Constitutional Introspection on Republic Day
”We, the people of India that is Bharat, having solemnly resolved to constitute India into a sovereign, democratic republic. …” the preamble of Indian Constitution began like this on 26th of Nov 1949 when the draft was finalized and enacted and then adopted on the 26th January 1950 which we all celebrate every year as Republic Day. It has undergone 115 amendments in last 62 years. But otherwise it has stood the test of time by surviving in the unique challenges posed by the largest and certainly most complex democracies of the world today. The most controversial of these amendments was the 42nd amendment which ushered in the darkest periods of our recent history called, Emergency. The other sibling of the midnight delivery had seen much more turbulence and a large measure of Marshall Law. The notorious neighbour has spent more years in autocracy than in democracy in its fragile existence. 2 years of emergency is the Indian experience of the political autocracy. This very amendment which suspended all the fundamental rights guaranteed by the constitution also altered the basic nature of the constitution by strangely amending its preamble to add two more adjectives, namely socialist and secular.
India after 25 years of its constitution as a republic was now a sovereign, Socialist, Secular, Democratic Republic. Nothing was changed in the main body of the constitution to match these adjectives. The other portions of the 42nd amendments were to give the autocratic power to the executive by suspending the fundamental rights of the citizens. This act in itself was neither socialist nor secular. Thus logically the amendment accepted that the constitution in its originality was secular and socialist enough that it did not need any modification to suit the additions in preamble. The funniest part of this exercise is that after the end of Indira Rule and Janta Party coming in power the emergency provisions were removed from the constitution by the 44th amendment but the additions to the preamble were left untouched. Thus endorsing the enhanced emphasis on the socialist and secular nature of the constitution.
Though there are no changes in the original provisions, in practice secularism is being unnecessarily pronounced in all the governmental actions. The political parties for their petty electoral benefit tend to appeasement of so called minorities in the name of secularism. Secularism is used to denigrate everything traditional and Hindu in origin. The famous instance of the controversy over Saraswati Puja in the convention of education ministers during the NDA rule started by the objection raised by a few politicians. The issue was raised under the garb of secularism. Media gave great publicity to the issue. No one bothered to check the constitutionality of the claim. Recently the issue of Ayud Puja and Sarasavati Puja was raised before the Madras high court in a PIL. The high court has rejected the contention that performing Puja in the offices is against the secular nature of the government. “Showing respect to the place of work and the objects of work will in no way offend the feelings of others or affect secularism. Ayudha Puja is referable to prayer, reverence or respect given to objects through which an individual performs his profession or occupation. Ayudha Puja in its real terms transcends all religion,” a division bench of Justice R Sudhakar and Justice Aruna Jagadeesan has said. This should make the constitutional position clear on the issue. The practice of the media and intellectuals is very pathetic on this issue as it was well demonstrated by the Jaipur Lit fare issue. Even though on his very channel every representative of Islam from Lakhnau to Hyderabad was vociferously demanding that Sulman Rushdie should not be allowed to come to India, the star anchor Arnab Goswami kept on saying fringe elements of the Muslim society are opposed. This is the way the faulty concept of secularism corroborated by another unfounded concept of minority has developed into a divisive element in the constitutional discourse.
Socialism is very hard to define. But it can be said without slightest of doubt that the Indian state in last two decades has abandoned socialism as an economic policy. From 1991 we claim to have tried to follow the liberal free market economics. But according to the constitution India is still a Socialist Republic.
On the occasion of the 63rd Republic day we must introspect on the functioning of our constitution in the present scenario. We need not go far for the parameters on which to do the self evaluation. The preamble of the constitution puts forth the goals to be achieved by the independent Indian Republic. It proclaims ”…. and to secure to all its citizens: JUSTICE, social, economic and political; LIBERTY of thought, expression, belief, faith and worship; EQUALITY of status and of opportunity; and to promote among them all FRATERNITY assuring the dignity of the individual and the unity and integrity of the Nation;”
After 6 decades it definitely is a time to evaluate the performance of constitutional framework in light of the goals it had set before itself. Justice, Liberty, Equality and Fraternity are the lofty ideas we had kept before us to put them in practice by implementing the provisions of the Constitution. It demands a detailed study of all the parameters and an objective comparison with the bottom-line from where we started. We would definitely try to do some such attempts in the coming months with the available data from the open sources. But even without the benefit of such detailed statistical study one can say without any fear of serious opposition from any quarter of the civil society or even the government, that we have not been successful to ensure any of these lofty ideals to all our citizens. In fact we will hardly find any section of the society satisfied enough to concede that all these constitutional promises have been fulfilled.
This total despondency should not be taken lightly. A large number of citizens are totally dissatisfied. Many of them have given up hope of any change. Some have taken extreme measures falling pray to the devious design of the antinational forces in their desperation. The spreading Red terror and other separatist movements in many parts of the country are the result of this desperation and hopelessness. The more civil of the disappointed citizenry have also taken up to the democratic form of protests. The number of protests and the response they yielded last year is an eye-opener for the patriots in the country. It is not a good sign that the educated, well off middle class urban population has lost faith in the political and constitutional mechanism for change in the system and in this cynical desperation are ready to come to the streets and demonstrate their anger and cry for reform. This depicts the total failure of governance. The loss of faith of the population in the government’s conflict redressal mechanism is the most dangerous bane of Democracy.
In this background it is urgent that we take stock of things as they stand. We must be ready to face that we need basic change of approach. The system based on the colonial experience has worked fine for these 6 decades. But the whole paradigm within the country and at the Global level has changed. In 1950 we were a nation trying to rebuild on the ruins of the colonial Raj. The economic situation was pathetic. The confidence level of the masses individually and collectively was not very high. It was time for survival and reconstruction. But today the Global leaders are falling on the economic front. India is being seen as an upcoming power at economic and geopolitical level by the whole world. The most discouraging analysts put us as a regional power and more optimistic claim that India has a Global role to play. More importantly the youth has a confidence that they can achieve anything in India. Whatever is possible in any other part of the world is achievable by us. We have shown it practically in the fields of science and technology, communications, finances, space technology and many more. The national belief in its capacity is not reflected in the state machinery. The government does not exude this confidence shown by the society. The policies framed by the government still smack of the stink of olden days of begging and struggle for survival. This psychological dichotomy between the state and the nation is the cause of all the cynical despondency. The state has to come up to the level and expectations of the awakened India.
This strange mixture of strength and vulnerability is the reality of Indian Republic on the eve of its 63rd Republic day celebration. We need to have a fresh constitutional structure to meet this unique situation in the Indian History. This is a very important window of opportunity for the great and the most ancient nation of the whole world. This is the moment when the destiny of not only 1/6th of the world’s population but the whole world will be decided. We need gear ourselves up for the occasion. The first important step can be constitutional review. In fact it should be afresh constitutional drafting exercise. This time we must take the vast and deep Historical and philosophical experience of Bharat in to account. The constitution must be indigenous. Based in the cultural ethos of the people of Bharat.
We, the people of Bharat must come together to give unto ourselves a real Bharatiya Constitution. Let this be our resolve this Republic Day.