Why is India a secular country

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India is the birthplace of four world religions: Hinduism, Buddhism, Sikhism, Jainism. Today it is a country of unprecedented religious diversity. The struggle to maintain the constitutionally anchored secular character of the country while at the same time respecting the religious rights of these communities is a daily balancing act.

Religious communities exist in India in all their forms. With the Syrian Orthodox Thomas Christians lives in India one of the original Christian communities, Catholic and Anglican Churches are firmly anchored in the country. People of the Jewish faith were never persecuted in India. Belonging to Zoroastrianism found refuge there from the Islamization of their homeland in what was then Persia. Tibetan Buddhists found and find refuge and were able to build large monasteries, especially in Himachal Pradesh and Karnataka, as well as establish the seat of their government in exile. The Bahá‘í can exercise their faith. Ahmadis are considered Muslims under Indian law. Openly professing atheism is usually not a problem in India.

Despite the heterogeneity of Indian society, the dense population of the subcontinent, the great religious diversity and a tense history (especially the split in India and Pakistan in 1947), the coexistence of religions is by and large peaceful. At the same time, India has always known religious tensions, often interwoven with social issues and injustices resulting from the caste system. Cases of religiously motivated violence occur regularly, and in the past there were sometimes serious pogroms366 instead of.


Demographic proportions of religious communities

Hindus made up 79.8 percent (966.3 million) of the total population in the last census in 2011. For the first time, their share declined - for some Hindu nationalist groups sufficient justification for their struggle for an "India of the Hindus".367 In addition to the heterogeneous majority religion of the Hindus, there are officially Muslims (14.2 percent), Christians (2.3 percent), Sikhs (1.7 percent), Buddhists (0.7 percent), Jains ( 0.4 percent) and Parsis (Zoroastrians) are recognized as religious minorities.368

In addition, there are a large number of indigenous ethnic groups (called "Adivasis" or "tribals"), numerically small Jewish and Bahá‘í communities and other religious groups, which together make up 0.9 percent of the population. With around 1 million members, the Bahá‘í are the largest Bahá‘í community in the world. They are very present in the cityscape of Delhi with the world-famous lotus temple. During the 2011 census, 119 members of the Ahmadis were counted for the first time, but estimates are more likely to be around 100,000 Ahmadis in India.

Since the last census in 2011, the Indian population has grown by around 150 million people. The proportion of the Muslim population is tending to grow. India is the state with the numerically second largest Muslim population in the world.


Legal situation

India joined the United Nations International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (UN Civil Covenant) on April 10, 1979.

India is a federal and secular state under its 1949 constitution. Religious freedom is through Articles 25-28 guaranteed by the constitution and guaranteed in both a positive and a negative sense. The constitutional protection includes both internal freedom of belief and the practice and dissemination of religion. All religious communities are legally equal. Article 30 (1) grants faiths the right to found, maintain and independently administer religious institutions. Citizens are not allowed to be subject to any tax that financially supports a certain religious group. Religious instruction of a specific denomination may not be held in fully state-funded educational institutions. Schoolchildren at state-recognized or sponsored educational institutions do not have to take part in religious instruction or prayers against their will.

1993 became five religious communities Minority status awarded369, which guarantees them basic rights and guarantees from the Indian constitution: members of Islam, Christianity, Sikhism, Buddhism and Zoroastrianism (Parsis and Parsis). The Jains followed in 2014. The Bahá'ís are not recognized as one of the six religious minorities in India, but they can practice their religion. The Ahmadis was awarded by a decision of the Supreme Court of the State of Kerala in 1970 to be considered "Muslims" under Indian law. Important Islamic and Christian holidays, but also holidays of other minorities are observed (at regional level); Christmas (December 25th) is nationwide work-free, although not an official holiday.370

Religious associations - like other associations - can be established in India register. With a registration, a religious association gains legal status and can earn money, receive donations and open a bank account. Religious associations often register as NGOs in India.371

The central government sets limits for relations with and support from abroad. For funding from abroad, religious communities need a government license under the one adopted in 2010 Law on the Regulation of Foreign Financing ("Foreign Contribution Regulations Acts" / FCRA). The Catholic Church complains that hardly any visas for missionaries have been issued for years.

There are currently so-called in eight states Anti-Conversion Lawswhich punish a change of religion that occurs under duress, curls ("allurement" / "inducement") and / or pretending of false facts ("fraudulent").372 Attempts by members of the BJP government to implement an anti-conversion law also at the level of the nation-state failed due to opposition from the Ministry of Justice. The penalty ranges from fines to imprisonment (1 - 4 years imprisonment). The anti-conversion laws are aimed primarily at members of the lower castes or those outside the caste system Dalits ("Untouchables")373who, by turning away from Hinduism (also) seek to evade the still widespread discrimination by higher-caste Hindus. In two states374 must for the If there is a change of faith, permission must be obtained from the local administration beforehand, in the others, the change must be indicated after completion. Even if the laws have so far resulted in few arrests and no convictions, they are the subject of sustained criticism from Indian civil society, mainly because of their vague legal terms. Aggressive re-conversion campaigns („ghar wapsi", translated: bring home) of radical Hindu organizations have led to heated debates in the public in recent years. Since 2014, Hindu nationalists have said that more than 30,000 people have" brought home "to Hinduism.

The regulation of personal status issues is fundamentally subject to the individual religious groups. Religious partial legal systems375 enable Hindus, Muslims, Christians, Parsees and increasingly also Sikhs to observe their respective traditions. However, a change of faith leads, among other things. to a forfeiture of maintenance and inheritance claims or can be cited as a legitimate reason for divorce. Members of Buddhism and Jains, who are recognized as religious minorities but are treated like Hindus in questions of family law, each demand their own family law system.

Indians can marry civilly according to the special marriage law of 1954 ("Special Marriage Act"). This law was intended to pave the way for interreligious marriages in particular, but de facto these marriages, especially in rural areas, still encounter bureaucratic hurdles.376 The constitution provides for the development of a uniform civil law for all citizens, but has so far failed due to social resistance. The ruling party BJP has declared its introduction as a political goal. In addition to bureaucratic hurdles, traditional social structures are an obstacle to interreligious marriages. Despite the legal minimum marriage age of 18, a large proportion of Indian girls are married before their 18th birthday.


Restrictions on freedom of religion and belief by state actors

The freedom of religion and belief guaranteed by the constitution can also be successfully sued by citizens in the Indian constitutional state - despite the lengthy process. In everyday reality, however, restrictions can also be observed, some of which are caused by state actors.

On August 5, 2019, the Indian government revoked the statute of autonomy of the only Muslim-majority state Jammu & Kashmir; a region that has been affected by political unrest and terrorism for decades. This political decision went with Human rights violations hand in hand. For example, on the grounds of "counter-terrorism", civil liberties of the majority Muslim population, such as freedom of assembly and the press, were restricted for months and have not been fully restored. The local population has been placed under a comprehensive regime Communication blockage provided by internet and telephone. Numerous local politicians and activists were there preventively imprisoned or under House arrest posed. The events made international headlines and were discussed in the UN Security Council at the instigation of Pakistan. Federal Chancellor Dr. Merkel spoke clearly about the situation in Kashmir during her visit to India in November 2019.

On August 31, 2019, the final National Citizens Register (NRC) in the state of Assam released. In the context of the controversial NRC, only those residents are included in the list who can prove that they or their parents were in the Indian state before 1971 - the year in which millions of Bengali Muslims fled the Bangladeshi War of Independence to India have lived. From the final list were 1.9 million of the 33 million citizens of Assam, about half of them Muslims, according to unconfirmed information. Hundreds of thousands of Hindus are also among the excluded, for whom re-naturalization is possible via the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) (see below). Therefore, critics speak of a targeted one Measure against the Muslim minority. What will happen to those excluded from the NRC is still unclear.

On December 11, 2019, the Indian Parliament passed an addition to the Citizenship Act (CAA), a key government project of Modi. According to the new law, Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jain, Parsis or Christians who have fled to India from Pakistan, Bangladesh or Afghanistan (as of December 31, 2014) can acquire Indian citizenship after just five years. Muslims are excluded from this law; the government argues that the law only targets religiously persecuted groups in the three countries. The law caused throughout India strong proteste, not just by Muslims. Opponents criticize it as discriminatory, anti-Muslim and as a threat to the secular character of the Indian state. In addition, the critics fear that the law could be a harbinger for the introduction of an India-wide NRC, which in combination with the CAA could lead to the de facto expatriation of Muslim citizens. The Indian security forces took strict action against demonstrators; Bans on assembly, arrests and dozens of deaths were the result.

The Application of the FCRA - an efficient instrument for controlling foreign money inflows, because it has a wide scope for interpretation - has also affected Christian NGOs in the recent past.


Social conflicts with a religious component

Despite the population density and the great diversity of Indian society, the coexistence of religions in India is largely peaceful. Nevertheless, tensions exist between the various religious communities, which in the past have also led to violent excesses ("riots", translated: Pogroms) led.

The largest religious minority of Muslims is still in essential areas of life (health, education, work) significantly socially disadvantaged. A controversial debate that has been going on for decades concerns the building of a Ram temple in Ayodhya, called for by the Hindu national side, at the site where Hindu demonstrators destroyed a mosque that had stood there for centuries in 1992. In its ruling in November 2019, the Supreme Court earmarked the controversial plot of land for the construction of a Ram temple, and the Muslim community should receive an appropriately large plot of land as compensation.

The data situation for Hate crime development in India in the last few years has been inconsistent and makes a precise classification difficult. While NGOs critical of the government and politically more on the left have reported an increase in attacks by Hindus against Muslims under the BJP government, according to official crime statistics this has been the case since 2010 no significant change in the total number of hate crimes based on religion and caste basis recorded. Dalits and people of Muslim faith are by far, even according to official figures most commonly affected by hate crimes and together make up about 90 percent of all victims. The Christian Dalits, who make up around two-thirds of India's Christians, are also reportedly exposed to attacks. The Catholic Bishop of Delhi issued a circular to priests in May 2018, expressing public concern about the situation of the Christian population, which sparked an emotional public debate.

One area in which there has been a sharp rise at times since the BJP government took office in 2014 is Violent acts in connection with so-called "cow protectors"who are close to Hindu nationalist groups. Here, Muslims in particular are victims of violent attacks, who in many cases - mostly unjustified - are accused of slaughtering cows for the meat trade, which is prohibited in some states. The number of attacks has been falling again since autumn 2017.

People of Christian (but also Muslim) faith are sometimes from the Hindu nationalist side in India accused of proselytism, which is the real motive of all Christian social and educational activities. Hindu nationalists are calling for an India-wide conversion ban, which they have so far not been able to enforce in the parliamentary sphere. The fact that Hinduism itself is not a missionary religion also plays a role here, and active missionary activity is therefore perceived as alien and (as in some other countries too) it is also linked to the colonial past.

In recent years, Hindu nationalist groups have been throwing out Muslims "Forced conversions" by Hindu girls before if they want to marry a Muslim. In 2018, in the "Hadiya" case, the Supreme Court underlined the fundamental right to free choice of spouse and religion and annulled a lower court decision to annul the marriage between a former Hindu and a Muslim because the woman was forced to convert to Islam has been.

The Election victory of the Hindu national BJP in 2014 and 2019 triggered an intense public discussion about the tension between the values ​​of a secular constitution and a population that is in part deeply religious. A number of representatives, especially Muslim and Christian groups, complain about an increase in intolerance.


Interreligious cooperation structures

Due to its secular foundations, the Indian state largely stays out of religious and thus inter-religious matters with a few exceptions. For example, in October 2018 an Indian delegation led by the Minister of State in the Foreign Ministry conducted an inter-religious dialogue with Indonesia. The delegation included representatives of the most important religions occurring in India, Hinduism, Christianity, Islam and Buddhism.

The vast majority of religious actors take their responsibility for peace seriously and do not fuel tensions between the religious groups. Isolated extremist voices - especially from the Hindu and Muslim side - can be heard, but their agitation is not shared by the majority of believers.

366 The pogroms against Sikhs in New Delhi in 1984, the riots against Hindus in Kashmir in 1990, the so-called Gujarat pogroms against Muslims in 2002 and the violent riots against Christians in Odisha in 2008 should be mentioned here. The last time there were riots between Hindus and Muslims in Muzaffarnagar in 2013, in which at least 62 people were killed. Outside the reporting period, serious interfaith riots ("Delhi riots") broke out in Delhi at the beginning of 2020.
367 The 2011 census showed that the proportion of Hindus had declined proportionally to below 80 percent (0.7 percent less than in the last 2001 census), while the proportion of the Muslim population had risen from 13.4 to 14.2 percent . The percentage of Christian numbers remained unchanged.
368 National Commission for Minorities Act 1992
369 The Indian constitution generally grants certain rights to religious and linguistic minorities. With the National Commission for Minorities Act of 1992, the Indian government set up the National Commission for Minorities, which in turn worked out proposals as to which religions should be given minority status.
370 Secular holidays only, e.g. B. Independence Day are nationwide national holidays in India.
371 Regional offices are responsible for registration, where the organization is registered after registration and payment of due fees.
372 Arunachal Pradesh, Odisha, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Gujarat, Himachal Pradesh, Jharkhand and Uttarakhand;
373 Although unconstitutional (Article 17 of the Indian Constitution), the phenomenon of "untouchability" is still a social reality in India.
374 Gujarat and Chhattisgarh.
375 Such as the "Hindu Marriage Act" of 1955, the "Hindu Succession Act" of 1957 or the "Parsi Marriage And Divorce Act" of 1936.
376 The intention to marry must first be communicated to the local authorities at the place of origin of one of the spouses. The marriage may then only be concluded if no objections are raised. However, this gives religious authorities, caste leaders and families the opportunity to delay or prevent the wedding.