How do the Indian debates on secularism differ from the debates in the West?

Published: January 17, 2015

Indian society and the Western society, at large, have differing sensibilities and understanding of the concept of secularism. This leads to there being a stark difference in the debates surrounding this issue.

In Indian society, secularism means equal treatment of all religions and no discrimination between followers of different religions. In western society, however, secularism refers to separation between the state and religion and freedom of religion for all people. While its historical legacy has led western civilization to develop a brand of secularism that primarily sought to emphasise the separation between church and state, India’s history has led to a different outcome. There’s no clear demarcation between state and religion in India, with the government being equally invested in all religions. This is why in India, secularism manifests itself by creation of an environment where every religion is represented and its followers can freely practice the religion. However, in a country like France, the hijab is banned, because external manifestation of religion is not appreciated in that society. Also, in western society, laws are made in isolation from religious principles. However, in India, the law seeks to accommodate the multiple religious principles that followers of different religions adhere to.

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