Right to Freedom of Religion
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This article is written by Shivangi Ghosh, currently pursuing BA LLB from Amity Law School, Delhi. This article aims to provide an exhaustive overview of the Parochial Nature of the Indian Constitution and its effects on secularism.

Introduction

A  parochial, selfish, narrow-minded nationalism has caused so much misfortune and misery to the world. A mad and exaggerated form of this cult of nationalism is today running rampant….” M.N Roy, an Indian revolutionary had made this statement in 1942 which unfortunately is relatable to the times we live in. India had drafted the Constitution of India intending to sweep away the parochialism and the categorization. 

But the diverse caste system, sects, and various denominations in the country co-exist with issues like equality, concerns of health, the importance of education, and issues of an unstable or stagnant economy. The question is does the Constitution of India only intend for secularism and equality which can help sweep away parochialism or is it giving it more power?

The reason why Parochialism exists

Although the approach of Parochialism by way of laws can create distinction in the society why was it brought under the scope of the Constitution?

In societies, there was an unequal distribution of power amongst different political parties, and religious majority dominated minorities. To overthrow the imbalance, constitutional settlement was added to equalize the stature. It is clear that the existing elites cannot be threatened by the constitution’s way of settling it artfully by way of parochialism, but provides a hopeful and more promising future of previously excluded groups that consists of minorities.

Disadvantages of parochialism

Mentioned below is the list of disadvantageous situations that can arise due to Parochialism in the country:

  1. It can prove to be morally arbitrary to decide who should be counted in, like in the cases of discrimination against women and children, rich and poor, Minority due to religion.  But the obvious way to attack this arbitrariness is to provide factual observations, which can prove to be unjustified in scenarios where the minority is not actually threatened but given the privilege as they come under the ambit of being a minority. In other words, as there had been no assigned definition to the term “minority”, it can prove to be rigid, whoever was a minority earlier and needed affirmative actions from the state because of their state of deprivation does not necessarily mean that they are deprived of opportunities in the current scenario.
  2. Parochialism by way of regional upliftment can threaten the sovereignty of the state.
  3. The parties can get involved in hate crimes, violence, terrorism to prove that their need should be taken into consideration. 
  4. Regionalism can take its radical form and become a secessionist movement that can destroy the core of unity in the state, such as the growth of strong regional parochialism resulted in the Khalistani movement which is a form of terrorism within the state.
  5. The vote bank system weakens the structure of unity and conquers by dividing society. Regionalism promotes the politics of creating the system of voting to show assent and dissent of people by directing their impact on the citizens belonging to a particular caste, sect, region, and religion.

Parochialism in Indian Constitution

Yes, the Indian constitution has given due recognition to the diversity of the country and previously excluded groups. But, this parochialism only aggravates xenophobic activities within the state. Few instances such as when Bengalis were targeted in Assam due to insecurity of culture that can only be called terrorism. In recent times, Biharis and Jharkhandis have been targeted in Maharashtra and the list of insurgency due to regionalism is endless.

The differential treatment is a hopeful attempt by the framers for equality to preserve the basic features of their culture which are non-dominant. It is justified to be imbibed in the interest of society as a whole and creating a well-knit community. It is secular as the comprehensibility of distinction is realized along with the deeply rooted values of equality which cannot be forsaken at any cost.

After lengthy discussions in the Constituent Assembly, and after coming to terms with the definition of equality, it was offered to certain minorities in the Constitution, but to give differential treatment it should also be cleared that they had been a subject of inequality for years and they deserve such privileged treatment and they cannot do without such benefits by the state. The values of Equal respect, fairness, and non-discrimination are the guiding pillars of state policies that help towards the separation of the country and their religious affairs by way of providing certain provisions to support the idea that the state wants to envisage.

Peaceful Co-existence and Parochialism

The objective of including the provisions for promoting Parochialism for social solidarity as giving the differential privileged treatment can help them feel equal in the state.

It is quite clear that it might be a calculated settlement but it has aggravated xenophobia in the country. As it is hard to distinguish what should be done in the name of secularism on one hand and what should be allowed in the name of parochialism on another as it is inextricably mixed.

Peaceful Coexistence in a state where parochialism is promoted is tough and unattainable, as the division of the community only makes the structure of solidarity fall apart and reduces the ability of people to understand other’s belief systems.

Secular rights guaranteed by the Constitution

Secularism is understanding and developing respect for other religions apart from oneself. The concept of Religion is the system of faith and belief of individuals which binds them to form a religious community. The diverse denominations call out for secularism in the law and Constitution helps guarantee rights for the citizens of the country.

The constitution guarantees secularism by stating that:

  1. The state is secular, therefore it shall not be controlled by any particular religion. The state has no religion.
  2. It guarantees the right to practice, profess, and propagate any religion one wishes to, without any discrimination.
  3. No discrimination shall be done on account of one’s faith and beliefs.
  4. Religion should not aim to divide, and when it goes against the public order and morality. It shall not be given importance.
  5. The minorities can establish and maintain educational institutions apart from their rights to profess and practice their religion.
  6. Public recognition has been granted to various religions.

In the case of Bal Patil and Another v. Union of India, the State does not have any religion, and all the religions within the territory of India shall be given equal respect without any interference concerning their right to worship and the only interference shall be when the State’s functioning.

The objective to achieve a secular, socialist, and a democratic republic is shown in a flexible yet firm manner to create a realistic and unconventional law to harmonize and create a healthy environment as per the framework. With aims to prevent a hostile environment, the Indian Constitution conveys the message to generate the secular United States no matter how diverse.

Freedom of religion as a fundamental right

Religion is a belief system and the Indian Constitution helps inculcate the diverse belief systems within the territory. It provides for the right of freedom of religion under Articles 25 to Article 28. The Constitution of India conceived a secular approach.

Concept of Freedom of Religion in Indian Constitution:

  1. Freedom to practice, profess and propagate religion as per one’s faith without any hindrance from the state, except under situations which can go against public morality, order, and health of the society.
  2. Freedom to manage religious events such as establishing institutions, managing religious proceedings, acquiring property 
  3. Freedom from paying taxes when the funds are appropriated for religious affairs.
  4. Freedom of attendance of the religious ceremonies in certain institutions

Parochialism: A criticism of Constitution

Parochialism can be a criticism of the Constitution but it is not black and white. It was introduced and still in existence, as there is no other approach for a promising future for the particular denominations.

It can be a criticism, when

  1. Secessionist behavior is aggravated due to parochial treatment.
  2. It can cause cruel and unfair treatment of the Majority in Minorities’ area and vice versa which goes against the objective that the Constitution desires to achieve, Equality.
  3. Provocative hate speeches against other cultures incite hatred and violence can ensue.
  4. Politicians increase their vote bank, creating an unhealthy political environment. 

Whether parochialism hinders freedom of religion 

Religious freedom cannot be used in a way that defends the act of hatred and enmity towards the other religions in the name of Freedom religion. Whenever any situation, such as inciting violence is done by minorities, the majority, or any denomination. The only thing apex that shall be taken into consideration is what preserves public health, morality, and order and not freedom of religion.

In the case of Subhash Desai v. Sharad J Rao AIR 1994 SCC 2277, The right to practise profess and propagate shall not mean that they can create hate amongst the person practising and professing different religions.

India is home to various religions like Islam, Christian, Hinduism, etc. These denominations can manage their affairs without any prohibition as India is secular Clause (b) of Article 25 states management of their affairs which talks about guarantee of observance and rituals by the members of a particular sect. And what constitutes as a necessary observance has to be decided by the particular court about the doctrine laid by the religion.

The task of disengaging the religious from secular activity can prove to be a tedious task, as it can be inextricably mixed and it can hinder the secular nature of the constitution by way of communal violence, hate speech, and inciting feeling against the communities, they previously were free to practice, profess and propagate.

By making it clear, that Nothing shall be above the state’s wellbeing shows that Parochialism cannot hinder Freedom of Religion.

                   

How reality differs from provisions

It is widely known that religious minorities accept everywhere, and freedom of religion is given to everyone. However in some countries, the choices are restricted, hence Freedom of Religion is constricted. But in India, the freedom of religion to practice, profess, convert and manage the religious affair, has been provided for in the Indian Constitution.

What is the reality of the situation, is there enough Freedom to choose

In one of the instances, The Constitution Order (Scheduled Castes) of 1950 identified Dalits, who faced atrocities like untouchability and were extremely underprivileged. The Dalits who chose to convert to Sikh or Buddhism can still be considered under the Act and were given special benefits but if chosen to convert to Islam and Christianity, they will no longer have the benefits of the Order. The clause presumes that the atrocities have ended if chosen other than Sikh and Buddhism.

The freedom to choose has been provided under the Constitution but does not help this situation faced by the minority. Parochialism, on one hand, becomes extreme and creates violence and others create a big pit for the underprivileged.

Conclusion

The intent of framing the Indian Constitution was to create a framework that different groups can be a part of, not everyone can be satisfied with the produced framework but it can help achieve a reasonable outcome. Lastly, what Tagore terms as the “narrowness of sympathy” generated by the caste system and “the galling yoke of inferiority” that it imposes upon others become the useful template for interactions in other areas of social life. Parochialism can only stem from a lack of respect and understanding of cultures that do not resemble one’s belief mechanism.

References


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