Republic of Religion: The rise and fall of Colonial Secularism in India. – By Abhinav Chandrachud.

Author: Mudra Motivaras, 1st Year, LL.B, Jitendra Chauhan College of Law, Mumbai. The article has been written by the author while pursuing the internship program with us. Introduction Republic of Religion: The rise and fall of Colonial Secularism in India is authored by Abhinav Chandrachud. In this book, Abhinav Chandrachud had explore how India aspires to become a secular state. This book actually raises us a very pertinent question that , “Whether India became secular only after 42nd amendment or was it secular even before that?” We derive many of our laws and statutes from England. This book argues that unlike the US, England has an established religion. If India derive so many of its laws and institutions from England, “how is it possible that there is no established religion in India?” It says “that secularism was artificially imposed by the British colonial government in India even though it did not fully exist in England.” England introduced ‘secular education’ in India for the introduction of Christianity in India. But then the colonial government changed its secular education policy and established universities like Hindu Banaras University and Muslim University because it believed that students who were given religious instructions and sermons would be more loyal to the government and less seditious. “Secularism was first brought in by the colonial government in order to pave the way for the introduction of Christianity in India, and later abandoned in order to make India less disloyal to Britain and possibly more deeply divided within itself.” The author also argues that how secularism became ‘soft secularism’ in India post independence. It says, “God was introduced into the Constitution through the oaths that public officials were required to take prior to assuming office. Governments began entangling themselves in the administration of Hindu temples with a view to preventing corruption. The ban on cow slaughter, legislative reform of Hinduism, the abolition of reservations for religious minorities on legislatures, even a statute that banned inter-faith conversions in the Central Provinces and Berar—all this happened in the early years of the republic with Congress governments at the helm. Abandoning Queen Victoria’s proclamation which, since 1858, had asked the government to stay aloof from religion and refrain from interfering with religious beliefs, Indian leaders started overtly reforming their own religious laws.” This book has made me believe that organised religion should be abolished. Arguments made by the Author: This book essentially makes three claims. Firstly, the British state in India introduced a version of secularism that did not exist in the metropole. This book investigates the origins of colonial secularism in India and its roots in the notion of colonial difference. Secondly, the secularism which was pursued by the colonial state in British India was softened once India became independent. The transfer of power from British to Indian hands and the enactment of the Constitution represented a shift from colonial secularism to soft secularism. The older generation of scholars believed in a ‘secularization thesis’, that with time, India would become more, not less, secular, and remake itself in the image of Western countries. Instead, in a sense, we are less secular today than we were back then. Thirdly, the fall of colonial secularism pre-dated the rise of India’s Hindu right. To argue these three claims, this book beautifully explains how cow slaughter was banned in India by Allahabad High court judgement which held that cows were not inanimate objects and how colonial secularism was rejected by Indian constitution framers who inserted Article 48 as a directive principle of state policy and slaughter of cattle. The author says that how ‘soft secularism’ by government of India denied right to ‘propagate’ Christianity as Indian government started enacting statues that made it difficult for Hindus to convert to Christianity. Therefore, though the Constitution of independent India gives everyone the right to profess, practice and ‘propagate’ religion in theory, in practice, there has been a change in the nature of the secular state in India from colonial times to present day. It also argues that how voting system divided India into Hindu and Muslims when Viceroy Minto said that Hindus cannot vote for Jinnah even if they want to because Jinnah was a Muslim. As a result, the constituent assembly of Independent India had abolished the system of separate electorates. The book also talks about East India Company that how East India Company had initially taken control over the administration of temples in India but due to Christian missionaries, the government had separated religion from politics. But after Independence government in India had enacted statutes which administer the temples in India. The author argues that “the uniform civil code debate has, in reality, little to do with religion and more to do with the family.” But the abolition of sati practice, remarriage of a Hindu widow and raising the age of consent for sexual intercourse, these all were permitted because these does not come under the ‘essential religious’ practices. This book also examines how the colonial state removed God from the public sphere by requiring public officials in British India to swear their oaths of office without any mention of the word ‘God’ in them. The Constituent Assembly rejected this form of colonial secularism by inserting the word ‘God’ into the Constitution—public officials are now given the option of swearing their oaths of office either in the name of God. As Indian constitution framers did not believe that there should be no mention of God in secularism. Conclusion. Republic of Religion must be read by those who are interested in politics, religion, history and law. This book explains how various laws were enacted in India which changed the meaning of secularism. This book is divided into different chapters and each chapter explains how bigotry is hidden in our religion. This book explores hidden aspects of religion and secularism which we might have never thought of. This book is very helpful in today’s scenario where a long debate is going on that, “whether India is a secular state or not?” This book answers this question with justifiable arguments. The author explains the literal meaning of secularism and how the meaning has been changed from pre-independence to post-independence era in India. DISCLAIMER: Views and opinions as expressed in the Research Articles are solely of the author and any member of the core team of the website shall not be liable for the same. Editorial Credits: Alivya Prakash, Sheetal Verma.

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