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Religion, politics and the secular state in India

Ranganathan, C. S.


C. S. Ranganathan


India has been declared to be a 'Secular State' since 1976, by an amendment to the Constitution, although its supporters claim that it has been one since 1950 when the Constitution was first adopted. From its inception the weaknesses of secularism as an operational category was apparent, but was ignored by politicians as well as by academics. 'Secularism' has since then not been defined in terms of the institutions of the state or the dominant values of the political system. It was given different interpretations by different groups. Even among the ranks of secularists there have been distinct divergences.

The Constitution recognizes not only ethnic but also religious minorities and has given them special rights to maintain educational institutions. Similarly caste based privileges were provided on the plea of 'backwardness'. Moreover, India continued to be a religious society although the state claimed to be secular. Some secularists would identify it with anti-religious policies.

The Hindu revivalists would identify the state with pro-minority and even anti-Hindu policies. In modern political idiom it was called 'minorityism' and 'pseudosecularism'. The Muslims, Sikhs and Christians, on the other hand, felt that such special rights are essential to maintain their identities. The rise of religions based politics in the eighties has created a major problem for the secular state.

In the light of the above 'Secularism' needs to be redefined in clearer terms. Religious syncretism and political and cultural accommodation associated with South Indian tradition where some of this necessary re-definition has been achieved through the process of historical evolution needs be looked into. Similarly, the de-linking of religion from culture in Indonesia and the adoption of a national ideology which can provide some helpful insights for India is worth pursuing. ' Apparently, Malaysia has established a viable democratic state by adopting an inter-communal than an noncommunal approach to its political problems. By taking a comparative look at the problem of secularism, in the light of the experiences of other nations, perhaps, the Indian secular state could face the future with more confidence.


Ranganathan, C. S. (1993). Religion, politics and the secular state in India. (Thesis). University of Hull. Retrieved from

Thesis Type Thesis
Deposit Date Mar 14, 2013
Publicly Available Date Feb 22, 2023
Keywords Politics
Public URL
Additional Information Department of Politics, The University of Hull
Award Date Jan 1, 1993


Thesis (25.4 Mb)

Copyright Statement
© 1993 Ranganathan, C. S. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced without the written permission of the copyright holder.

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