I demonstrate that in practice, Indian state actually privileges Hinduism over other religions and religious communities. The Indian state is in fact the defender of the dharma for the following five reasons. Why India Is Not A Secular State: outlookindia.com Omar Khalidi
4: Cultural Discrimination
There are numerous examples where Hindu culture is conflated with Indian culture. The ban on cow slaughter deprived thousands of butchers their livelihood even as it stole millions of poor their only source of inexpensive protein. Cow may be sacred to the upper castes, but not so to the Christians, Dalits, and Muslims. Food taboos of some higher castes do not end at beef. Beyond beef, eggs may not be sold publicly by court order as it offends some caste sensibilities. Nor can school children bring food of their choice if it offends Hindus.
Official functions of the government whether at the central or state levels often commence with Hindu ceremonies of lighting lamps, breaking coconuts, and recitation of slokas. There is no disapproval to the fact that functions of central and state ministries of education begin with Sarasvati vandana .
In September 1993, Air India took delivery of a Boeing 747 in Seattle, Washington where the Ramakrishna Mission performed a puja invoking Lord Ganesha. Ministers lay foundation stones of government buildings preceded by bhoomi puja ceremony as if the state belongs only to Hindus. In Vishakhapatnam, I witnessed a ship launch amid saffron-robed, ashen faced sadhus singing bhajans, a function nearly mistaken as a Hindu festival.
In a trip to the United States in 1984, AP Chief Minister N.T. Ramarao found nothing objectionable in spending government funds for distributing medallions with Sri Venkateshwara’s image among potential investors in his state.
A large stone image of a reclining Vishnu located at the entrance to the IGP’s headquarters in Bangalore is more fitting for a temple than a secular state’s police building. Almost every police thana in West Bengal has a Kali temple, none has a mosque in a state with nearly 30 percent Muslim population. Muslim police trainees in Andhra Pradesh, School children in Gujarat, Maharashtra and numerous other states have been forced to perform Surya namaskar against their will. Government school texts in Hindi and regional languages assume all pupils to be Hindu as the contents are soaked with idioms, phrases, signs, symbols, and icons of Hinduism to the exclusion of material from other religions and cultures. Textbooks of history and social studies are replete with gross distortions of Indian history of all eras, ancient, medieval and modern, in which Muslims and Christians are invariably the villains, traitors and foreigners.
Until the advent of television in the 1980s, All India Radio was the main source of information and entertainment to middle classes. The government-controlled AIR began its programs with Vande Mataram, Mangala dhwani, Vandana, and Hindu lyrics. Rarely did AIR broadcast anything pertaining to Christian or Muslim cultures. Like the AIR, during its heyday, seldom does Door Darshan show any serials of Muslim or Christian character. When it broadcasted serials of historical or literary figures—Tipu Sultan, Ghalib—they were caricatured into modern stock characters stripped of their distinctive cultural identity.
5: Religious Pogroms
Finally no modern, secular democracy other than India experienced multiple, state-sponsored pogroms—that of Sikhs in 1984 and of Muslims in 2002. In both instances, the highest in the Executive branch of the government justified the pogroms: Rajiv Gandhi when his mother was murdered; and Narendra Modi when the train burned in Godhra.
For all these five reasons, India is not a secular state. It is in fact the defender of Hindu dharma. Hyderabad-born, MIT-based Omar Khalidi is the author of Muslims in Indian Economy and Khaki and Ethnic Violence in India.