ArticlesConstitutional Law

Managing Religious Intolerance in India’s Secular Structure

Written By Rayma Kumari

3rd Year Student of BA.LLB(Hons)

Lovely Professional University, Punjab

Introduction

Religious intolerance in a secular nation is a complicated task, as the colourful fabric of India demonstrates. India is a country renowned for its diverse spirit and rich cultural diversity, and its secular identity works to protect the values of equality and religious freedom. But the reality frequently presents a sharp contrast, with incidents of religious intolerance recurring and eroding secularism itself.

Religion – A definition

A diverse range of faiths, including Buddhism, Sikhism, Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, and Jainism, are essential to India’s religious landscape. Throughout history, this diversity has served as a source of both strength and conflict. Even though the Indian Constitution gives every individual the freedom to freely practise and spread their religion, incidents of religious intolerance still damage the secular fabric of the country.

A Political Society

Political objectives and long-standing sectarian tensions generate communal violence, which is one of the main expressions of religious intolerance in India. Religiously inspired riots and conflicts have caused deaths, property damage, and deep-seated hostility amongst communities, leaving a scar on the nation’s collective psyche. These epidemics not only threaten social cohesion but also destroy public confidence in the government’s ability to safeguard its citizens fairly.
Moreover, prejudice and marginalisation in a variety of social contexts are common manifestations of religious intolerance. Discriminatory policies based on religious identification in housing, work, and education exacerbate socioeconomic injustices and impede the country’s efforts to become a more inclusive society. Furthermore, religious tensions are heightened by hate speech and propaganda that is disseminated through a variety of media, creating a hostile and mistrusting atmosphere.
The terrain of religious intolerance in India is made more complex by the politicisation of religion. Politicians frequently take use of religious feelings to win over voters, escalating religious divides and widening rifts in society. In addition to undermining the secular ethos, this use of faith for profit puts the democratic ideals guaranteed by the Constitution in jeopardy.

Battle Against Disparities

In a secular nation like India, combating religious intolerance necessitates a multifaceted strategy that includes social, legal, and educational reforms. To discourage offenders and rebuild trust in the court system, legal mechanisms for ensuring prompt and unbiased justice for victims of religious violence must be strengthened. To avoid inciting tensions within communities, strong controls against hate speech and propaganda must also be put in place.
Building a culture of mutual respect and understanding as well as interfaith conversation are crucial for bridging the gaps caused by religious intolerance. As a result, curricula should include modules on religious tolerance, secularism, and pluralism to develop ideals of coexistence from an early age. Educational institutions have a key role in moulding attitudes and perceptions.
In addition, religious leaders and civil society organisations are essential in fostering unity and peace across varied populations. Projects that involve collaboration, grassroots movements, and interfaith initiatives can act as catalysts to promote unity and create bridges across different religious groups.

The Unsettling Episode in Delhi

A gang of people posing as Hindu nationalists forced their way inside the Siyyon Prarthna Bhawan congregation in Delhi during a Sunday church session. This led to fights that broke out in the prayer hall, injuring people and causing damage to furniture, musical instruments, and Bibles. Widespread videos of the incident, which showed the disturbing scenes of disruption, went viral.
The group reportedly praised Lord Ram and held up placards endorsing a “Hindu Rashtra” (Hindu nation). These catchphrases highlighted the fundamental ideological motivations of the disruptors and increased tensions during the encounter.

Following the tragedy, Christian members were obligated to leave for their safety, especially the children. More intimidation followed the filing of complaints with the police, as a gathering chanting slogans outside the police station represented groups like Bajrang Dal, Vishwa Hindu Parishad, and Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh. The ensuing intimidation and the flight of fear are indicative of how serious the situation is.
This is not a unique instance. It’s part of an unsettling trend that has been getting worse over time. According to the United Christian Forum, there has been a notable surge in attacks against Christians since 2014. Specifically, the number of documented attacks on churches has increased from 147 in 2014 to 599 in the year prior. Remarkably, in just the first 190 days of 2023, there were around 400 attacks on churches and Christians, spanning 23 states.

Lawsuits and Responsibility

The Delhi event is a sobering reminder of the difficulties caused by religious intolerance in India. The increasing frequency of attacks on religious minorities highlights how vital it is to protect the nation’s diversity and democracy. India can preserve its rich cultural heritage by confronting these issues head-on and promoting religious harmony in the community.

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In conclusion

Religious intolerance threatens the fundamental ideals of equality, freedom, and fraternity, posing a serious threat to India’s secular fabric. To overcome this obstacle, everyone involved must work together to protect secularism’s principles and make sure that India’s diversity continues to be its greatest asset rather than a cause of division. This includes the government, civic society, religious organisations, and the general public. To genuinely achieve its objective of an inclusive and pluralistic society where everyone is free to practise, India must unite its people and show unshakable commitment.

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