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source: openparachute.wordpress.com

source: openparachute.wordpress.com

Secularism is one of the words which define the modern thought and enlightenment. Secularism is the ideology of separation of religion and state, there shall be no interference of religion in state affairs and there shall be no interference of state in religious affairs. This ideology is baseline of a system which grants more personal freedom, starting from freedom to choose religious beliefs, or not to choose any belief at all. This lies in domain of idea of personal liberty, which was the basis of many revolutions.

The idea of secularism originated out of dark ages in Europe. Though the word ‘secularism’ was first used by British writer George Jacob Holyoake, in 1851, the idea existed even before. In dark ages, the nexus of state (King) with religion (church) circumvented the entire political dynamics in favor of them. There were random executions throughout the Europe in the name of witchcraft, exorcism, blasphemy, sedition and rebellion. The only hope for people was to demolish the entire system of first estate (clergy) and second estate (nobility) dominance. This was done by French revolution, which performed the demolition by a rude cruelty. There were several political executions from first estate and second estate. The pinnacle was the execution of king and queen of France along with their family by Guillotine i.e, beheaded by huge iron Axe, dropped under the influence of gravity, so that the subject is beheaded at once, was supposed to be painless because of immediate beheading. The climax was the execution of Maximilian Robespierre, the architect of revolution, by same infamous Guillotine. But all that bloodshed was not waste, and hence came the idea of modern state dynamics such as democracy and secularism. The subsequent revolutions such as Russian revolution endorsed the idea of secularism, sometimes so forcefully that they abandoned religious thoughts in public domain completely, as done by communist regimes. 

Whereas the idea of secularism in Europe evolved out of compulsion to throw out the political nexus between state and church, in India it evolved as a way of life. It was so subtle and obvious, that Indians seldom recognized that they were secular until it was written in constitution implicitly. It all started with migration of different races and religions to India, around 500BCE. The first to arrive in India were Jews. Primarily they were traders from central Asia, willing to do business with rich Indian counterparts. India in those days , along with China, was the trading hub of the world because of all the tropical agricultural advantages both countries reaped.Later more Jews came to settle down in India because of Roman destruction of Jeruslam and destruction of second temple in 70 C.E. Later there were some jewish groups who escaped to India fearing Persian and Islamic conflicts. So, basically, jews have been a part of India since 500BCE. There was not even one conflict reported by historians because of jewish settlement in India. India was probably the only country in the world where Jews didn’t face antisemitism, and to this date, the Jewish community is peacefully living with Indians in areas of Cochin, Mumbai,Ahemdabad and Delhi. They were accepted by Indian society, and they too contributed to it. Some famous Indian Jews include Esther Victoria Abraham (first ever Miss India), Ruby Myers (aka Sulochana. Bollywood actress) and Eli Ben-Menachem (a former Israeli politician who served as a member of the Knesset for the Alignment, the Labor Party and One Israel).

Source: theshiksa.com

Source: theshiksa.com

Second to come were Persians. Persians of Zoroastrian communities arrived in India in 8th century AD, to escape the persecutions by Muslim invasion over Persian Empire. Likewise jews, Parsis, as they called in India, were very well absorbed in India. They adopted to Indian culture and begun wearing Indian outfits and following Indian cuisines, not to mention speaking regional languages. In this case also, historians never informed about any conflict of parsis with other communities in India. Obviously, India belongs to one of the few countries where Zoroastrians live. This community gave India some prominent leaders such as Pherozshah Mehta, Dadabhai Naoroji and Bhikaji Cama. Other prominent personalities of Indian persians are Homi Jahangir Bhabha (Famous Indian Physicist), Jamshedji Tata (Founder Tata group), Godrej, Wadia, Field Marshall Manekshaw (Famous Indian war Hero, 1971 war) and Freddie Mercury (lead vocalist and lyricist of the rock band Queen, who self confessed the influence on Lata Mangeshkar on his singing during his schooling days in India). 

Source: Wikipedia

Source: Wikipedia

Sam_Manekshaw

Other than these were Christians, who came to India along with Apostle Thomas (St. Thomas) in 52 A.D. This was even before the Christianity arrived to European ends. Apostle Thomas converted some local Cochin Jews and Hindus into Christians, and in this way, these people were Christian even before the Europeans and Americans. Strangely in-spite of mass conversions there were no conflicts reported. Actual conflict begun when English brought missionaries and forced conversions. 
In the same lines, we can figure out the arrival of Islam in India along with Turkish and Afghani invaders. In-spite of huge demolition and loot by these invaders, there were no religious riots. Even later in rule of Muslim dynasties, there was no conflict reported on communal lines. Other religions such as Buddhism, Sikhism, Jainism and Hinduism were born in India , hence were always a part of this land, and there was no conflict in them. 

Till 19th century, the Indian way of life was free from religious fanaticism and rioting, but this changed with the role of colonial ambitions of Britain in India. To sustain itself in India, Britain pursued the policy of divide and rule. This was not strange, as the same was applied in Europe for nation forming. Countries like Italy, Germany, Austria , Balkan nations were created out of lingual and racial similarities. Their nationalism was a function of their language, races and culture, and the idea of pluralism in one country was absurd to them. Hence British failed to see India as a plural and diverse nation, rather their scholars thought of India as a collection of many countries. In this way, the European idea of national identity migrated to India. First it was used for colonial gains and later for self political interests. The result was the creation of Pakistan, the only country in the world made in the name of religion, by two nation theory. But the theory failed itself when in 1971, Bangladesh separated form Pakistan. This proved that the idea of separate nation for separate communities is absurd and can’t be the reason for nationalism, otherwise Bangladesh would have never been created.

But the damage has been done till then. Religious sentiments had already crossed the political borders, and found many takers. As a result, independent India saw many riots, be it Hindu-Muslim riots or Hindu-Sikh riots. Religion found itself as a political power when politicians saw it as a vote bank. And till this date, we are being scared in the name of communal powers and are being asked to vote for secular powers.

Interesting thing is, in-spite of all this politicization of religious groups, India remains firm. Why? Credit goes to constitution makers who made a check on out and out practice of communal card. But a larger credit goes to Indian way of living. Why there were no communal rioting reported in ancient times? Because, unlike Europe, religion was not governing function of Indian state. No one cared which religion you followed because no one forced any one to pursue his beliefs. Kings didn’t care if their people were Hindus or Muslims or anything else. They were almost equally oppressive to all of them, and were equally welfaristic. There were Tipu Sultans loved by Hindus and Jai Singhs, loved by Muslims. Religion was believed to be a part of personal belief and not a tool to seize political power. Some of these practices are continued till this date too. India has always been socially secular though it had rough patches in state secularism in recent political history. But the most important is the fact is that an average Indian is so much adapted to pluralism socially , economically and culturally that it might take another thousand year for communal politics to demolish social secularism. This is why India stands firm in-spite of all these unfavorable conditions. To conclude the best would be to quote the famous lines –

Yunan-o-Misr-o-Roma Sab Mit Gaye Jahan Se
Ab Tak Magar Hai Baki Naam-o-Nishan Hamara
Kuchh Baat Hai Ke Hasti Mit’ti Nahin Hamari
Sadiyon Raha Hai Dushman Daur-e-Zaman Hamara.
– Allama Iqbal

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