By Simran Sabharwal
WHAT IS RELIGIOUS FREEDOM
• The first question which needs to get cleared is the proper idea of religious freedom. Obviously, it is a complicating question.
• Indian citizens have freedom of religion guaranteed by the constitution under Article 25-28. The article protects the human conscience of the people. It allows an individual to think and act according to what one believes.
• This type of freedom should be available to citizens all around the world as everyone should have the freedom to choose the religion one wants to follow.
Why do we need Religious Freedom?
• Religious Freedom is very much needed in a diverse society. Every society should all the faiths to prosper.
• I believe that religious freedom should be given to all the groups whether major or minor as this will help to keep the true essence of Unity in Diversity alive.
• We all know Mother Teresa for her kind, benevolent and humble heart. The story which most of us are not aware of is – she helped the needy so that they, later on, convert to Catholicism.
o She did everything, not for genuine care for the poor people in society. Though the poor were being helped even then the motive was different.
o She actually glorified the poor people’s suffering so that she is viewed as a blessing and eventually people convert their religion.
o This trend was quite famous at that time.
So, this shows that one needs religious freedom otherwise there will be no diversity. Also, religion can be converted fraudulently as well as forcefully.
• In Argentina, the Apostle mentioned that religious freedom is everybody’s concern. He mentioned that protection of religious interests is important as it helps people from a wide spectrum feel confident that their concerns are respected.
• He also mentions that people should stand hand in hand in order to defend religious freedom.
Religion and India
• Coming directly to our nation, India, it has a lot of variation of religions across the nation. Almost all religions live in India.
• Also, Indians are very particular about the religion they worship. In past centuries, the relations between Hindus and Muslims were harsh. Though the times changed and a slight change can be seen today.
• But the situation has not completely changed.
• We all are aware of the time when Sania Mirza, Indian tennis player declared her marriage with Shoaib Malik, the Pakistani cricketer.
o Houses of the couple were pelted with stones and their effigies were burnt in the respective nation.
So, the player who was winning laurels for the nation till yesterday was downgraded. The sole reason for this was their marriage with a rival nation.
• Though now we see frequently on Twitter that Sushma Swaraj grants Visa to Pakistani brides to come and marry Indian groom.
• But we have not completely changed. A BJP leader asks for removal of Telangana’s Brand Ambassador, Sania Mirza as she is a ‘Pakistani Bahu.’
Facts about India and Religion
According to the 2015 Survey, 8 out of 10 Indians said that religion is very crucial for them.
1. India is a nation where the highest majority is of Hindus and second highest of Muslims. No wonder still there is so much of differences between the two sects.
2. India has the biggest democracy and a lot of religions. So, this can be considered a loophole. During elections, people are asked to cast votes on the basis of caste or sect they favor. Eventually, this leads to biases in elections.
3. India has experienced various social hostilities on the basis of religion. In 2007, it was the highest.
Apart from these facts, India also suffers from religious biases. For example – A school in Punjab will favor Punjabi teachers for recruitment rather than some other religion. This example can completely be wrong but my point here is to make it clear that Indians still favor their castes and religion.
Anti – Conversion Laws in India
• These laws are also called India’s Freedom of Religion Acts or “Anti-conversion laws”. These laws are particularly enacted by the states to protects their citizens from religious biases.
• The laws are currently enforceable in 8 states. The question that should be posted in readers mind now is: As we are living in the 21st century, do we really require these laws.
o The answer to this should be yes.
o Seeing the current scenario, we need to go a long way to eradicate this and gain a society which has complete freedom to choose their religion.
• The political party truly supports these Anti-conversion laws and accepted the adoption of this law.
• Though the other parties did not like the idea and said that India is a secular nation and adoption of laws like this will show partialities.
• Certain states have this law running currently. Odisha was the first state to enact these laws.
• In Rajasthan, the bill was passed in 2006 but it did not get governor’s assent for a long time. This happened because the court received multiple complaints from minority claiming it to be an infringement.
• Taking the Supreme Court’s view, in the case Ratilal Panachand v. the State of Bombay, it was held that every Indian citizen is protected by the constitution is not only the terms that he can follow his desired principles but also can exhibit his ideas and belief.
• Every person can follow his desired religion. Also, on moral grounds, one should not degrade anybody else’s religion too.
• So, now we know that Indian laws have properly taken effective measures to protect a citizen’s ideal beliefs. But are these properly implemented?
• On the grounds of Human Rights concerns or the fear of arrests and conviction helps the laws to be properly implemented.
• Though sometimes, there arises a conflict between Freedom of expression and Freedom of Religion in India. Both of them are guaranteed by the Constitution.
• The Indian government has an easy way out in this. It bans the movie or serial if it is of critical expression.
o Like it banned Padmaavat movie in Rajasthan ordering that it hurts the Rajput community.
o So, to protect one’s right the government in some way or the other curtails other’s rights. The government should also analyze this problem.
• Also, as Hindus worship cows, laws have been made on cow slaughtering or beef. But in no way, I feel that killing people or murdering someone should not be allowed in any case if one slaughters a cow.
• I understand the emotions of Hindus but taking a life is no way correct. In one way or the other, India’s secularism is threatened.
Non-Hindus: No Affirmative Action
• Orders till 1950, included only Hindus for affirmative action which is no reason is correct. However, Sikhs were added in 1956 and Buddhists very late in 1990, years after our independence.
• Also, there was a policy that if a Hindu person converts to any other religion, he will lose the benefit of affirmative action but if later on, he decided to convert back to Hinduism, he will gain all the benefits.
• According to me, this was pure partiality. Although there was religious freedom indirectly supporting one religion influences the minds of the people. In contemporary times, the case is somewhat the same.
Religious freedom: On the decline in India
• Religious freedom is declining day by day in India. So, the minorities plight is increasing. Even if the country has the right to freedom of religion in 1949 still there are certain flaws.
• The Union Minister of India reported that in 2017, 111 people were killed because of communal riots. All this is happening because of religion.
• Where lies our freedom to religion? Even if it is there why are the citizens not able to feel it or experience it? If the victims are not provided an adequate remedy and forgotten easily by the government, issues like these will only increase.
• The mistrust of minorities will only increase. Every nation has to bind its citizens and work together.
• Also, we can see various levels of discrimination faced by the minority. The government should provide stringent laws so that cases like these declines.
Education and Religious Freedom
• India has a history of welcoming refugees and providing them with citizenship. It has welcomed Jews, Christians, Buddhists.
• Also, the very first mosque built outside Arabia was in India. So, what is happening to humans as the time is progressing?
• We are indeed walking forward leaving our brains in the past. I strongly believe that education has the power to move mountains.
• Educating a child about religious freedom and how every caste is equal is very important. India is a secular nation, we all should remember that.
o Let us not give a false impression of it.
• India may in the near future be termed as “Country of Particular Concern” if it does not stop violations of religious freedom.
• It is the radicals among Hindus that are causing the main problem in society. We should afford religious freedom in Indian Education. One should not delve in those faith-based groups too.
• We should understand that every religion is equal. We all should have the freedom to choose the choice of our religion. Remember, India is a pluralist nation.