Class 8 Chapter 2 – ‘Understanding Secularism’ NCERT Notes

Class 8 NCERT Notes of the chapter “#Understanding Secularism” are given here. The notes are classified under different headings to highlight the points in the notes. Click here for other chapter notes. So, enjoy free learning with free resources here.

Understanding Secularism


Secularism is the separation of religion from the state. It is a principle that ensures that the government does not favour or promote any particular religion. This means that the government cannot interfere in religious matters, and that religious institutions cannot interfere in the affairs of the state.

Discrimination on Grounds of Religion

  • History provides many examples of discrimination, exclusion, and persecution on the grounds of religion.
  • In Hitler’s Germany, Jews were persecuted and killed.
  • The Jewish State of Israel treats its Muslim and Christian minorities quite badly.
  • In Saudi Arabia, non-Muslims are not allowed to build a temple, church, or gather in a public place for prayers.
  • These acts of discrimination take place more easily when one religion is given official recognition by the State at the expense of other religions.
  • No one would wish to be discriminated against because of their religion nor dominated by another religion.

India and Discrimination on Grounds of Religion

  • The Indian Constitution prohibits discrimination against citizens on the grounds of religion.
  • Article 15 of the Constitution states that “The State shall not discriminate against any citizen on grounds only of religion, race, caste, sex, place of birth or any of them.”
  • This means that the State cannot treat citizens differently based on their religion.
  • For example, the State cannot deny a citizen employment or education because of their religion.
  • The State also cannot discriminate against citizens in the provision of public services, such as healthcare and housing.

What is Secularism

  • Indian Constitution contains Fundamental Rights protecting individuals from State power and tyranny of the majority.
  • The Constitution allows individuals the freedom to live by their religious beliefs and practices as they interpret them.
  • India follows the idea of religious freedom for all.
  • India adopted a strategy of separating the power of religion and the power of the State.
  • Secularism in India refers to the separation of religion from the State.

Importance of Separating Religion from the State

  • Democratic Functioning: Secularism’s separation of religion from State power is crucial for the proper functioning of a democratic country.
  • Protecting Religious Minorities: In countries with multiple religious groups, a majority religious group in control of State power could lead to discrimination, persecution, and violation of rights against religious minorities.
  • Safeguarding Fundamental Rights: Any form of religious domination violates the fundamental rights guaranteed to all citizens in a democratic society, regardless of their religion.
  • Freedom of Religious Expression: Separating religion from the State is essential to protect individuals’ freedom to exit their religion, embrace another, or interpret religious teachings differently.
  • Challenging Harmful Practices: With State power in the hands of those who support harmful practices within a religion, it becomes challenging to reform or eliminate such practices, even for members of the dominant religious group.
  • Resisting Interpretational Restrictions: In the absence of secularism, those in control of State power might impose a single interpretation of religion, limiting individuals’ freedom to interpret religious beliefs differently.

What is Indian Secularism:

  • Constitutional Mandate: The Indian Constitution declares that the Indian State must be secular.
  • Objectives of Indian Secularism: The primary objectives of Indian secularism are to prevent the dominance of one religious’ community over another, to prevent some members from dominating others within the same religious community, and to ensure that the State does not enforce any particular religion or infringe on the religious freedom of individuals.
  • Strategy of Distancing from Religion: The Indian State follows a strategy of distancing itself from religion. It is not ruled by any religious group and does not support any particular religion.
  • Secular Government Spaces: In India, government spaces such as law courts, police stations, government schools, and offices are not allowed to display or promote any specific religion.
  • Public Holidays: While most religious festivals are public holidays, they are intended for celebration at home or in the community, not within government institutions like schools.
  • Emphasis on Religious Freedom: Indian secularism emphasizes protecting the religious freedom of individuals, allowing them to practice and celebrate their beliefs without interference from the State.

How Indian Secularism Works:

  1. Equality of Religions in Government Schools: The storyboard illustrates that the celebration of a religious festival within a government school would be a violation of the government’s policy of treating all religions equally. Government schools in India cannot promote or celebrate any one religion, including morning prayers or religious festivals.
  2. Private Schools’ Independence: Unlike government schools, private schools in India are not bound by the same restrictions. They have more freedom to incorporate religious practices and celebrations if they choose to do so.
  3. Strategy of Non-Interference: Indian secularism employs a strategy of non-interference, wherein the State avoids interfering with religious practices to respect the sentiments of all religions.
  4. Exceptions for Religious Communities: To accommodate the diversity of religious practices and beliefs in India, the State may make certain exceptions for particular religious communities. These exceptions are aimed at preserving religious freedom and accommodating religious sentiments without endorsing any particular religion.

Indian secularism seeks to ensure equal treatment of all religions by maintaining distance and non-interference in religious matters while protecting the religious freedom of individuals and avoiding any promotion of a specific religion by the State.

Indian Secularism and Its Differences from Other Democratic Countries:

  1. Religious Exception: Indian secularism recognizes religious exceptions, such as allowing Sikhs to wear a pugri (turban) instead of a helmet while riding scooters, respecting the significance of religious practices.
  2. Intervention to Prevent Domination: Indian secularism uses a strategy of intervention to prevent domination within religious communities. For instance, the Indian Constitution bans untouchability to combat discrimination within the Hindu community.
  3. Support for Religious Communities: The Indian Constitution grants religious communities the right to establish their own schools and colleges, providing financial aid on a non-preferential basis.
  4. Difference from U.S. Secularism: Indian secularism differs from the strict separation of religion and State as practiced in the United States. In India, the State can intervene in religious affairs based on constitutional principles, maintaining a principled distance from religion.
  5. Constitution as a Standard: Indian secularism relies on the ideals laid out in the Constitution to judge whether State interference in religious matters aligns with secular principles.
  6. Guaranteeing Fundamental Rights: The Indian Constitution guarantees Fundamental Rights based on secular principles, aiming to prevent violations and protect citizens’ rights.
  7. Sensitivity to Violations: The existence of these constitutional rights makes society sensitive to their violations, enabling action against such violations.

Indian secularism aims to prevent religious domination, respect religious practices, and ensure the protection of individual rights while maintaining a principled distance between the State and religion. It differs from the U.S. secularism by allowing for State intervention in religious matters based on constitutional principles.


Indian secularism stands apart from the strict separation of religion and the State in some other democracies, such as the United States. While Indian secularism allows for State intervention in religious affairs based on constitutional principles, it maintains a principled distance from religion. The Indian Constitution’s guarantee of Fundamental Rights helps prevent and address violations of secular principles, making it an essential tool in promoting and protecting religious freedom and secular values in India.

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