Debating the Preamble

Any responsible government would exercise caution and restraint when it comes to sensitive issues and where a change can trigger chaos and friction in society (“ >Let nation debate Preamble: Ravi Shankar ,” Jan.29). The amendment in 1976 reiterated the nation’s commitment to growth and the protection of the minorities and the poor; it did not mean the majority would be deprived of their rights and opportunities. The current stand is only a mechanism to gain political mileage and polarise the nation.

Vikram Sundaramurthy,


Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad is only trying to be clever by half with his suggestion. The issue may have been clarified by his Cabinet colleague and the advertisements may be “innocent”; however, innocence should remain a virtue and not be used as an alibi to create a controversy. It is true that the founding fathers of the Constitution, in their wisdom and vision, had not included the words “socialist and secular” in the Preamble and the amendment made in 1976 may have been an overreach. But in the present time, post-liberalisation and after the Babri Masjid demolition and the Godhra riots, things are different.

P. Venu,

Vaikom, Kerala

The Minister’s endorsement of the controversial remarks made by a Shiv Sena leader is rather intriguing. What does he mean by saying “we do not need these words to be secular”? If these words are removed from the Preamble, do we become secular automatically? Only when we imbibe the spirit behind these words and start living accordingly will we become truly secular and socialist.

Vijaya Krishna Pillai G.,


The government must be reminded about what U.S. President Barack Obama said on the need to uphold religious freedom. While it may be true that India was secular even before the introduction of the term in 1976, and will remain so, its introduction nevertheless shows a greater commitment to this value. I find no logic in the Minister’s “excuse” that these terms were introduced during the Emergency and therefore need a fresh debate. The question is whether these terms have added greater value to the Preamble or not. And have they helped in a better interpretation of constitutional provisions?

Chandra Prakash,

New Delhi

The omission of the words “socialist and secular” is a clear attempt to test the waters, given the way the BJP government is handling sensitive issues. The misgivings in this regard are certainly not without basis as there are overt and covert attempts to push the country towards being a Hindu Rashtra. The Minister’s call is laughable and an indication of his government’s misplaced priorities.

J. Anantha Padmanabhan,


The minorities are already apprehensive of the rise of Hindu fundamentalism, and moves such as the suggestion to have a debate will be construed as taking the country towards a theocratic state. It is pertinent to note that Mr. Obama spoke on Indian soil about the need to uphold religious freedom. Mr. Prasad’s argument that the “words” were introduced during the Emergency does not hold water as many such insertions have been made in the Constitution before and after the Emergency.

M.K.B. Nambiar,


The Preamble ends with the sentence, “In our constituent assembly this twenty-sixth day of November, 1949, do hereby adopt, enact and give to ourselves this Constitution”. Viewed in this context (the position being as of November 26, 1949), there is a case to revisit Section 2 of the Constitution (Forty-second Amendment) Act, 1976 which substituted “Sovereign Socialist Secular Democratic Republic” for “Sovereign Democratic Republic”. Perhaps, in Article 368, the words “any provision” did not cover the Preamble, and the authors of the Constitution might have envisaged a change in the Preamble when another Constituent Assembly revised the Constitution. Legalities apart, one wonders what change in policies has emerged post the inclusion of the words “socialist and secular”.

M.G. Warrier,


The Indira Gandhi regime carried out a redundant exercise in 1976 when it inserted the words “secular” and “socialist” into the Preamble. The fact that the communalism versus secularism debate entered the nation’s political discourse as a dominant narrative only after this amendment demonstrates the opportunistic motive of the Congress regime. Despite the BJP leaders professing the eclecticism and inclusiveness of Hinduism, the fact that the party carries a heavy baggage of anti-minorityism cannot be wished away. Even well-intentioned proposals, like the present one to debate the relevance of the words “secular” and “socialist” in the Preamble of the Constitution, are likely to be misunderstood. The proposal should be shelved not because it lacks merit, but because it will needlessly vitiate the atmosphere.

V.N. Mukundarajan,


The Preamble is not the operative part of the Constitution, but a statement of the circumstances for the promulgation of the Constitution, and as such is frozen in time. It does not lend itself to any amendment at a later date.

P.V. Iyer,


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Printable version | Jan 17, 2021 10:23:20 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/letters/debating-the-preamble/article6835417.ece

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