Attempt to Undermine Secularism: Testing Waters!
Words are not mere words; they do indicate our values and the basis of our association when it comes to the books like Constitution of India. Recently the controversy was created by dropping the words Secular and Socialist from Indian Constitution’s preamble in the advertisement released by the Modi Government on the eve of Republic day. When it was questioned how come these words are missing, which are part of the preamble, BJP leaders jumped to say that this is the ‘original’ Constitutions’ preface. Ravi Shanker Prasad, the union minister retorted that Nehru and Ambedkar, were no less secular, still these words were not put in the Constitution in 1950. At that time Nehru was Prime Minister and Ambedkar was the Chief of the drafting committee. BJP’s political ally Shiv Sena’s Sanjay Raut stated that these words should be deleted for good as we are neither socialist nor secular. His mentor, late Bal Thackeray had time and again said that this is a Hindu nation. There was good opposition to this retrograde move all around. In the face of strong resistance to this step of the Government, finally Arun Jaitly went on to say that from now on the prevalent Constitution’s preamble, with words secularism and socialism, alone will be used.
It is true that the words Socialist and Secular were not there in the original Constitution which was implemented in 1950. The values of Socialism, equitable distribution of wealth, social control on resources were the spirit of the policies for a long time. When the word Socialism was introduced it was felt that it was the right approach to our economic policies, and that’s how the current ruling party, BJP also used the word Gandhian Socialism as its ideology in 1980.
With Modi Government coming to power, its policies are a signal that Corporate will have unabashed control over social resources. Also the signals are that policies which were meant to act as protective clauses for the weak and marginalized will be done away with. So with the new dispensation the word Socialism is a big embarrassment. Whatever little control state tended to exercise in economic domain is now over after this Government has come to power. Just to recall that the industrial giants were the major funders of Modi campaign.
As for as secularism is concerned it had been the inherent spirit of Indian Constriction, as the articles 25 and 26 elaborate the secular nature of the state. The whole Constitution is seeped with secular values. The addition of these words in the preamble during the dreaded emergency regime was mostly due to the fact that the authoritarian regime wanted to get some legitimacy for itself, so these two words might have been added. These words did not negate the spirit of our Constitution but as such are a value addition to what we had.
So why this subtle move to delete these words from the advertisement? Shiv Sena spokesperson said even if this might have happened by mistake, let’s make it permanent. The core point is that BJP and its ally Shiv Sena are uncomfortable with the secularism as a guiding principle of our nation, our state, as their political agenda is totally opposed to upholding pluralism, diversity and protection of minority rights in our country. Right from the beginning they have upheld Hindutva i.e. Hindu nationalism as their ideology in contrast to secularism-Indian nationalism. Times and again as the opportunity comes they articulate it and depending on their electoral political strength they try to implement a course towards Hindu nation. Due to their recent electoral success they feel more emboldened to express this openly.
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Indian National Congress during the first General Election 1951-52
True that these words were included during emergency, it’s also true that the Janata Party which came to power had sworn that they will undo the ‘emergency amendments’, once they come to power, still they did not touch these words as it was clear that any such attempt will be opposed by the large section of Indians. One should note that the stalwarts of BJP, Vajpayee and Advani, were part of that Government. After demolition of Babri Mosque, the word Hindu Rashtra came more in to bigger prominence. Later once NDA coalition came to power in 1998 they expressed this subtly by forming ‘Constitution Review’ committee. Again, seeing the massive opposition from the people, the NDA government withheld the implementation of the committee report.
Now with majority in the parliament for BJP, this move can be seen as an attempt to test the waters to see as to how far the BJP government can go ahead with their agenda of Hindu nationalism. As the matters stand, seeing the protests and campaigns against BJP’s move, they have finally decided to use only the preamble with words Secular and Socialist. This attempt of removal of this word secular cannot be seen in isolation. This was running in parallel with all-round enfoldment of agenda of RSS combine. There is an assertive talk by RSS that, we are all Hindus, this is a Hindu nation. At the same time other voices operate at different level and ask for bringing in Gita as the national book. Within BJP itself there are supplementary forces that denigrated religious minorities by calling them Haram jade, and glorify the killer of Mahatma Gandhi as a patriot. At yet another level, the communal combine is out to intensify the polarization of society along religious lines, so burning of a Church here, the incident or throwing corpse of a pig in a holy place, the campaigns of Ghar Vapasi, and targeting of youth in the name of love jihad are painfully present on the plate of communal politics.
The fathers of Indian Constitution brought in the core values of India’s freedom movement. The ones, who are currently demanding a deletion or debate to on these words are the ones’ who are opposed to Indian Nationalism and want to march towards Hindu nationalism. They also don’t identify with India’s freedom movement. The battle is not merely around this or that word, its battle between upholding the spirit of Indian freedom movement versus nationalism in the name of religion.