EVOKING ISSUES AND CREATING CLOUDS:
TESTING THE MOOD OF INDIANS?
03 Feb 2015
Sunny Jacob S.J.
Of late the Central Government and the ruling party have adopted lots of rhetoric’s on various occasions on diverse issues. Many are irrelevant and out of context. Creating hype and gaining political mileage seems to be the order of the day. How long will this sustain and continue its momentum is doubtful for any right thinking person. There are a few examples we can site for the smoke and cloud evoking utterances of responsible persons in the government and the elected representatives. Talking big and creating hype on every issue is not a good sign of governance. Be it on Black money or ‘Swatch Bharat Abhiyan’, or attacks on Churches or price control, the government seems to be only talking loud and no action is seen on the ground. The sad part of the story is that they have even started talking about the Constitutions of the country! But then one cannot forget the ideological thrust of the government of the day and their actions to undermine the spirit of the Constitutions.
When NDA was in power at the centre earlier, one of the first actions it took was setting up a committee to review the Constitutions of India. It was by Mr Vajpayee on 22 February 2000, constituted it for suggesting possible amendments to the Constitution of India. It was a clever ploy played by then the same ideology. The terms of reference given to the Commission stated that “the Commission shall examine, in the light of the experience of the past 50 years, as to how best the Constitution can respond to the changing needs of efficient, smooth and effective system of governance and socio-economic development of modern India within the framework of Parliamentary democracy, and to recommend changes, if any, that are required in the provisions of the Constitution without interfering with its basic structure or features”. It was headed by Retired Chief Justice of India Justice M.N. Venkatachaliah. The Commission submitted its report on 31 March 2002. The four-volume report was received by then law and justice minister Arun Jaitley.
Even though the purpose looked good and the phrase sounded tolerable, an in depth study will tell us that the real intention of the whole exercise was only to create an impression that there is something need to be changed, and the Constitutions is to be upgraded! The actual aim of that exercise was to test the mood of the country in favour of a particular ideology. The discussions followed by the appointment of the Commission, made the impression on some people that Constitutions of India is not good, or Secularism, Socialism and Democracy etc. are not right for the nation.
Today again blatantly the same sort of rhetoric is raised. On the eve of the Sacred Day of our Republic this year the Governmental advertisement in the News Papers showed the old preamble of the Constitutions. It was not a mistake by the government to put that picture on the papers, but it was a deliberate, calculated, ideologically inspired act by the government to evoke a response from the people that ‘see this was the Original preamble’ and what we have today is not original. It is true that in 1976 the spirit of the Constitutions and the need of the time made the government to add Secular and socialist words to the preamble. In the words of Dr. Ram Puniyani, “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”.
When it was questioned how come these words are missing, which are part of the preamble, some leaders jumped to say that this is the ‘original’ Constitutions’ preface. A reputed lawyer like Mr. Ravi Shanker Prasad, a union cabinet 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. Immediately one of the BJP’s political allies, Shiv Sena’s Sanjay Raut, stated that these words should be deleted for good as we are neither socialist nor secular. Finally Mr. Arun Jaitly went on to say that from now on the prevalent Constitution’s preamble, with words secularism and socialism, alone will be used. After that the BJP Chief too echoed the same. But more than a week confusion was created and for time being it is kept at the backburner.
Everyone knows that the words Socialist and Secular were not there in the original Constitution which was implemented in 1950. But the value of Socialism and Secularism were always there in the Indian psyche. Socialism and Secularism are an embarrassment for a government that calls for a market free economy, which is all out helping the corporates. Word Secular is highly misunderstood today due to concerted effort by the anti-secular forces using it for a purpose. Anyone who talks about secularism is portrayed as pseudo secular and majoritarian thinking is interpreted as Secular! Therefore, it is quite natural for people belonging to anti-secular and anti-socialist parties to speak against the Constitutional values of Secularism and Socialism. It is a shame that the American President had to remind all of us about Article 25 and 26 that explain to us about secularism. Why the government is so uncomfortable with the two words? Is it because, as Dr Ram Puniyani says, “Right from the beginning they have upheld Hindutva, i.e. Hindu nationalism, as their ideology in contrast to secularism, the majoritarian Indian nationalism? Time 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”.
The issue cannot be seen in isolation. There are preceding any number of examples one can sight for emphasising the fact that there is a concerted effort to make India a non-secular state. There is an assertive talk by some quarters that, we are all Hindus, this is a Hindu nation etc. One of the Union Ministers came out with a proposal of making Gita as the National Book. One MP calls religious minorities with derogatory names, and another glorifies the killer of Mahatma Gandhi as a patriot. An organisation reportedly applied for permission to build a temple for Godse! If the permission is denied, then in their own offices they are going to install the statues of their real hero! All out polarisation of communities are on, encouraged by the sheer political power and the full support of the big corporate houses and even foreign business interests. Communal politics is gaining momentum at the pretext of development on the one side and the rhetoric of a stable government at the centre and the states! Ghar Vapasi is also a sign of their anti-secular ideologies. Educational arena too is not far from controversies. Even Science is not spared of from unreasonable claims.
What saddens us more is all these rhetoric done by those who have taken oath in the name the Constitutions, promising that they will uphold the spirit of it in letter and spirit. They claimed to protect all the citizens and work for a progressive nation. Before taking his seat in the House every member of the Rajya Sabha, elected either in a biennial election or bye-election or nominated by the President, is required to make and subscribe before the President, or some person appointed in that behalf by him, oath or affirmation according to the following form set out for the purpose in the Third Schedule to the Constitution:1 I, A.B., having been elected (or nominated) a member of the Council of States (Rajya Sabha) do swear in the name of God/solemnly affirm that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the Constitution of India as by law established, that I will uphold the sovereignty and integrity of India and that I will faithfully discharge the duty upon which I am about to enter. The same goes to the members of the Lok Sabha too. But today many of their words do no match with their actions on the ground.
Unfortunately the opposition parties are fighting themselves and rarely seen or heard speaking on behalf of the Spirit of the Constitution. Many of the power hungry leaders of the ‘powerless parties’ are deserting their so far upheld ideologies, and migrating, to the new pastors. Intellectuals are side-lined or not given a voice. Main stream Media seems to be biased or playing to the tune to the gallery, without realising that they have a positive role to play. Their discussions and debates are more ‘noises’ than voice of people with depth and not so important issues are highlighted and real issues are not given light.
In this situation what the citizens of this great country do? What can educationists do? What should intellectuals, social activists, artists and writers do? I think it is only by upholding the values enshrined in the Constitutions we can, as a country, move ahead in the right direction. Otherwise, we will land up in a narrow, parochial mind-set and will have a terrible consequence. There will be majority- minority tussle and a theocratic fundamentalist polity will take shape and age old value of unity in diversity will diminish from the scene. Let us pledge that such a situation will never be allowed to emerge. But that pledge has to be taken now. Better now than never.