Secularism: Why Nehru Dropped and Indira Inserted the Word in the Constitution

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Nehru along with the chair of the drafting committee of the constitution, B R Ambedkar were opposed to the idea of including the word ‘secular’ in the preamble of the constitution.

Nehru Dropped and Indira Inserted the Word in the Constitution
  • On November 15,1948, Prof K T Shah made an intervention demanding the inclusion of the word ‘secular’ in the preamble. The amended article or clause must read: ‘India shall be a Secular, Federalist, Socialist, Union of States’ , ″ he said.
  • In the discussions- members agreed that nature of the Indian state would be secular but word ‘secular’ was dropped from the preamble.
  • Word was added three decades later, when the Indira Gandhi included as part of the 42nd Amendment of the constitution.

Spirit of Secularism

Making clear on the State following secularism, while avoiding its inclusion in the Preamble, Ambedkar believed:

  • Secularism must be policy of the State- Consequently; the Constituent Assembly adopted Articles 25,26 and 27 of the Constitution with the intention of furthering secularism.
  • However, how the Society should be organized in its social and economic side are matters which must be decided by the people themselves according to time and circumstances and not laid down in the Constitution itself
  • Though not formally inserted in the document, secularism was definitely embedded in the constitutional philosophy.

What Does It Mean by Word ‘Secularism’

  • Originated in late medieval Europe.
  • Theory that governments ought to have no religious connection, nor anything to do with matters of religious belief or ritual
  • Majority of the makers of modern India were influenced by European thoughts and practices and were ardent supporters of secularism.

Problems with ‘Secularism’ in the Constituent Assembly Debates

  • Foreign origins of the words, which does not describe Indian context. In order to follow secularism in its truest form, the State would be disallowed from making any kind of religious interventions, which included the reservation system, protection of the Muslim personal law and the directive principle to protect cows, all of which the Constitution went ahead with.
  • Questions were raised regarding the nature of its application and to what extent it was even possible. Secularism does not describe the extent to which State intends to cover the life and manners of people. If religion was beyond the ken of State, the Constituent Assembly would have been forced to delete all reference to rights relating to religion
  • Constituent Assembly believed in ‘Enlightenment Secularism’ , with its core principle of separation that is religion as essentially a private concern with which states had no legitimate business.

Secularism in the 42NdAmendment

  • The 42nd amendment was a 20 pages long document that gave unprecedented powers to the Parliament.
  • Almost all parts of the Constitution, including the preamble, were changed with this amendment.
  • Description of India in the preamble was changed from “sovereign, democratic republic” to a “sovereign, socialist, secular, democratic republic.”
  • With the passing of the 42nd amendment, the spirit of secularism which was always part and parcel of the Constitution was formally inserted into its body.

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