Tapas Banerji :
To understand the word secularism ,it’s proper meaning in all it’s connotations we have to fully understand the historical context in which this word came to be used in Europe and how it acquired the prestige associated with it in later years.
In European countries ,from 4th.century to 8th century , Bible and Church exercised a stranglehold similar to that of Quran over vast population of muslims now .The function of the state was not only to supervise and control the worldly (secular) life of it’s subjects but also to secure their salvation in the next world. The key to this salvation was in possession of the Church .But if any citizen disregarded or violated the rules of conduct proclaimed by Church from time to time the Church used to ex-communicate him and thus closed the gate of heaven for him .As the Church pleaded that it was incapable of inflicting physical punishment on him , thereafter it was the duty of the state to burn that man alive or kill him by means of other tortures or threw him into prison.
Hence in the language of the Church the state was termed as the “secular arm “of the Church , and the state also admitted publicly that it’s main function was to serve the Church.This system of governa
has been termed “Theocracy”.So long as the continent of Europe was inhabited by communities which were yet to be converted into Christianity ,co-operation between the Church and the State continued smoothly.
The Church had given absolute liberty to the kings to expand their domains in the name of spreading Christianity .The kings also used the sword ,as far as practicable ,for converting non-Christians into Christianity
or for slaughtering them or for trampling them under foot in other ways .The Church applauded the kings wholeheartedly for their services . In turn the kings also claimed that they were striving heart and soul in order
to save pagans (non-believers ) from hell-fire .In this sinister alliance ,both the kings and the Church extended their dominions and domination .
Thereafter, a time came at the end of fifteenth century when whole of Europe was Christianised .The kings were no more in need of blessings from the Church in order to augment their power .The State
began to feel restless against the stranglehold which the Church had imposed on it.In the sixteenth century widespread revolts broke out against the Church and Christianity got splintered into several sects .Terrible carnage took place all over Europe for supremacy and dominance amongst sects of Christianity .The State in one country, by aligning with one sect ,began to suppress the other sects, while the State in another
country by aligning with another sect , began to suppress all others .And wars began to be fought among different countries in the name of religion.
Fortunately for Europe that period also saw many courageous thinkers , who had acquired knowledge of ancient cultures of Greece India and China , and were influenced by the humanism ,rationalism and universalism inherent in these cultures ,they revolted against Christianity.Christianity did not have the capacity to pass the test posed by reason and before long whole mumbo-jumbo of Christianity crumbled .At the end of the eighteenth century ,along with French Revolution, this process got accelerated.
This was the background in which Secularism arose in Europe. In the nineteenth century ,the State was liberated from the stranglehold of the Church in every country in Europe . It effectively meant that it was no longer the function of State to secure salvation for it’s citizens . To seek and strive for the salvation in the next world or not , became now the personal concern of each citizen. The State now had no concern with the personal belief or unbelief of a citizen. To supervise and regulate the conduct of a citizen in this world alone , remained the function of the State . The State , thus freed from the stranglehold of Church ,became known as a Secular State ,and gradually Europe evolved a culture which repudiated all sorts of religious fanaticism .
RELEVANCE OF SECULARISM IN INDIA
At the time of Independence , there existed in India also two forms of that ideology tormented by which Europe had adopted the concept of Secularism . One form of that Ideology was Islam and the other
Christianity .Islam which came into this country with alien Imperialism ,had made unbridled use of state power for several hundred years ( like Christianity in Europe ) in order to sustain it’s gangsterism and divided
the country eventually . Likewise ,Christianity also used state power in order to commit all sorts of atrocities for it’s propagation and expansion in the region of Goa and elsewhere in the sixteenth century .The
British also would have carried out similar sinister schemes , had it not freed itself from the stranglehold of Christianity by the time it consolidated in India .
On the other hand , the Hindu society throughout it’s long history neither displayed any sort of religious fanaticism, nor ever used state power for spreading faith (conversion ). To preach Secularism to this
society ,was like showing lamp to the Sun .In such a country , Secularism could have relevance only in one sense—-to establish complete cultural freedom in the Hindu homeland by eliminating the fanaticism
which had survived in the form of Islam and Christianity .
This was the task of education .By confronting the Muslims and Christians with the close connection between their scriptures and their blood soaked histories ,it had to be explained to them that the
teachings they believed to be God-given were , in reality , were expressions of beastliness latent in human nature .Of the ethos which Hindu society has cherished not a trace can be found in Islam or Christianity.
The right use of Secularism of secularism would have been to unmask these closed creeds and liberate these communities which had become their victims .
But what happened in India after Independence ,was just the opposite . The mullahs and missionaries who had exhibited ceaseless hostility towards ancient culture of this country , began to speak in one voice.