Why India is not a Secular State
The world community has rightly regarded Pakistan and Bangladesh as examples of theocratic states practicing policies of harsh discrimination against Hindus and other minorities. Sri Lanka’s Singhala-centric policies have generated gross discrimination against its Tamil citizens. Beyond India’s South Asian neighbourhood, numerous Islamic states such as Afghanistan and Saudi Arabia follow unjust policies toward minorities of all kinds that are an affront to civilized values everywhere and at all times. India in contrast is seen as a shining example of a secular state.
With the Republic Day just gone by, it is time to ask: But is India really a secular state?
I do not think so.
Political secularism may be defined as the separation of religious activities from those of the state, customarily referred to as "the separation of church and state" in the west. Secularism in theory then would mean that religion and state cannot occupy the same space. The state in its governmental capacity does not promote any religion or religious group, nor does it intervene in religious affairs. It cannot even be involved in interpretation or "reform" of any religion much less favour one over any other. This model of secularism may be characterized as maximum separation between state and religion except on manifest grounds of morality, health, and public order. Theoretical formulation, interpretation, and implementation of secularism have varied in several countries. In Indian context, the votaries of Hindutva equate it with appeasement of minorities, thus "pseudo-secularism." Apologists of Indian secularism call it "religious equi-distance, not non-involvement," meaning that Indian state is neutral between religions and religious communities.
I demonstrate that in practice, Indian state actually privileges Hinduism over other religions and religious communities. The Indian state is in fact the defender of the dharma for the following five reasons.