[Solved ] What are the challenges to our cultural practices in the name of Secularism? ( UPSC GS-1 Mains 2019)

Secularism in India is different from western concept. It stands for mutual respect, understanding and tolerance for all the religions, major or minor and accepting difference of opinion. Cultural practices are the living ways of life of people, individual or collective, in the political, economic, social spheres.

  • However, there are many incidents like Mob lynching in name of religion which questions this concept in India.
  • The death and violence of people in name of cow protection. The dilemma and abnormal behavior over conversion issues.
  • Political violence especially at the time of elections. Communal violence, extremism and spread of hatred among the people.
  • These affect the way of life of people in various parts of the country. Cultural practices are the living ways of life of people, individual or collective, in the political, economic, social spheres

 Various challenges faced by the cultural practices in the name of secularism:

Intolerance and Violence: This leads to lack of tolerance and respect for each other. Deaths and violence in the name of cow protection are examples of this.

Intolerance and Violence: This leads to lack of tolerance and respect for each other. Deaths and violence in name of cow protection are examples of this.

• Majoritarianism: This reflect upon use of religion for political mobilization of the people and spreading hatred against the minorities may be it Muslims, like case of Muzaffarnagar, Sikhs as in 1984, Christians as in Kandhamal.

• Radicalization: The people are taken into believing ideologies which are extreme and may harm unity and integrity of the country. Security situations can be faced by the expansion of terrorism and exploitation of the vulnerable masses.

• Fundamentalism: The belief in the fundamentals can pave way to deviant behavior leading to disruption of normal life in the name of religion.

• Alienation: The people get distanced away from their traditional roots and feel socially, psychologically distance from other people in name of religion. The people going to Middle east for ISIS etc is an example of this.

 • Majoritarianism: This reflects upon use of religion for political mobilization of the people and spreading hatred against the minorities may be it Muslims, like case of Muzaffarnagar, Sikhs as in 1984, Christians as in Kandhamal.

Stopping of festival practices
Many secular forces have been trying to undermine religious practices especially festive ones citing it to be against secular spirit of India. Due to such forces, ancient festivities that hold great cultural significance are slowly being eroded.
Ex: Worshipping of animals and plants are considered offensive.

 Hinderance in mode of worshiping
India is a highly diverse society where multiple reliogions co-exist along with unique modes of worship. Being secular does not mean stopping of worshipping practices, instead it must be freedom to practice any mode of worship without any fears.

Effects on food culture
Hurting religious feelings of one particular group in the name of secular credentials is highly unwarranted. It can be in the form of consuming foods just to prove a point. This can also trigger conflicts between religious groups.

Effects on family values
Indian traditional family values focus on respecting elders, belief in stronger marital ties, maintaining family bonds etc. Secular beliefs have tried to undermine these values considering them as medieval and backward. This has created a sense of illusion in mind of new generation regarding these values.

Radicalization: The people are taken into believing ideologies that are extreme and may harm unity and the integrity of the country. Security situations can be faced by the expansion of terrorism and exploitation of the vulnerable masses.

• Votebank Politics: Candidates attempt to align themselves with the issues of a particular religious group in the hope of winning in elections.

 • Alienation: The people get distanced away from their traditional roots and feel socially, psychologically distant from other people in the name of religion. The people going to Middle East for ISIS, etc. is an example of this. Moreover, the various challenges may hamper the inclusiveness of Indian democratic culture by promoting the ideological alienation. The above can result in Distance from Education, Employ ability, Excellence, fraternity and dignity of individual.

However,

▪ Indian secularism is a positive concept, taking along and encouraging all the cultural

practices while instilling a scientific temper against superstitions and harmful practices

▪ Secularism as a challenge to our cultural practices instead an enabler in addition

to secularism we should also evolve to level of pluralism.

▪ We must never forget that secularism ensured ban on child marriage and sati which

everyone considers as social evils today.

▪ Our constitution has provisions to abolish untouchability (article 17) which has

discriminated against the scheduled castes.

▪ It is tempting to take the health of social and cultural practices and institutions for granted,

however they are not always so.

▪ For instance, banning of Triple talaq and women’s entry to religious places ensuresand

helps uphold the dignity of women.

▪ Prohibiting inhuman, self-harming, contextually irrelevant, orthodox practices. E.g.: Genital

mutilation, animal sacrifice etc.

▪ Secularism ensures the dynamism in culture with state taking a role of a reformer.

▪ This is necessary in eastern societies in which social reform is slow and cumbersome as

most individuals are agents of cultural reproduction rather than cultural change.

Moreover the various challenges may hamper the inclusiveness of Indian democratic culture by promoting the ideological alienation. The above can result in Distance from Education, Employability, Excellence, fraternity and dignity of individual.

Conclusion: Thus, the challenges to the cultural practices in the name of secularism are several, affecting the people’s rights to life and liberty, dignity and fraternity. However, in essence, our cultural practices are founded upon the principles and philosophies of tolerance, non-violence, truth, Vasudhaiv Kutumbakam (world is one family), etc., which in turn are reflected in our modern constitutional principles. Thus, following them in practice would act as an effective check and balance against the challenges of modern times.

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