Subverting the Constitution (JUNE 06, 2008)


Subverting the Constitution

The Sangh, especially its political front, the Bharatiya Janata Party, has been nibbling away at the roots of the Constitution over the last six decades. Fortunately, so far it has not achieved any substantial success in its efforts, writes Dr. Mohammad Manzoor Alam.

The headline in a daily from Delhi put it succinctly: "Rajnath fires a salvo against secular India". A second headline explained, "BJP chief wants 'secular' dropped from Constitution". The report was on a BJP conclave on June 1 in New Delhi.

At the conclave the party president demanded it from the Union government that it must drop the word dharmanirpaiksha (secular) to describe the nature of the Indian state. The party was on cloud nine following its victory in Karnataka. Naturally, it felt emboldened to take another bite at the Constitution.

In fact, secularism has been a great source of unease for the Sangh and scores of Sangh affiliates over the last sixtyone years. In 1947, it was so bitter with the newly established secular Indian state that the followers of its fanatical ideology shot Mahatma Gandhi dead within a year of independence, precisely because they thought he was the inspiration behind India's secularism. They can go to any extent to destroy secularism, or, more precisely, to try to destroy secularism.

Secularism, the secular state's symbols, and its very language are anathema to them. It is important to note that RSS had been consistently opposed to Mahatma Gandhi, and its field workers openly slandered and abused him till 1977, when its political front joined the Janata Party coalition government. It had to unwillingly accept Mahatma Gandhi to benefit from the Indian state's authority.

Despite this strategic retreat the RSS refused to fly the national tricolour on its offices even on Independence Day and Republic Day. It recognised only the saffron strip of the flag, rejecting the white and green strips. This continued for decades even though it was a seditious act. However, they got away with it, which further emboldened them.

Failing to make a dent in the Constitution, they began to harp on the idea of derecognising it and creating a new Hindutva-orientation Constitution in its stead. The clamour for such a Constitution reached a crescendo in the months following the demolition of Babri Masjid in December 1992 and countrywide violence against Muslims. Drunk on a new sense of power, the Dharma Sansad (religious parliament) forged ahead with the plan during the NDA regime at Centre.

There are a couple of points to be noted here. The BJP largely stayed away from Dharma Sansad meetings that sought to repudiate the Constitution and have a new "bhagwa samvidhan" written to replace it. BJP knew well that it faced derecognition as a political party if it tried to publicly question the legitimacy of the constitution. Secondly, the establishment of a Dharma Sansad suggested that they had hardly any regard for the real, national Sansad (parliament).

However, its sister organisations like Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) and sadhus associated with the Sangh used to gather and make shrill noises against the Constitution, with tacit BJP support. Some BJP Members of Parliament used to attend such meetings saying they had their primary loyalty to VHP and they had joined BJP only later. BJP thus ran with the hare and hunted with the hound. Behind their façade of independent political identity BJP leaders were no different from VHP or RSS in their anti-secular stance.

A time came when BJP virtually succeeded in giving secularism a bad name. In the run-up to the Babri Masjid demolition L.K. Advani coined the word "pseudo-secularism" to denounce Indian secularism. He never tried to state clearly as to what was genuine secularism. More and more people (particularly, gullible Hindus) got confused and, for a while, secularism did seem to have become unfashionable. Then came the secular backlash, forcing the Sangh and its allied organisations to beat a hasty retreat.

Through thick and thin the Sangh has nursed the dream to ultimately destroy or, at least, dilute the secular Constitution. Soon they began a campaign that the Constitution should replace the word secularism with "respect for all religions" (Sarva dharma sambhav). Like its previous attempts this, too, failed because secularism requires a proper separation of religion and state and is bound by constitutional guarantees of equality of all religions (as well as atheism) before law. This makes it obligatory for the state to enforce such provisions.

On the other hand, Sarva dharma sambhav does not have any such legal framework. It depends merely on the goodwill of the powerful.

Failing in their earlier efforts now they have floated another mischievous idea, the idea of replacing dharmanirpaikshta  with panthnirpaikshta.  g

(Watch this space)

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