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  • Akanchha Saraf

India's Rising Religious Intolerance

Written by: Akanchha Saraf , B.A.LL.B ( 1st Year ) , Lovely Professional University


Have you heard of growing religious conflicts in India? Hardly a week seems to pass without another violent or discriminatory occurrence involving minorities of religion. India's has a centuries-long tradition of religious tolerance and diversity. However, it appears that things have regressed in recent years. The Discourse against minorities and religious nationalism has gained popularity. There is an increase in intimidation and mob violence. The government often turns a blind eye. For the biggest democracy in the world, this is a risky course. India's future rests on mending, not escalating, its differences. This blog will examine the history of secular principles in India, the reasons behind their current challenge, and the consequences of this trend if remain unchecked. 

 

India has a long history of religious tolerance, having been encouraged to coexist peacefully by some of its early rulers. During his reign over the Mauryan Empire in the third century BCE, Emperor Ashoka encouraged religious tolerance and coexistence. He emphasised morality, piety, and peace in his edicts, which helped disseminate Buddhist principles throughout his realm. During the 16th century, Mughal Emperor Akbar instituted a policy of religious tolerance. He discouraged forced conversions, supported interfaith discussions, and eliminated tariffs that discriminated against non-Muslims. The Muslims and Hindus coexisted peacefully under Akbar's reign. However, under British administration, religious tensions increased and resulted in the 1947 division of India and Pakistan. The constitution makers of India created a secular democratic country that upholds the freedom to practise any religion secured under Article 25 of the Indian Constitution.

 

India has seen an increase in religious intolerance, over these few years. A nationalist agenda that encourages Hinduism's domination in India has been encouraged by the ruling party. Hardline groups have been empowered to persecute Christians, Muslims, and other religious minorities. Mob lynching, violent assaults, and hate crimes against minorities have been reported more frequently. Also, the actions of government are of such a nature that they are detrimental to religious minorities. For Christians and Muslims alike, they have increased the barriers to receiving government assistance. The controversial Citizenship Amendment Act grants immigrants from nearby nations quicker naturalisation; nevertheless, Muslims are not eligible. These kinds of measures are making minorities in India even more marginalised.

 

All Indians, regardless of race or religion, would benefit from development, according to the present government, which took office in 2014. But since then, the government has acted and made statements in politics that encourage further hatred towards religious minorities. The agenda of the ruling party is Hindu nationalist, giving Hindu rights precedence over those of other people. Officials in the government openly back extremist Hindu organisations that disseminate false information about religious minorities, especially Muslims. This gives discrimination a voice in mainstream politics and gives radicals more confidence. Dissenting voices have been silenced by the government, particularly those who speak out against intolerance based on religion. When journalists, activists, and demonstrators criticise the government or Hindu nationalists, they are often persecuted or even arrested.

 

When religious groups become intolerant of each other, it fosters an "us vs. them" mentality that divides society. People begin to identify more with their religious group than their shared nationality or humanity. India was founded as a secular democracy to protect all religious groups, so marginalizing minorities goes against the basic principles of the nation. Religious intolerance and conflict also negatively impact the economy. Violence and unrest disrupt trade and commerce, while discrimination leads to unequal access to jobs and resources for minorities. India's economy depends on a diverse, skilled workforce from all religious backgrounds. Intolerance threatens to cut off access to human potential and economic gains, especially as globalization increases.

 

Personal connections across religious divides are powerful. Initiate or participate in events that bring together people of different faiths like festivals, dialogues, book clubs or community service projects. Once you engage with others as fellow humans, prejudices, and misconceptions start to fade. These interactions encourage friendships and build trust between communities. India's rising religious intolerance is indeed a dangerous trend with deep historical roots. As we've seen, this disturbing shift threatens the unity and democratic values at the heart of the world's largest democracy. But the good news is, it's not too late to reverse course. By speaking out, voting, and pressuring leaders to uphold constitutional freedoms, we all have the power to steer India back toward harmony. The future remains unwritten. Will we choose light or darkness? The pen is in our hands. India's fate depends on the choices we make today.

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