India is declared a Secular Republic by Constitution of India. Day and night political leaders of all hues swar by secularism. Surprisingly, even Bhartiya Janata Party swears by secularism. they have coined a phrase 'genuine secularism' which implies that the BJP brand of secularism is real and others are fake. It has been remarjed about socialism that this is like a hat which has lost its shape because evryone wears it. The concept of secularism has become very confusing indeed. Shri Lal Krishna Advani, Senior BJP leader surprised everybody by his remak tha Mr. Jinnah, founder of pakistan was secular.
Dictionary meaning of secularism is- Not religious or spiritual. Although we do not expect plitical leaders and bureaucrats to completely avoid religious practices. But it is reightly expected that everyone while exercising any state function or duty should refrain from religious practices or in any way demonstrating his attachment to any religion. In fact, Pandit Jawahar Lal Nehru, our first Prime Minister had some controversy with First President Dr. Rajendra Prasad. Pt Nehru did not appreciate visit by President of India to religious places in his official capacity. this view is reinforced by French goverment 's action of banning all religious symbols in Public educational institutions.
We find that our politicians openly exhibit their religious beliefs even while filing nominations for elections. even self proclaimed secularists like Lalu Yadav d not refrain from visiting temples and seeking blessings of deity for their victory in elections. apparently, their motive is to influence the electorate. They visit all type of religious places depending on religious preferences of the electorate.
Secularism is being redefined in India. According to certain politicians especially of congress and BJP, secularism means treating all religios communities equally, and this does not mean avoiding religious practices in performance of public duties. According to BJP, secularism has been wrongly translated as Dharma Nirpekshata in India. As Dharma means ones's duties, one cannot be neutral to dharma. So they have coined a phrase, Panth Nirpekshata- which is being neutral from various sects. Commonly, we understand that religion and dharma are equivalent and this newly coined phrase is deceptive and misleading. Rightly or wrongly, secularism as practised by Congress Govt since independence has been dubbed as minority appeasement by BJP.
It can be said without fear of contradiction that secularism has not been properly observed since independence. As regards the allegation of minority appeasement, very little has been done to uplift minorities despite their backwardness. they have been treated as mere vote bank. This situation must be remedied. the minority communities have themselves to ensure that that are not used as vote bank. The govt. will do well to work for all people in accordance with social and economic realitities and they must refrain from vote bank politics.
Genuine secularism (not as perceived by BJP) is the only alternative to do justice to all and usher in a progressive and truly democratic direction. while the politicians and bureaucrats have full right to practise their religious practices as individuals, they have no business to exhibit the religios symblism while practising any public functions. The election code of conduct also needs be revisited to ensure that politicians publicy indulging in display of religious symbolism and worship for influencing the electorates are disqualified. We must draw a lesson from France.