The concept of religion and secularism have played an important role in the history of our country. Some leaders made religion a tool to divide India while some used secularism to strengthen its unity and fraternity. Nehru was the one who left no stone unturned to strengthen secularism during the 1940s.
A number of Hindu militants skilfully tried to disrupt the idea of a secular state through careful propaganda. They condemned secularism as appeasement of the Muslim community.
They were of the opinion, “Why Hindus deny themselves a Hindu state and a preferred status for the sake of the Muslims who” according to them, “were disloyal to the concept of a composite state.”
Nehru rejected this radical idea, calling it narrow and intolerant and said, “As long as I am at the helm of Affairs, India will not become a Hindu State.”
Similarly in a Constituent Assembly, when a Muslim Leaguer demanded separate electorates, Nehru retorted, “Do you want a real national secular state or a theocratic state? If the latter, then in this union of India a theocratic state can only be a Hindu state…Will anything be more dangerous than that?”
Nehru was quite well aware of the importance of secularism in India. He knew well that India could develop only if all communal pulls and fanatic revivalism were exempted from the secular polity.
Nehru’s Idea of Religion and Secularism
There are three main features of the Nehruvian concept of Indian Secularism.
- Indian secularism is not liberal i.e. it ensures maintaining religious neutrality, equality, and liberty to all the minorities living in our country while combating communalism and radicalism.
- Indian secularism is not absolute. Though it gives religious freedom to all the communities, yet these liberties can be taken away by the judiciary in order to maintain public order, morality, and welfare of citizens.
- The Nehruvian concept of secularism allows religion to play a part in social welfare.
The religion was an important dimension to Jawaharlal Nehru’s concept of secularism. He was essentially a religious man but not in the sense in which religion was understood in India. He was once asked, “Are you religious?” He answered, “Yes, but not of the temple going type.”
He believed that some form of religious belief is important for mankind, however, it prevents scientific growth and development in society. He wanted religion to develop the inner-self of a man and hated it as a tool to create violence in the country.
Hence it could be said that the political propaganda in the name of religion could harm India at that time but it was because of Nehru and the like-minded leaders that India became a secular state.