Religious Communities in India: India is regarded as the largest democracy on planet Earth; the pillars of democracy are built on the strong and diverse shoulders of its countrymen. The Indian subcontinent is the birthplace of four major religions of the world, namely Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism, and Sikhism. India is home to these four religions with the addition of Islam and Zoroastrianism (Parsis and Iranis), yet the Indian Constitution clearly mentions that India is a secular state with no state religion. Throughout the history of this great country, religion has been an important part of a country’s culture. Religious tolerance, as well as diversity, has been established in the country both by law and custom, though in a very hard-fought manner. The Indian Constitution highlights the freedom of religion to be a fundamental right of the citizens of the country.
Regions of India are home to one of the world’s oldest civilizations, the Indus valley civilization, as of now India accounts for the largest percentage of Hindus in the world, i.e. 90%. Prayagraj hosts the largest Hindu pilgrimage in the world, the Kumbh Mela, is where Hindus from around the world come to bathe in the waters of the Holy Ganga to wash away their sins. Due to its cultural diversity, Southeast Asia is also home to the largest Muslim populous, India also has had a strong influence on the Islamic culture with monuments like the Taj Mahal and Qutub Minar.
The West has been significantly responsible for spreading the Hindu culture worldwide, it is because of the efforts of the West had the scriptures of the Hindu religion have found a place in the world order. The teachings of great Saints, medicine, music, yoga, and several other things have been displaced all over the world.
Religion and the Law
The Preamble of the Indian land proclaims itself to be a “sovereign socialist secular democratic republic”, the word “secular” was introduced in the Constitution by the Forty-Second Amendment Act of 1976. The Constitution could not emphasize enough that India as a State has no official religion; it has been and will be open to people of all and any religion. There have been no sorts of religious implicated on any governmental organizations or for that matter any organization. The freedom to practice any religion for an Indian citizen is a basic fundamental right and no Constitution in the world has the right to take that away. There have been a number of cases where the identity of religions has been challenged, but the Supreme Court has always come out on top to establish a firm dialogue between the citizens of the nation to practice their religion. Major religions which aren’t based in India continue to be governed by their own laws, but things are a little bit different in India. In India, there are a certain amount of guidelines which are set so that no religion upsets the doings of the other and this is very essential to maintain communal and religious peace.
Minority beliefs and sects
There are many different subcategories of Hinduism like any other religion, the major guidelines hold true for most of the Hindu population in India. This statement, however, may not be presumed true for all as different states showcase the different aspects of the Hindu culture. Like there is a different language with every state in the diverse nation of India, there are many different norms with rules and regulations specific to each subcategory of the religion. This holds somewhat true for the many other religions, they have different rules and regulations with are followed accordingly, but the general idea remains the same, with the addition of how a person observes the religion personally.
Religion and Politics
The idea of religion mixed with the brand of politics is never a good idea, there have been many acquisitions on the different political parties of the country to withhold the ideas or favor a certain religion. For instance, the current Bhartiya Janta Party (BJP) is set to harbor emotions which are slightly inclined towards the Hindus, which form a majority of the population of India.
There are several instances where the idea of politics used to gather votes by the different political parties of the country. The Ram Mandir issue has always sparked a conflict between the major religions of the country and the government is large to be blamed for it. Violence related to the ideas of religion have also been very prominent in the country, the Godhra riots still remain fresh in the memories of many.
As citizens of the nation, one should always aspire to believe what was written in the Constitution, as our forefathers had the idea of how the country should run. There may be differences among people on the basis of what religion they choose to follow, but there will always be the binding force of humanity within it.
Problems of religious minorities
The diversity of the Indian nation may be looked through the various religions which reside in harmony with each other in the nation. India is home to some of the most practiced and followed religions in the world. However, even religion in the country hasn’t gotten its due as some still remain to be practiced by a few, these religions and the communities which practice them have been given the status of “religious minorities”. These communities namely are the Muslims, Christians, Sikhs, Buddhists, Zoroastrians, and Jains. The basis of the designation is done by the numeric accounting of the people following these religions.
There are a number of problems which are faced by these minorities, some of which have been highlighted below.
This by far is the most regarded challenge and problem to the minorities, it is certain in which this works and it has been very prominent in India. The leading consequence for minorities is the problem of forced conversions due to discrimination. When a certain community cannot represent the majority, it becomes a task for their survival. This is where the majorities try to convert them and establish a greater number of their own religious followers to run the nation. This has been a problem which has troubled the Indian heartlands time and again. If one was to pick up the newspaper, it would be quite evident to them that these problems lie in every region of the Indian nation.
Poverty and Alienation
The worst feeling one can experience in their own country is the feeling of alienation, circumstances become a living hell for a person who has been alienated by their own. Alienation is also an aspect to religious intolerance when it comes to India, with such diversity; many seek to form their own groups which comprise of like-minded individuals. This becomes a task for the government, to let people feel that they are alienated in their country; the government shall seek to establish reforms which help these people get the status in their own country.
Poverty seems to be another issue as various communities have been neglected when the question of employment and reforms comes in. There have been regions which have experienced development like none other and there have been regions which have no development at all. For instance, the states of North-East India have always seemed to be neglected and thus poverty has become a glaring issue there.
The government, when becoming selective, becomes a threat to a diverse nation. Studies have shown that there are regions in India which are favored for the developments and major policy reforms, whilst other places are far less developed in comparison. Factors like discrimination, alienation and others like have significantly contributed to the various struggling reforms of the Indian government. This neglecting behavior of the government has led to a constant struggle of these communities within their own country. There are so many differences that many of these communities aren’t provided with their basic necessities and sometimes it becomes a task even to survive.
This is probably one of the important issues that one should address regarding these communities. Many of these communities lay in an identity crisis as they fail to understand their place in their own country. These minority religious communities have always been disoriented and displaced due to their fear of being engulfed by the overwhelming majority of the other relations. Many times these minorities have been forced to change their religion and convert by either physical or mental pressure. These religious minorities feel threatened by the propositions of their own identity to their own religious practices and communities.
In recent times, there have been many instances where the minorities have been oppressed in a very physical manner, mostly by the religions followed by the overwhelming majorities. These religious minorities are a subject to a lot of criminal offenses but most of these get unnoticed as there is much less coverage of these crimes in comparison to others. There have been many cases to the demolishing of the many religious places of worship which did not lead to pleasant consequences. There have been many unpleasant campaigns which have taken place which hasn’t been nicely taken up by the various other segments of the Indian religious society.
There should be a better judgment towards the minorities as the nation cannot afford to keep people out of their country just on the basis of them being from a different religious background. There should a better implementation of laws and a narrative of acceptation towards these religious communities is needed after all India is a secular democracy.