In India, we crossed a milestone on January 26, as a sovereign democratic republic, or more appropriately, as a sovereign socialist secular democratic republic. These catchy appellations do come from the preamble to the Constitution of India. It is a different matter that the preamble has been edited with two major words with far-reaching consequences – socialist and secular, in the midway, in our journey as a young nation, during the Emergency days when Indira-led Congress took steps in parallel to weaken the very foundation of democracy. It is also a different matter that the Supreme Court of India has flip-flopped in the past regarding the legal enforceability of the preamble itself though it has a leaning in positive at present.
India’s achievements as a republic bring honour to the whole nation and to every individual identifying with the country. This manifests each year in a spectacular display of diverse cultures, multi-religious beliefs, military might, people power, and above all, the traditions spanning more than a half-century on Rajpath in New Delhi. More than a billion people commit their aspirations as one nation, and embrace their freedom and equality while vindicating their trust towards unity and integrity of the country.
The significance of the preamble does not stop here. It goes on to emphasize our resolve in smashing the rigid walls of religious and communal thinking in the dealings of government with regard to its people. It brings the supremacy of the Constitution of India over any religious practice by any individual or community. On the other hand, it adjures the government to focus on welfare of people irrespective of their affiliations, the scope of which can be massive indeed.
All these beautiful narrations hold well on and off the Republic Day celebrations. But this is in the limelight now as our current ruling dispensation wants countrymen to debate on the preamble. It is not surprising when we have amended the preamble before and have also shown our vulnerability to undemocratic thoughts in the past. Hence it is scary when you speak of emending finer aspects of democratic edifice as it may swamp the entire edifice itself.
The story is interesting however.
We have now President who draws his experiences as a part of then ruling party which was about to change the very essence of our Republic by imposing the Emergency while changing the preamble for greater justice and equality of Indians. Interesting indeed; you may call it a significant change of heart, or course-correction; but give me another day for it. “Religion, said Gandhiji, is a force for unity; we cannot make it a cause of conflict.” These words from his Republic Day address to the nation stands as a testimony of his strong belief in secularism which he has been arguing since long. But is he articulating the view of present government?
We have now Prime Minister who draws solace from being called as a Hindu nationalist while he concedes, “There is only one holy book for the Indian government, and that is the Constitution.” Critics may accuse him of playing the game interweaving both falsity and virtue. They may cite how the primary beneficiary of a mammoth propaganda machine in the history of India could allow a controversy by omitting two such words from a government advertisement without having a purpose. They may find greater solace by recounting a piece of gospel from the Prime Minister’s friend, ‘Barack’: “India will succeed so long as it is not splintered along the lines of religious faith, as long as it is not splintered along any lines, and it is unified as one nation.” Did the Prime Minister speak through his friend? Is it his mann ki baat?
Or, are these many acts of personating Dhritarashtra meant for the grand self-destructive political drama in our country?
The story is agonising too.
A hungry person is called a liar if he or she speaks about the plate rather than food. It is still worse when such a person also speaks of gastronomical ambiance or any preference of different utensils.
India is still a developing nation. We are shadowed by the extraordinary economic growth in our northern neighbourhood while bleeding profusely by terrorism from across the western frontier. At the same time, Indian demography is young; and is hungry for attaining economic prosperity and for availing new opportunities. We, as a nation, want to achieve greater social parity, peaceful living, and a healthy population.
Stop speaking about religion. The One Supreme, the God of gods, cannot be associated with any particular community or religion. But then each individual, community or religion can have their own god. Please do not ignore the profound teaching of our ancients that sits at the root of our national mould. Have a restraint on your freedom draped with power, and limit your discourse to the development of our physical and social infrastructures, creating a framework to prevent pandemic diseases from spreading, and protecting our people against enemies outside and inside.