Why diversity needs Secularism

  • The expansion and consolidation of the Hindu Right’s political power has raised legitimate concerns about the future of India’s secularism.
  • While criticism of secularism could be found in the public debate during the anti-colonial struggle, the sustained assault on it became particularly apparent during the Ayodhya movement.

Hindu Right & Secularism, unity and diversity:

  • According to the Hindu Right, there are perhaps some benefits of secularism, but they are trivial and could be easily found in the ideology of Hindutva, apparently noble, kind, and all-embracing. It seems to suggest thereby that the problem is not with the idea of Hindutva, but with the misconceptions of secularists about this otherwise noble idea.
  • The Hindu Right is seemingly keen on reminding everyone that India’s founding fathers including B.R. Ambedkar did not consider it necessary to introduce the word ‘secular’ in the Preamble of the Constitution.

Secular & Constitution:

  • It was inserted as part of the 42nd amendment during Indira Gandhi’s Emergency rule.

Ambedkar’s secularism:

  • Analysis of his writings on minority rights, Muslims, Pakistan etc. when seen in the context of his pronouncements like “I was born Hindu, but won’t die as one” or “Hinduism is not a religion” echoes a particular brand of secularism, very distinct from the Nehruvian or the Gandhian one.
  • His secularism is about human dignity, and his idea of secular political culture is to contribute to the emancipation of human beings from all kinds of man-made suffering inflicted in the name of religion.
  • Had he been alive today, he would have been, no doubt, the most fierce and erudite critic of Hindutva politics.

An omission yet unexplained

  • These two words — secular and socialist — entered the Constitution when most leaders of the Opposition were under arrest for their resistance to the Emergency.
  • These words were retained during the 44nd amendment under the Janata Party regime, it is suggestive of a broad consensus among India’s political leadership for their insertion in the Constitution.

Why did our founding fathers not include them in the Constitution in the first place?

  • Scholars have tried to explain this. In his presidential address to the Indian History Congress, Malda, in 2015, historian Sabyasachi Bhattacharya argued that it was Jawaharlal Nehru’s and Ambedkar’s larger belief in the values of equality and justice that encouraged them not to introduce these words.
  • One wonders how one could speak of equality and justice in a multi-religious society without secularism.
  • Others like diplomat-turned-politician Pavan K. Varma argue that the threat to India’s secular fabric from the Hindu Right was far greater during the 1970s, which is why Indira Gandhi considered it necessary to introduce these words.
  • Even socialist leader Jayaprakash Narayan was concerned with the growing influence of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh on the Morarji Desai government, for which he wrote a specific letter expressing his concerns about its Hindutva project.

Source: The Hindu

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