June 21, 2018

Identity, Constitution And Secularism – Why We Must Celebrate Ananth Kumar Hegde?

Ananth Kumar Hegde, Karnataka BJP Politician, a Member of Parliament from North Karnataka region and a Union Minister has stroked a new controversy by his comments of Secularism and need for constitutional amendment. The Secularati is up in arms.  The Congress, which has already put the Gujarat election behind us with all the temple runs associated with it. The land of Tipu needs a different strategy than the Hindutva laboratory. Secularism is the pole on which Congress has always raised its appeasement politics. They have always hid their misdoings behind the grandeur of this word- Secularism. The term Secularism has been used and misused so long and so often in the history of independent India, that it is left without any recognizable face and is bereft of any comprehensible meaning.

                The Minister was attending a function organized by Brahman Yuva Parishad in Koppal district of Karnataka. His audience, as the name suggests, was made up of Brahmin young men. Now that we are in a world which oscillates between the extremes of discrimination and reverse-discrimination, Brahmin- bashing has become prevalent in social discourse. It began as occupation-based ordering of social structure as Varna System; under the British, became Caste with all its ill-impacts, and Brahmins became a representative of caste discrimination. In such a world, where the original Vedic term, Brahmana which represented the one who knew the self, the enlightened soul, the infinite, once,  has by over-use and hereditary claim become an abuse, as the mobs oscillated between discrimination and reverse-discrimination. If a world where a history and a heritage is disfigured due to lack of knowledge; the resolution lies in more knowledge, not less.

                When we look at Mr. Hegde’s words from this perspective, it gains a philosophic significance. He spoke about identity, the acceptance of it and safeguarding it. He was addressing the crowd of one particular community which has been reviled much in the modern India, for the faults of its ancestors. Mr. Hegde urged the audience to take pride in their lineage and history. The idea of cutting all the people from their neck upwards so that they fit into a nameless and by implication soulless uniformity, is what Mr Hegde spoke of. It goes to the credit of Mr. Hegde that while saying so, in the midst of a Hindu-Brahmin crowd, he in fact, invoked everyone to be proud of their identity, including the Muslims. He made a philosopho-spiritual point there when he contended that instead of surrendering our uniqueness, our identity, our history and our heritage to a uniform namelessness and animalistic facelessness; we ALL must celebrate our identity and uniqueness with pride. In reality, what he said should have been welcomed by all, including the divisive Congress leaders of Karnataka who are wanting to create Karnataka as some sort of island of incongruous identity, divergent to the idea of united India.

                In a democracy, no idea is beyond debate.  The five-term parliamentarian, while urging people to be proud of their identities, Hindus or Muslims, Brahmins or Dalits, spoke dismissively about the idea of secularism mentioned in the Constitution of India and suggested that it should be changed. Indian secularism has been a different animal altogether in the history. Unlike countries which are today called melting pot of cultures, where the individual identities were surrendered to the national one, India always celebrated the individual identities. Acceptance and not Conversion is the way India approached the alien and the foreign.

In essential sense, the ghettoization of the communities which suited politics which could not offer a progress, has already deformed the face of secularism in India beyond recognition.  It is the strange case of India that here the orthodox Right-Wing activists, the so-called Hindutva brigade asks for Uniform Civil Code and the secular, liberals advocate religion-based laws. Much maligned belligerent Hindus want the state to be out of the temple and the Seculars, who should ask for the separation of State from the Church (or temple or Mosque) want the state control of religious places. Secularism which began from France essentially referred to the separation of State and Church (or Mosque or Temple), and in India, we have seculars defending state control of temples and State funding of Mosques and Madarassas.

In India, Secularism has for long been defined as a state which is equally close to all religions. This intentionally created erroneous definition was a clever camouflage to cover appeasement politics which could ensure the same dynasty coming back to power without offering any development to the citizens merely on the strength of the muscles of the Mob. It is impossible for a state to ensure this policy of being equally close to all religions. State is not a monolith, it has multiple arms, forms and representations. Each cell of the gargantuan structure we call a state is manned by different person and each person will be intimate with one religion at a degree different from any other religion, at one point of time. The state cannot be equally close to all religions, at all times, at all the places. This definition is flawed. It allowed politicians to appease the minorities while the majority presumed that this is possible what secularism is supposed look like, while silently nursing the wounds of a blatant neglect.

Today funnily enough, Congress cites the name of Dr. BR Ambedkar to even refuse a debate on the word, Secularism, mentioned in the preamble of the Constitution. In schools, we are taught that the success of Indian constitution lies in the fact that it is one of the most flexible constitution in the world. Dr. Ambedkar, in all his wisdom ensured that we have a constitution with enough flexibility in its structure. Dr. Ambedkar was particularly keen on keeping the constitution open and ready for changes to adapt to the changing times and needs of the nation. In this sense, it was a forward-looking Constitution and Dr. Ambedkar, behind whose noble name the Congress is trying to hide. He never intended it to be stale, stagnant water for frogs to croak in. He did however, have wanted the provisions for amendment to be used judiciously and would have trusted the rulers of the day to act nobly in the matters of amendment. It was the latter part which was flouted the most by the Congress which is today trying to take a high moral ground on merely a hint on changes in the constitution. If we look at the past, their own cupboard is more than full of skeletons.

The same Congress had used a presidential order to bring in Article 35A giving special rights to J&K Government regarding the citizenship of the state which ran contrary to the Constitution of India, without any debate in the Parliament.  Congress inflicted the worst betrayal on Dr. Ambedkar by circumventing article 368 of Constitution which defines the process for Constitutional Amendment. There have been till date 101 Amendments to the Constitution, even though Congress would make us believe that there is a kind of blasphemy which has been proposed by the BJP Minister, when he as much as spoke of amendment to the constitution. The first amendment was brought in within one year of the constitution coming into effect in 1951, by the great demagogue of democracy for, lo and behold, placing restrictions on property rights, freedom of speech and equality before law for the citizens of a freshly independent nation. However, this was not the only interesting amendment brought in the First Family of dynastic democracy.

The 25th Amendment brought in by Mrs. Gandhi in 1971, sought to take away the possibility of legal remedy for the people whose property or land was acquired by the state by introducing sub-section 31 (c ) in the Article 31. It was quashed by the Supreme Court, fortunately. This might have made the life of a certain Robert Vadra much more beautiful in the times to come.  Under 39th Amendment, Mrs. Gandhi brought in Arcticle 329A, which intended to keep the election of the PM above the scope of legal scrutiny. This was struck down by the Supreme Court in 1976. This amendment was brought in to save Mrs Gandhi from the adverse judgement of Allahabad High court which indicted her of misdoings in the election. The object of current outrage, the word ‘Secular’ itself was brought in by Congress Leader Mrs. Indira Gandhi with 42nd Amendment to the Constitution. The 42nd was amendment brought in while India was under emergency and the entire opposition was in Jail.

The 42nd Amendment which was till then widest in scope in terms of articles of constitution (Yes, Mr. Ghulam Nabi Azad, the same one written by Baba Sahab Ambedkar which you claim cannot be touched) modified, amended and added. It amended Article 31, 31C, 39, 55, 74, 77, 81, 82, 83, 100, 102, 103, 105, 118, 145, 150, 166, 170, 172, 189, 191, 192, 194, 208, 217, 225, 226, 227, 228, 311, 312, 330, 352, 353, 356, 357, 358, 359, 366 and 351F. It inserted new articles into the constitution namely, 31D, 32A, 39A, 43A, 48A, 131A, 139A, 144A, 226A, 228A and 257A. Let us not be intimidated by these numbers. This is just to illustrate how with impunity Congress attempted to change the structure of governance by amending the Constitution with the widest amendments in the History of Indian democracy. The insertion of the word “Socialist Secular” into the preamble of the Constitution was a part of this historic betrayal of democratic trust. Dr. Ambedkar could not have imagined someone so dictatorial to ever rule India to change the face of such a brilliant book of guidance and statecraft.

During the debate on 15th of November, 1948, (http://parliamentofindia.nic.in/ls/debates/vol7p6.htm) Prof. KT Shah had moved the proposal to include in the preamble –

“India shall be a Secular, Federal, and Socialist Union of States.”

Here is how Dr. B. R. Ambedkar responded to it. He said,

I regret that I cannot accept the amendment of Prof. KT Shah. My Objections, briefly stated are two. In the first place, the constitution …, is merely a mechanism for the purpose of regulating the work of various organs of the state. It is not a mechanism where by particular members or particular parties are installed in office. What should be the policy of the state, how the Society should be organized in its social and economic side are matters which should be decided by the people themselves according to the time and circumstances. It cannot be laid down in the constitution itself, because that is destroying democracy altogether…. It is perfectly possible today, for the majority people to hold that the socialist organization of society is better than capitalist organization of the society. But it would be perfectly possible for thinking people to devise some form of social organization which might be better than the socialist organization of today or tomorrow.”

Essentially, Dr. Ambedkar strived to keep the Constitution as a basic framework without making it a religious unalterable document. He had placed basic safeguards to ensure that the state treats everyone equally, democratically (he was criticized by Maulana Hasrat Mohani for introducing the word ‘Democratic’ to define the state) and stopped short of defining the structure of the state. His view was to let it be open for the people in times to come to interpret, amend and modify. When Mr. Ghulab Nabi Azad rises in the Parliament to attack Mr. Hegde; he would do well to remember the words introducing the 42nd amendment when the term ‘Secular, Socialist’ was introduced against the spirit of Constitution-maker mentioned below-

“A Constitution to be living must be growing. If the impediments to the growth of the Constitution are not removed, the Constitution will suffer a virtual atrophy.”

While the agenda of Mrs Gandhi was hideous when writing these words, the words, in themselves are nevertheless, absolutely true. Instead of cowering under the belligerent attack by the Congress which refuses to look at its own history; the BJP should take it on the chin for their comrade and own the suggestion to revert to the spirit of Dr. Ambedkar who had rejected the inclusion of the words in the preamble. They should learn to act presidential and rather celebrate Ananth Kumar Hegde.

Pic Source and Credit: Anant Kumar

 

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About Saket Suryesh 5 Articles
Saket is an engineer from NIT Raipur and Master in International Business. He works with a large IT MNC. He writes on literature, history and poetry on his blog, www.saketsuryesh.net. Saket has published collection of poems, a book of short stories and English translation of Autobiography of Bismil.