Sociology I

Delhi Law Academy


•            Famous French philosopher Auguste Comte coined the term Sociology in the year 1839.

•            The word “Sociology” has been derived from two words i. e. the Latin word “Socius “ or “Societus” meaning society, companion or associate and the Greek word “Logos” meaning “study” or “science” Hence, the etymological meaning of the term sociology- is the science of society or the study of society. Society is a web of social relationships i.e. human inter-actions and interrelations.

•            Sociology as a discipline is a product of Western intellectual discourse. However, writings about society can be traced back to the ancient Indian mythological, religious and spiritual texts such as the Veda, Upanishads, Puranas, Smritis, writings of Kautilya.

•            These writings talk volumes about rites, laws, customs, economy, polity, culture, morality, aesthetics and science. All these writings are replete with insights concerning social order and stability, mobility, human interrelationship and social governance.

•            Sociology emerged as a separate academic discipline in Indian universities in the 1st half of 20th century. At the beginning it was associated with Anthropology.

However, the growth of sociology and anthropology passed through three phases such as:

1.           First phase – 1773-1900.

2.           Second phase – 1901-1950.

3.           Third phase – 1950 till date

First Phase (1773-1900)

•            Before 1900, Sociology’ developed as tool for British administrators to understand Indian Society and Culture.

•            In 1774, William Jones founded the Royal Asiatic Society of Bengal, to study nature & man in India. Subsequently census was used to capture societal & cultural norms before undergoing changes, and help in controlling epidemics, famine etc.

Second Phase ( 1901-1950)

•            Beginning 20th century, professional sociologist like Herbert Risley (Tribe caste continuum), Browne (Andaman Islanders) & Rivers (Nilgiri-Todas) started working in India on different aspects of tribe.

•            Sociology as discipline made appearance in Bombay, Calutta & Lucknow University, due to contributions of B.N. Seal, G.S. Ghurye, B.K. Sarkar, Radhakamal Mukherjee, D.P. Mukerji and K.P.Chattopadhyay. However, their intellectual interests, methods of data collection, and their interpretations of the Indian social system and social institutions were strongly influenced by the ethnographic works produced by scholar-administrators throughout the colonial period.

•            Studies on caste, family, marriage and kinship, social stratification, tribal communities, rural and urban society figured prominently in this period.

•            It would be no overstatement to mention that Ghurye introduced the down-to-earth empiricism in Indian Sociology. His diversified interests are also reflected in his works e.g. family, kinship structures, marriage, religious sects, and ethnic groups – castes.

•            Whereas Seal and Sarkar were products of the Bengali renaissance and were inspired by the Indian National Movement, and had pioneered studies on ethnicity, religion and culture , Chattopadhyay (social anthropologist) conducted large scale social surveys which exposed the conditions of the peasantry and the working class as well as of the tribals in Bengal and away.

•             The pioneers of Sociology’ in Lucknow particularly Radhakamal Mukherjee focused on the issues of rural economy and land problems (1926, 1927), deteriorating agrarian relations and conditions of the peasantry in Oudh (1929), population problems (1938), and problems of the Indian working class (1945), being initially trained in economics.

Third phase: ( 1950 – till date) or Development of Sociology in post independence Indian scholars

•            The phase of expansion of Sociology began in 1952, with several factors account in its growth. The policy makers of independent India pursued objectives of economic regeneration and social development, and they recognized the role of the social sciences in attaining the objectives of national reconstruction and development.

•            They defined the new task of Sociology as social engineering and social policy science. It meant increased participation by social scientists, particularly economists and sociologists, in research and social and economic development.

•            At the same time heavy funding from Ford Foundation to save India from sliding into the revolutionary communist path of development led many sociologists in India to undertake researches in the field of community development also in the process of strengthening the policy relevant researches.

•            A major reason that contributed to the growth of Sociology in the post-independence period can also be attributed to the policy of administration followed by Indian state declared the practice of untouchability in any form an offence, and with the introduction of reservation for Scheduled Castes and Tribes (SCs and STs) in the legislatures and jobs in the government and the public sector, a new field was opened up for study to sociologists, though very few were aware of this fact. Indian society has a mosaic structure of agriculture and industries.

•            This kind of complex structure raises economical and social inequalities. These inequalities are based on the ground of caste, class, and gender. The Indian society if facing change from agriculture to market based capitalism.

•            The contradictions in society gave birth to new streams like Sociology of gender, Dalit studies, Sociology of tribe. Recent development in the Sociology’ is inclusion of Sociology of Development and the Sociology’ of Globalization, some scholars also develop the new academic branches of Sociology’ e.g. Sexuality and Reproductive health, Social Theory, Collective actions in Urban Arena.


•            Today, Indian sociologists are becoming more aware of the ruthless inequalities operating at national and international levels. Contemporary young sociologists are working to understand the new trends like social exclusion, Ethnicity, culture in the broader context of social justice.

•            The problems of language, publication and funding continue to continue. Sociologists are either working in regional languages and suffer from scantiness of vernacular journals or even if they are writing their reports in English there is very little chance of getting them published, particularly in limited English language journals. As a result what is being done hardly ever comes to the knowledge of the international community and good works may never see the light of day’.

•            To rescue from this situation the Indian Sociological Society has taken concrete steps to support regional associations by organizing special symposia on regional issues and in this way encourage sociologies from below.

•            Many challenges that Sociology-‘ is facing in India, like pertaining to the quality of students, concerned to the paucity of faculties and Funding because of neglect and failure on the part of state governments. Indian Sociological Society is making every possible effort to make stronger the reach and extent of Sociology’ in India. The fast growing NGO sector is also contributing significantly to the growth and development of applied and action Sociology-‘ in India.

•            This sector is also trying hard to grapple with and bringing to light the problems of the backward and the marginalized groups in the country. While academic Sociology- in India is losing ground in terms of providing jobs, the NGO sector has emerged in a big way to help the young Sociology-‘ entrants since they are considered well equipped and trained in field research and research methodologies.


G S Ghurye‘s understanding of Caste in India can be considered as historicalindological as well as comparative. In his book “Caste and race in India”, he agrees with Sir Herbert Risley that “Caste is a product of race that came to India with along with Aryans“. According to him caste originated from race and occupation stabilised it.

Ghurye explains caste in India based on six distinctive characteristics:

1.           Segmental division of society

2.           Hierarchy

3.           Civil & religious disabilities and privileges

4.           Lack of unrestricted choice of occupation

5.           Restriction on food, drinks & social intercourse

6.           Endogamy

According to GS Ghurye caste is product of various historical processes, adapting to demand of time and therefore a dynamic institution.

Segmental division of society

Under Caste System society is divided into several small social groups called castes. Additionally, there are multiple divisions and subdivisions of caste system.The membership is ascribed in character, i.e. it is based on birth and flows from generation to generation. The members of every division have fixed status, roles and tasks. There are also a set of moral ethics, obligations and justification value behind these roles. Hence, each caste has its own traditional social status, occupations, customs rules and regulations.


According to Ghurye, Caste is hierarchical. Theoretically, brahmins occupy the top position and Shudras occupy the bottom. The castes can be graded and arranged into a hierarchy on the basis of their social precedence. The Hierarchy determines caste norms. The hierarchy present in caste system is reflected through the division of labor in society.

Civil & religious disabilities and privileges

Civil and religious disabilities reflect the rigidity of the caste system. In a caste society, there is an un¬equal distribution of disabilities and privileges among its members. While the higher caste people enjoy all the privilege, the lower caste people suffer from various types of disabilities. The untouchables are not allowed to take water from public wells. They are not allowed to enter temples etc.

Lack of unrestricted choice of occupation

The occupations in caste system are fixed by heredity and generally members are not allowed to change their traditional occupations. The higher caste members maintain their supremacy in their jobs and do not allow the other caste group to join in the same occupation.

Restriction on food, drinks & social intercourse

Some rules have been imposed upon all caste people. Restriction on feeding and social intercourse are still prevalent in Indian society. There are two types of food i.e. Kachha (cooked) food and Pakka (raw) food upon which certain restrictions are imposed with regard to sharing, for example:

•            Caste groups from whom twice born caste people can accept Kachha food;

•            Caste group from whom twice born caste people can accept Pakka food;

•            Caste groups from whom twice born caste people can accept water but no food;

•            Caste groups from whom twice born caste people do not accept water or food and maintain distance.


•            Endogamy is the essence of Caste System. Every caste insists that its members should marry within the group. Disobeying the caste endogamy rule is not only treated as a crime but is also condemned as a sin.


•            In 1950’s, Prof M.N Srinivas introduced the term Sanskritization to Indian Sociology.

•            He introduced the notion of Sanskritization to explain the process of cultural mobility in India, in his book ‘Religion and Society among the Coorgs of South India’.

•            During his study, Srinivas found that lower castes, in order to raise their position in the caste hierarchy, adopted some customs and practices of the Brahmins and gave up some of their own, which were considered as impure by the higher castes.

o            For example, they gave up meat eating, drinking liquor and animal sacrifice to their deities.

o            They imitated Brahmins in matters of food, dressing and rituals.

•            By this they could claim higher positions in the hierarchy of castes within a generation.

Definition of Sanskritization

•            Sanskritization refers to a process wherein a low caste, tribe or other groups collectively change their customs, rituals, ideology and way of life in the direction of some upper dominant caste to acquire higher status in the society.

•            It is a process of upward mobility and is similar to the concept of “reference group” according to which people take the standards of significant others as reference to evaluate themselves.

Characteristics of Sanskritization:

•            The process of Sanskritization is characterised by imitation, change of ideals, social mobility, social change etc.

1.           Collective Phenomenon

•            Sanskritization is not the upward mobility achieved by an individual rather it is a collective phenomenon where the whole caste get higher status .

2.           Sanskritization is not Brahaminization

•            Initially, Prof. Srinivas used the term ‘Brahminisation’ for this process as he thought that the lower caste people must be trying to reach at the place of Brahmins.

•            But later on, he found that the lower castes are not only following Brahmins but also other caste groups.

o            So, he replaced Brahminisation by Sanskritisation.

3.           Beyond Caste Groups

•            Besides the castes, the process of Sanskritisation has been indicated in tribal communities like Bhils of Rajasthan, Gonds of Madhya Pradesh and other hilly tribes.

•            By the process of Sanskritisation a tribal community tries to prove itself to be a part of Hindu society.

4.           Integrated with Economic & Political domination

•            Sanskritization is the upward mobility in the ritual hierarchy and it generally becomes possible because of the upward mobility achieved in the secular hierarchy i.e. in the economic and political sectors.

•            The dominant castes got the higher status (ritual mobility) because of the factors like land ownership after the land reforms, government jobs, political power, constitutional safeguards etc.

Models of Sanskritization

•            Sanskritization also needed a medium to transmit in the society.

•            There were mainly three modes in which it took place in the society. These are:

1.           Cultural Model

2.           Varna Model

3.           Local Model

Cultural Model

•            Castes have been assigned high or low status according to cultural characteristics.

o            Example wearing of sacred thread, denying the use of meat and liquor, observing endogamy, prohibition of widow remarriage etc.

•            The low castes or tribes imitate the culture, beliefs, values and lifestyles of the dominant caste so as to get the status equal to the upper caste.

Varna Model

•            In the Varna system the highest status is given to that of a Brahmin followed by Kshatriya, Vaishya and Sudra.

•            The lower castes coping the ideals and lifestyle of the superior castes.

o            Where the Kshatriyas enjoy superiority, the lower castes followed their lifestyle and ideals.

o            Simultaneously where the vaishyas enjoy superiority, the lower castes followed their lifestyle and ideals.

Local Model

•            In every area, some castes are considered to be more respectful than others on account of their economic power.

•            This caste can be referred to as the “dominant caste”.

•            So, the lower caste copies the lifestyle of the local dominant caste in order to improve their status.


  • A caste is a form of social stratification determined by one single factor i.e. ritualistic legitimation of authority.
  • Class of a person is based on multiple factors like economic status, education, power, achievements etc.

The major differences between Caste and Class are:

Castes are perceived as hereditary groups with a fixed ritual status according to Max Weber’s phraseologyA person’s Class is based on social status, wealth and power acquired, level of education and other achievements.
A person belonging to certain caste has to follow certain traditions, rituals and customsA person belonging to a certain class is not bound by customs, rituals or traditions.
According to Sociologists such as Louis Dumon and Edmund Leach, caste is unique to the Indian sub-continentClasses are usually found in highly industrialized countries located in Europe, North America.
Inter caste marriage leads to disputes between family members and members of different castes.If there is a marriage between two people belonging to different classes, it does not evoke any kind of disputes between members of different Class.
The caste system does not promote democracy, since it severely limits equal opportunity to rise from an individual’s stationClass system does not act as a hindrance to democracy, since classification is based on education, social status, and the work one does.
Occupational mobility is one of the biggest banes of the Caste system. A person has to continue in the line of work of his ancestors irrespective of his interest, education and skills.Social class does not act as a hindrance to occupational mobility. A person belonging to any class can change his occupations based on his skills, education and interests.
The caste system has religious connotations.The class system is not based on any religion.
The Social Gap between people belonging to different castes is very wide which is not healthy for the overall progress of a nationThe Social gap between people belonging to different classes is narrower when compared to the gap that is prevalent among people belonging to different Castes.
Caste System is staticThe class system is dynamic
There is no scope for vertical social mobility since the division is solely determined by birth.There is ample scope for vertical social mobility for people belonging to different classes since it is dependent on one’s abilities, nature of work, education, acquisition of wealth, status etc.
Caste system works as a political force.Class system does not act as a political force.
Cumulative Inequality is a distinctive feature of the caste systemDispersed Inequality is a distinctive feature of the class system


•            The Hindu social system is structured by the underlying code of religion.

o            This code is reflected through the basic principle of Varna-Ashrama-Dharma.

•            While Varna deals with the division of society, Ashrama deals with the nature of training and living in four stages of life.

•            Together they propound a system referred to as varna ashrama – vyavastha.

Theory of Purusharth

•            Purushartha is a Sanskrit word meaning the “object of human pursuit” or “goals of man.

•            It refers to the four proper goals or aims of a human life.

•            Purushartha comprises the concepts of dharma, artha, kama and moksha.

•            Dharma is honest and upright conduct or righteous action.

•            Artha means a righteous and honest pursuit of economic activities.

•            Kama is the fulfillment of one’s normal desires.

•            Moksha is liberation, that is absorption of the self into eternal bliss.

•            Depending upon one’s deeds (karma) one is able to reach the stage of moksha or liberation.

•            The stage of moksha or liberation is a term for describing the end of the cycle of birth and rebirth. The cycle of birth and rebirth is known as samsara.

•            Moksha is considered to be the ultimate goal for any human. After this, Dharma takes priority over Artha or Kama.

•            These four goals can be seen in the context of the four stages of life (Ashrama), with each one relating to a different stage and the goals associated with it.


•           The ‘ashrama’ are regarded as resting places (stages) during one’s journey on the way to final liberation, which is the ultimate aim of life .

•            The ashramas are four in number:

(1)         Brahmacharya

•            Stage of student

•            In the ancient age, the pupil had to live with his teacher

•            Through dialogue with the teacher, he got to the learn the tenets of teachings.

This stage of learning was known Brahmacharyasrama.

•            In this phase, one acquires the knowledge of Dharma (the first purushartha).

(2)         Garhastha

•            Stage of married man, the house- holder

•            During this Ashrama, one pursues Artha (wealth, the second purushartha) and Kama (legitimate desires, the third purushartha).

(3)         Vanaprastha

•            Stage is that of retired life in the forest after abandoning one’s home

•            It is the preparatory stage  to complete renouncement of worldly relations.

•            The individual now gives up artha and kama by leaving his near and dear ones, his family (kula), his village (grama) and by abandoning his belongings and possession.

 •           This is the time to pre-occupy oneself with the fourth purushartha, Moksha.

(4)         Sanyasa

•            Complete renunciation of worldly relations and attachments.

•            In the last stage, the individual, free from all obligation, has to help himself in the search of the true knowledge and being of the self.

•            An Individual brings himself face to face with the final aim of all existence, namely moksha, in the last stage.

Varna Theory

•            Varna is the four divisions of society on the basis of labour and inheritance.

•            There are several passages in the Rig Veda dealing with the origin of the varnas, generally meaning socio-religious classes and effectively signifying economic and political status also.

•            The Purusasukta in the Rig Veda says that:

o            the Brahman varna represented the mouth of Purusa (Universal man)

o            the Rajana (Kshatriya) his arms

o            the Vaishya his thighs

o            the Shudra his feet

•            During the Vedic period, the institution of Varna was a system of division of labor and was not hereditary (like caste system).

•            There were no restrictions as regards particular occupations for persons belonging to a particular varna.

•            Thus, a person born as a Brahmana could take the occupation of a physician without thereby anyway degrading his social status.

•            In the post-Vedic period, the varna division is described in the Dharmashastra literature, the Mahabharat and in the Puranas.

•            During this time, caste percolates into varna system and varna system acquires features of caste.

•            Inter-dining and inter-marriages between different castes were precluded, the division of labor becomes hereditary.

•            The first three varnas are described in the Dharmasastras as “twice born” and they are allowed to study the Vedas.

•            Such a restriction of who can study Vedas is not found in the Vedic era literature.


•            The term ‘value’ occupies a predominant place in the subject of sociology. Social values form an integral aspect of the culture of the society with each culture having a distinctive value system.

•            Values provide stability to social order and bring legitimacy to rules that govern specific activities within the society.

Definition of Values:

•            In simple sense, values refer to intangible qualities or beliefs accepted and endorsed by a given society.

•            Haralambos defines values as “A value is a belief that something is good and worthwhile. It defines what is worth having and worth striving”. It is a preferred course of action.

•            While according to Peter Worsley, “Values are general conceptions of “the good”, ideas about the kind of ends that people should pursue throughout their lives and throughout the many different activities in which they engage”.

Types of Values:

Positive and Negative Values

•            In a broader sense, values can be seen in two aspects i.e. positive and negative. The desirable behaviour is understood as positive aspects of values and on the other hand, the behaviour which is not desirable to the society is understood as negative aspect of values.

Dominant Values & Variant Values

•            Dominant Values are values that have bounded society sanction and cannot be violated by an individual. Example – Non-violence in modern society. However, variant values are values that an individual has choice to follow while being part of culture & society. Example, choice of food – vegetarian vs non-vegetarian.

Relational classification of Values

•            Moral Values: moral values are standards of conduct followed by an individual to control over his/her impulses or desires. Some of the moral values are such as honesty, tolerance, truthfulness, sincerity, self-control, punctual, hard working, sacrifice, etc.

•            Rational Values: rational values include equality, liberty, justice, integrity, respect for others, secularism, socialism, democracy, social harmony, etc.

•            Individual Values: individual values include good manners and good conducts in “- relation to teacher, elders, juniors, family members, neighbours, friends, guests in every day life, patience, etiquettes, extending help to others, self-discipline, etc.

Relation between Norms & Values:

•            Every culture contains a large number of guidelines which’ direct the conduct of its constituent members in particular situations. Such guidelines are popularly known as norms. Norms specify how an individual ought to behave in consistency with values of a society,

•            Values are general ideas about what is desirable, but such general ideas do not specify how one should act in particular situation: norms do that. Norms are the means through which values are expressed in behaviour.

•            Values provide more general guidelines but norms are specific. For instance, paying respect to the elders is a social value. But there are different ways to pay respect to the elders such as touching feet, shaking hands, saying hallo or hugging, etc. These are social norms. Values are sets of beliefs an individual has to guide his behaviour while norms are codes of conduct set by a society.


  • The term “Secular” means being “separate” from religion, or having no religious basis.
  • A secular person is one who does not owe his moral values to any religion. His values are the product of his rational and scientific thinking.
  • Secularism means separation of religion from political, economic, social and cultural aspects of life, religion being treated as a purely personal matter.
  • It emphasized dissociation of the state from religion and full freedom to all religions and tolerance of all religions.
  • It also stands for equal opportunities for followers of all religions, and no discrimination and partiality on grounds of religion.

Secularism in the History of India

  • Secular traditions are very deep rooted in the history of India. Indian culture is based on the blending of various spiritual traditions and social movements.
  • In ancient India, the Santam Dharma (Hinduism) was basically allowed to develop as a holistic religion by welcoming different spiritual traditions and trying to integrate them into a common mainstream.
  • The development of four Vedas and the various interpretations of the Upanishads and the Puranas clearly highlight the religious plurality of Hinduism.
  • Emperor Ashoka was the first great emperor to announce, as early as third century B.C. that, the state would not prosecute any religious sect.
  • In his 12th Rock Edict, Ashoka made an appeal not only for the toleration of all religion sects but also to develop a spirit of great respect toward them.
  • Even after the advent of Jainism, Buddhism and later Islam and Christianity on the Indian soil, the quest for religious toleration and coexistence of different faiths continued.
  • In medieval India, the Sufi and Bhakti movements bond the people of various communities together with love and peace.
  • The leading lights of these movements were Khwaja Moinuddin Chisti, Baba Farid, Sant Kabir Das, Guru Nanak Dev, Saint Tukaram and Mira Bai etc.
  • In medieval India, religious toleration and freedom of worship marked the State under Akbar. He had a number of Hindus as his ministers, forbade forcible conversions and abolished Jizya.
  • The most prominent evidence of his tolerance policy was his promulgation of ‘Din-i-Ilahi’ or the Divine Faith, which had elements of both Hindu and Muslim faith.
  • That this was not imposed upon the subjects is obvious from the fact that there were few adherents to it. Along with this he emphasized the concept of ‘sulh-i-kul’ or peace and harmony among religions.
  • He even sponsored a series of religious debates which were held in the ‘Ibadat Khana’ of the Hall of Worship, and the participants in these debates included theologians from amongst Brahmins, Jains and Zoroastrians.
  • Even before Akbar, Babar had advised Humayun to “shed religious prejudice, protect temples, preserve cows, and administer justice properly in this tradition.”
  • The spirit of secularism was strengthened and enriched through the Indian freedom movement too, though the British have pursued the policy of divide and rule.
  • In accordance with this policy, the British partitioned Bengal in 1905.
  • Separate electorates were provided for Muslims through the Indian Councils Act of 1909, a provision which was extended to Sikhs, Indian Christians, Europeans and Anglo-Indians in certain provinces by the Government of India Act, 1919.
  • Ramsay MacDonald Communal Award of 1932, provided for separate electorates as well as reservation of seats for minorities, even for the depressed classes became the basis for representation under the Government of India Act, 1935.
  • However, Indian freedom movement was characterized by secular tradition and ethos right from the start.
  • In the initial part of the Indian freedom movement, the liberals like Sir Feroz Shah Mehta, Govind Ranade, Gopal Krishna Gokhale by and large pursued a secular approach to politics.
  • The constitution drafted by Pandit Moti Lal Nehru as the chairman of the historic Nehru Committee in 1928, had many provision on secularism as: ‘There shall be no state religion for the commonwealth of India or for any province in the commonwealth, nor shall the state, either directly or indirectly, endow any religion any preference or impose any disability on account of religious beliefs or religious status’.
  • Gandhiji’s secularism was based on a commitment to the brotherhood of religious communities based on their respect for and pursuit of truth, whereas, J. L. Nehru’s secularism was based on a commitment to scientific humanism tinged with a progressive view of historical change.
  • At present scenario, in the context of Indian, the separation of religion from the state constitutes the core of the philosophy of secularism.

Philosophy of Indian Secularism

  • The term ‘secularism’ is akin to the Vedic concept of ‘Dharma nirapekshata’ i.e. the indifference of state to religion.
  • This model of secularism is adopted by western societies where the government is totally separate from religion (i.e. separation of church and state).
  • Indian philosophy of secularism is related to “Sarva Dharma Sambhava” (literally it means that destination of the paths followed by all religions is the same, though the paths themselves may be different) which means equal respect to all religions.
  • This concept, embraced and promoted by personalities like Vivekananda and Mahatma Gandhi is called ‘Positive secularism’ that reflects the dominant ethos of Indian culture.
  • India does not have an official state religion. However, different personal laws – on matters such as marriage, divorce, inheritance, alimony varies with an individual’s religion.
  • Indian secularism is not an end in itself but a means to address religious plurality and sought to achieve peaceful coexistence of different religions.

Secularism and the Indian Constitution

There is a clear incorporation of all the basic principles of secularism into various provisions of constitution.

  • The term ‘Secular’ was added to the preamble by the Forty-second Constitution Amendment Act of 1976, (India is a sovereign, socialist, secular, democratic, republic).
  • It emphasise the fact that constitutionally, India is a secular country which has no State religion. And that the state shall recognise and accept all religions, not favour or patronize any particular religion.
  • While Article 14 grants equality before the law and equal protection of the laws to all, Article 15 enlarges the concept of secularism to the widest possible extent by prohibiting discrimination on grounds of religion, race, caste, sex or place of birth.
  • Article 16 (1) guarantees equality of opportunity to all citizens in matters of public employment and reiterates that there would be no discrimination on the basis of religion, race, caste, sex, descent, place of birth and residence.
  • Article 25 provides ‘Freedom of Conscience’, that is, all persons are equally entitled to freedom of conscience and the right to freely profess, practise and propagate religion.
  • As per Article 26, every religious group or individual has the right to establish and maintain institutions for religious and charitable purposes and to manage its own affairs in matters of religion.
  • As per Article 27, the state shall not compel any citizen to pay any taxes for the promotion or maintenance of any particular religion or religious institution.
  • Article 28 allows educational institutions maintained by different religious groups to impart religious instruction.
  • Article 29 and Article 30 provides cultural and educational rights to the minorities.
  • Article 51A i.e. Fundamental Duties obliges all the citizens to promote harmony and the spirit of common brotherhood and to value and preserve the rich heritage of our composite culture.

Indian vs. Western Model of Secularism

Over the years, India has developed its own unique concept of secularism that is fundamentally different from the parallel western concept of secularism in the following ways:

  • As per the western model of secularism, the “State” and the “religion” have their own separate spheres and neither the state nor the religion shall intervene in each other’s affairs.
  • Thus, the western concept of secularism requires complete separation of religion and state.
  • However, in India, neither in law nor in practice any ‘wall of separation’ between religion and the State exists.
  • In India, both state and religion can, and often do, interact and intervene in each other’s affairs within the legally prescribed and judicially settled parameters.
  • In other words, Indian secularism does not require a total banishment of religion from the State affairs.
  • As per the western model, the state cannot give any financial support to educational institutions run by religious communities.
  • On the other hand, Indian model has chosen a positive mode of engagement.
  • In India, the state provides all religious minorities the right to establish and maintain their own educational institutions which may receive assistance from state.
  • In the western model, State does not intervene in the affairs of religion till the time religion is working within the limits of the law.
  • On the other hand, in Indian secularism, state shall interfere in religion so as to remove evils in it.
  • India has intervened by enforcing legislation against the practices of sati or widow-burning, dowry, animal and bird sacrifice, child marriage, and preventing Dalits from entering temples.
  • In western concept of secularism, religion is relegated entirely to the private sphere and has no place in public life whatsoever.
  • The western model prohibits any public policy to be drafted on the basis of religion therefore; state is absolutely distanced from the religious activities and practices of its citizens.
  • In India, state has the policy of setting up Departments of Religious Endowments, Wakf Boards, etc. It is also involved in appointing Trustees of these boards.

Threats to Secularism

  • While, the Indian Constitution declares the state being absolutely neutral to all religion, our society has steeped in religion.
  • Mingling of Religion and Politics that is mobilisation of votes on grounds of primordial identities like religion, caste and ethnicity, have put Indian secularism in danger.
  • Communal politics operates through communalization of social space, by spreading myths and stereotypes against minorities, through attack on rational values and by practicing a divisive ideological propaganda and politics.
  • Politicisation of any one religious group leads to the competitive politicisation of other groups, thereby resulting in inter-religious conflict.
  • One of the manifestations of communalism is communal riots. In recent past also, communalism has proved to be a great threat to the secular fabric of Indian polity.
  • Rise of Hindu Nationalism in recent years have resulted into mob lynching on mere suspicion of slaughtering cows and consuming beef.
  • In addition with this, forced closure of slaughterhouses, campaigns against ‘love jihad’, reconversion or ghar- wapsi (Muslims being forced to convert to Hinduism), etc. reinforces communal tendencies in society.
  • Islamic fundamentalism or revivalism pushes for establishing Islamic State based on sharia law which directly comes into conflict with conceptions of the secular and democratic state.
  • In recent years there have been stray incidences of Muslim youth being inspired and radicalized by groups like ISIS which is very unfortunate for both India and world.

Way Forward

  • In a pluralistic society, the best approach to nurture secularism is to expand religious freedom rather than strictly practicing state neutrality.
  • It is incumbent on us to ensure value-education that makes the younger generation understands and appreciates not only its own religious traditions but also those of the other religions in the country.
  • There is also a need to identify a common framework or a shared set of values which allows the diverse groups to live together.
  • The prerequisites to implement the social reform initiative like Uniform Civil Code are to create a conducive environment and forging socio-political consensus.