What Role Does Government Play in Religious Freedom and its Limits? By emily marks
“All persons are equally entitled to freedom of conscience and the right freely to profess, practice and propagate religion.” This is a direct quote from the Constitution of India. After reading it, you might think that India fully encourages the idea of religious freedom and supports the practice of religion, but don’t be fooled. My topic is limits on religious freedom and I decided to investigate the governmental aspect of it because there is a lot of information in the news right now about the Constitution of India so I decided it would be interesting to focus on that. Although it may seem like the government is protecting the religious rights of the people in India, it is the prefix of this quote I shared with you, which most people ignore, that makes all the difference. "Subject to public order, morality, health and to the other provisions of this Part," meaning people’s legal rights and religious freedom aren’t well protected like they seem. Recently, some examples of limits being put on religious freedom by the government have taken place. Some examples include banning santhara, a form of death that is performed in consciousness and peace, and banning tandava nritya, a Hindu dance that is known to be a dance that Shiva once performed. There is also a current issue on secularisation, because people in India have different views on whether or not they want a secular country. This is because some people in India feel as though making the country secular would cause ideas such as the caste system, a huge part of their legacy, to be forgotten about. This is why it is important for us Americans to know about Hindu and Buddhist legacy.
An example of the government being responsible for the limits on religious freedom in India is the santhara ban. Santhara is a form of passage that is done in peace and consciousness, but is not suicide. Santhara is a practice of Jain saints, who were shocked to hear about the illegalisation of santhara because previous to the situation, they were under the impression that their religious rights were being protected
Another example of the government being responsible for the limits put on religious freedom in India is that the constitution-makers ilegalised tandava nritya, which is a traditional Hindu dance. The constitution-makers are now allowing police bans on an organization called Anand Margi, which is a global, spiritual organization. This is the organization that practices tandava nritya
The government has been able to get away with limiting people's religious freedom because they found a loophole, like I mentioned earlier, which is the prefix to the quote I shared. Carefully utilizing this loophole, the constitution-makers have been categorizing each religious practice and have put them into 4 categories, farz, wajib, jaez and mustahab. Farz and wajib represent practices that come straight from the Quran and the Hedith, so they don't ban these. But jaez and mustahab represent recommended practices, which the government does ban. They also make decisions by looking through trustworthy texts that are accepted by the majority of its followers and make decisions based on those.
Issue on Secularisation
Another issue has come up related to limits on religious freedom, and this is the issue of secularisation. This is a process in which religion looses its significance and social power. One party in India wants a secular country while the other party does not. To make the country more secular, everyone would need to drop their ideas of caste, religion, etc. After reading about this, I developed a new question. Considering the fact that the government has found a loophole that allows them to ban certain religious practices, can they use another loophole to influence whether or not India becomes secular?