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Religion – Is Personal now Political?

Religion – Is Personal now Political?

Written By – Dakshita

The secular country of India is the second most populous in the world, and comprises of 85% Hindus, 10% Muslims, 2.5% Christians and the rest as other minority religions. Simply defined, religion is the belief an individual holds that defines their way of lifestyle and culture directly. Indirectly, religion affects all spheres of our lives, from something as basic as our staple to diet to the complex issues of economy – religion has the power to govern it all. Even at the time of Independence, religion was the major factor that led to the partition of India, Pakistan and Bangladesh. The Supreme Court acknowledged the impact of religion in the Shirur Mutt case[1] and held that religion may not only lay down a code of ethical rules for its followers to accept, it might prescribe rituals and observances, ceremonies and modes of worship which are regarded as integral parts of religion, and these forms and observances might extend even to matters of food and dress.

After the 42nd Amendment, India is a secular country, i.e. does not have an official religion and treats all religions as the same. In the case of SR Bommai v Union of India[2], Secularism was defined not as an atheist society but a heterogeneous society providing equal status to all religions without favoring or discriminating against any one. Considering this definition, the question arises whether using religion as a tool to gain votes in the Constitutional process of election “favoring or discriminating against any one” religion.

A 2018 study[3] titled “Politics and Society between Elections 2018”, which spanned eight states – Andhra Pradesh, Bihar, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Rajasthan, Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh and Telangana, of the country, held that 55% Indians would prefer a political leader from their own caste and religion. In the case of Abhiram Singh vs C.D. Commachen (Dead) By Lrs.& Ors[4], the Supreme Court had held that, “the state being secular in character will not identify itself with any one of the religions or religious denominations. This necessarily implies that religion will not play any role in the governance of the country which must at all times be secular in nature. Election is a secular exercise just as the functions of the elected representatives must be secular in both outlook and practice.” However, we have seen that the practical implementation of the judgment is still missing.

Parties that include religious manifestos, create a vote bank of that particular religion. Hence, instead of voting for the best candidate, people generally choose leaders from their own religion, without realizing that for political parties just want to create a stable votebank for all electoral purposes. What was supposed to be an extremely personal belief now is used as a tool to manipulate voters.

The recent trend of mixing politics with religion has proved to be extremely harmful for the society at large. For example, in the Islamic countries, political/judicial institutions have generally been mixed with Islam, specifically the Sharia Law.  Pakistan’s Constitution Pakistan states, the role of a judge on a Shariat bench is to, ‘examine and decide whether or not any law or provision of law is repugnant to the injunctions of Islam.’[5] In India as well, the Babri Masjid case was both, extremely religious and political, and thus being a volatile spot for most of the people from both the sides.

Under Article 25 of the Indian Constitution, all citizens have a fundamental right to profess, preach and practice their own religion, subject to some reasonable restrictions of public morality, health, and public order. Politics when mixed with religion will always give grounds to curtail the fundamental rights of citizens as there are bound to be communal tensions, hence all three restrictions can be applied. Therefore, for a developmental society, religion and politics must be kept separated.


[1]The Commissioner, Hindu Religious Endowments, Madras v. Sri Lakshmindra Thirtha Swamiar of Sri Shirur Mutt, 1954 AIR 282.

[2] SR Bommai v Union of India, 1994 AIR 1918.

[3] https://www.lokniti.org/media/upload_files/politics-and-society-between-elections-2018-report.pdf

[4] Abhiram Singh v. C.D. Commachen By Lrs.& Ors, Civil Appeal  No. 8339 Of 1995.

[5] Article 203B, Constitution of Pakistan.

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