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Ram Puniyani | 6 FEBRUARY, 2015

What is in a Word? Everything


Words are not mere words; they do indicate our values and the basis of our association when it comes to documents like the Constitution of India.

Recently a 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. The Opposition immediately questioned the government, and in response BJP leaders jumped to say that this was the Preamble of the ‘original’ Constitution. Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad retorted that Nehru and Ambedkar, were no less secular, and still these words were not put in the Constitution when it was framed 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 India is a Hindu nation.

These comments got well deserved flak and finally Minister Arun Jaitley went on record to say that from now on the prevalent Constitution’s preamble, with the words secularism and socialism, alone will be used.

With the Modi Government coming to power, its policies are a signal that Corporates 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. For the new dispensation the word Socialism is clearly a big embarrassment. Whatever little control the state tended to exercise in the economic domain is now over.

As for as secularism is concerned it had been the inherent spirit of the Indian Constitution, as Articles 25 and 26 elaborate. The Constitution itself is steeped in secular values.

So why this subtle move to delete these words in the government 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 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. Time and again they articulate it and depending on their electoral political strength they try to implement a course towards establishing a Hindu nation. Due to their recent electoral success they feel more emboldened to express this openly.

True that these words were included during the 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 large section of Indians. One should note that the stalwarts of BJP, Vajpayee and Advani, were part of that Government. After the demolition of the Babri Mosque, the word Hindu Rashtra came into prominence. Later once the NDA coalition came to power in 1998 they expressed this subtly by forming a ‘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 the words Secular and Socialist. This attempt to remove the ‘secular’ term cannot be seen in isolation. This runs parallel with the all-round agenda of the RSS combine for a Hindu nation.

The fathers of Indian Constitution brought in the core values of India’s freedom movement. The ones, who are currently re-opening the Preamble to scrutiny with the deletion of the key words 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 between upholding the spirit of the Indian freedom movement versus nationalism in the name of religion.

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