Preamble row: academics, political scientists disconcerted

The controversy over the Preamble to the Constitution may have forced the government to beat a retreat, but the fact that the Union Information & Broadcasting Ministry used a watermark of the original document without the words ‘socialist, secular’ in an advertisement has left many academics and political scientists disconcerted. Particularly, since in this instance, the deed was not by an outfit of the extended Sangh Parivar but by the government itself.

The retreat, according to P.K. Datta, a professor of Political Science at Delhi University, is typical of the “two steps forward, one step backward” strategy the BJP has used on such issues in the past. “And, Prime Minister Narendra Modi continues to be silent. His silence is part of the ideological machinery of governance.”

Be it Prof. Datta, historian Romila Thapar, Rajya Sabha member K.T.S. Tulsi or the former Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee’s aide, Sudheendra Kulkarni, none finds any merit in senior Ministers M. Venkaiah Naidu and Ravi Shankar Prasad’s contention that Indians are inherently secular, and secularism is in “our blood.” “No society is inherently secular. Societies have to be consciously secular and need laws that support secularism,” Prof. Thapar told The Hindu.

As for Mr. Prasad’s statement that there is no harm in debating the inclusion of the two words in the Preamble since they were introduced through an amendment during the Emergency, the counter-view is that these words did not go against what is inherent in the Constitution and none of the subsequent governments found fault with them.

“In fact, Mr. Vajpayee and L.K. Advani were part of the Janata government, and they never demanded that these words be dropped even when the 44th Constitution Amendment to undo many aspects of the 42nd was taken up,” Mr. Kulkarni said, adding that the controversy represented the “split personality” of the BJP.

Another issue Mr. Prasad has sought to inject into the debate is why these words should be there when the framers of the Constitution did not find them necessary.

But, Anil Nauriya, a senior fellow at the Nehru Memorial Museum & Library, said: “Gandhi spoke of a secular state and secular laws in the 1930s. The word started to be used more in post-independence debates to especially contrast with Pakistan, which was described as a theocracy. Perhaps, after Bangladesh defined itself as Islamic in the post-Mujib period, we reduced the use of theocratic for Pakistan in our conversations because we did not wish to tar Bangladesh with the same brush as Pakistan.”

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Printable version | Jul 28, 2021 9:48:08 PM |

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