiously followed from time immemorial, and particularly the curse of untouchability, which to Gandhi was the greatest sin of all because it hot only spelt discrimination but debased a particular section of mankind on an occupational basis. He felt Indian society to be weakened at its very core and embarked in a fight against it with his heart and soul.
Gandhi’s secular theories took on a special significance in the particular context of the Indian national movement. Indian society has been traditionally plagued by the evils of caste and creed based discrimination. The caste oriented stratification of die Indian society has hindered all chances of national unification from the early days of Indian society.
The situation was complicated by the presence of various religious groups within the country, who were not ready to compromise any ground to reach a platform of commonality. The traditional rhetoric of the religious and the self-styled spiritual preachers fuelled these divisions more often than not. It was a great pain for Gandhi that India’s age old tradition of religious tolerance was not being maintained when it was more needed.
What particularly disturbed him was the realization that it would be impossible to organize any nationwide movement against the common opposition of the British oppressors, if society continues to remain divided on religious grounds.
Secularism for Gandhi was an absolute necessity to bring about any form of constructive and all-encompassing political movement. Gandhi preached his ideals of secularism and religious tolerance across the length and breadth of the country. He showed his consolidation to the Muslim leaders through the support that Congress extended to the Khilafat movement.
Gandhi wrote extensively on the need of secularism in India, and made speeches to the same effect all over the country. It was not the easiest of tasks for Gandhi. The British were bent upon implementing the policy of divide and rule, and it took its worst form after the declaration of separate elections for the different communities in the declaration of the Government of India Act in 1935. Indian National movement has always been plagued by communal tensions, and haunted it till the very end.
Gandhi’s monumental efforts bringing together the various communities in India were not fully realized The British policy of ‘divide and rule’ had its effects, and the demand for a separate Muslim nation was fast gaining currency. Gandhi was hurt, but he realized his helplessness.
Even at the intense riots on the eve of Indian independence Gandhi was on the roads trying to unite the warring communal factions. Even his death can in many ways be related to his lifelong commitment to secular principles.