Values of the Indian Freedom Struggle [Part 1]
The Indian National Movement was based on certain values and principles, that have further guided the constitutional development in India. It upheld the values of secularism, socialism, democracy and humanism. Most of these values evolved and emerged as a result of the struggle against the British rule.
Indian society is a kaleidoscopic community, with different religious and ethnic communities. It represents a truly plural society. Religious aspects have influenced the life of the people to a great extent. The intermingling of the different religious communities have given a sense of toleration among different communities.
The concept of Secularism, in India, has evolved with several unique features:
- First, it implies a spirit of toleration, where different communities live together in a harmonious relationship;
- Second, the Indian state maintains an equality among different religious communities;
- Third, the Constitution tries to maintain a separation between politics and religion, by restricting religion from becoming a prime factor in politics;
- Lastly, State, in India, has tried to guide the different communities through a reformative process, by getting the various religious group free from superstition and parochialism.
Thus, secularism, in the Indian context, cannot be seen at par with the Western model of secularism.
Impact of Religious Reform Movements
Religious reform movement were started back in the British-rule era. Through the acts of reformers like- Ram Mohan Roy, Dayananda Saraswati, Vivekananda etc, the Indian society experienced phases of reform. Among the Muslim community, Sir Syed Ahmed Khan started a reform movement. Special characteristics of these movements were that- they did not launch any attack against other religious groups; emphasized rationalist and reformist elements among various communities; and, emphasized that the religious identities were a part of the broader Indian identity.
This tradition was further strengthened under the aegis of leaders like Mahatma Gandhi and Abul Kalam Azad. Gandhi, through his constructive work program, initiated a program that reformed the Indian society to some extent. He contributed greatly in promoting the Hindu-Muslim cooperation.
The task of promoting religious harmony became more important in the wake of British’s attempt to drive a wedge between the various religious communities, through its ‘divide and rule’ policy. The nationalist leaders tried to counter this move by accommodating the concerns of the minorities. However, the virus of communal politics could not be stopped, and finally led to the partition of the country in 1947. However, the Indian national leaders learned a valuable lesson and introduced the principle of religious rights and protection to the minorities. However, to counter the tendency of the separatist forces, separate electorates were discarded, for good.
Further, the spirit of secularism was manifested in the national educational curriculum. Secularism was linked to the ideal of social justice and equality.
Contribution of Gandhi and Nehru
The ideal of secularism was greatly influenced by the vision of Gandhi and Nehru. Gandhi believed in the spiritualization of politics. He believed that unless politics is based on values and moral principles, no good can be done. This was also necessary in the background of the religious divisions and fanaticism, that the country had experienced. Thus, he expounded the cause of secularism whole-heartedly.
Nehru, on the other hand, upheld a different view, and linked the struggle of secularism to complete scientific rationality. For him, religion breeds ignorance and blind faith. Thus, he saw it necessary to keep religion and politics apart. However, the religious attitude of Nehru was secular and tolerant. He did not allow the majority community to usurp upon the rights of the minorities.
Part 2 Coming soon…
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