On this day (November 26) 70 years ago, we adopted the Constitution as a conscience- keeper for our democracy. Drafted by our founding fathers, the living document with infallible and indomitable spirit – the Preamble – has played its role well so far, but it’s our duty to keep it healthy and thriving. The responsibility of Hindus, who constitute nearly 80% of the population and have been major beneficiary of the Constitution, is more because the biggest threat to democracy comes from within…
1: When majority community is made to believe that democracy means “rule of majority” and not “the rule of law” as enshrined in the Constitution.
2: When the strings of governments elected through majoritarian politics are pulled by a section of moneyed class and extra-constitutional authorities.
3: When the moneyed class and extra constitutional authorities that are dictating terms to governments hold sway over the media.
4: When media run by the moneyed class and extra-constitutional authorities become a tool of government propaganda peddling the notion among people that democracy means rule of majority and not rule of law.
These factors create a vicious circle, which, if succeeds, turns democracy into majoritarian nightmare. What I am saying is nothing new. This has been said by number of political scientists and philosophers since long. In India, we have seen how it moved from the fringes to mainstream in 70 years and has taken the country into its form grip today.
The cycle can be broken only by adhering to the spirit (the Preamble) of our conscious keeper – the Constitution. By following the principles of liberty, equality and fraternity, we can achieve justice – social, economic and political – that in turn will make India truly a sovereign, socialist, secular, democratic republic.
Many would question why Hindus share larger responsibility to protect the Constitution?
The answer –
1: Hindus have been benefitted the most by the Constitution. Today, if 80% of the population among Hindus hailing from lower castes and class – SC, ST and OBCs – enjoy equal rights, it is because of special Constitutional provisions which not only provide them rights but have also given mechanism to execute and sustain them.
2: Also, the Constitution has brought Hindu women of all castes and classes legally on par with the men by prohibiting discriminatory practices prevalent in society for ages. From right to exercise their franchise and to choose or reject their life partner to property right in family and special provisions to ensure their representation in all walks of life, the Constitution has provided women a safety net which they cannot afford to lose.
3: If women of all classes and castes are taken together along with men hailing from SCs, STs and OBCs, over 95% of the Hindu population has been directly benefitted by the Constitution.
4: Moreover, Hindus own most of the land in the country and occupy more than 95% places in posts in legislature, judiciary, executive, media and corporate – much more than their ratio in the total population of the country.
5: Hindus need to think that if today they will allow the saffron brigade to make the Constitution `Hindu Centric’ by changing its basic structure – the Preamble, tomorrow some other dominant group within the community may rise to change the structure as per its whims.
6: Hence, even after getting so much from the Constitution, if the majority community allows subversion of the constitutional values, it will dig its own grave.
Some may argue that the ideals I am talking about here are impractical and cannot be applied in today’s big bad world.
My answer to them is —
1: Most modern and healthy democracies have evolved around these ideals.
2: The argument of impracticality is nothing but a move to grab power by hook or by crook.
3: Our Constitution allows pragmatism by way of amendments guided by the ideals for collective good of all. The ideals may or may not provide instant success, but have provided a platform from where anyone, irrespective of caste, creed, gender and faith, can touch the sky.
4: If our freedom fighters could overthrow colonial rule by following these ideals against all odds, why we – who got freedom for free – cannot take forward the baton handed over to us by our founding fathers by following the same ideals.
5: How can constitutional ideals be called impractical when they have successfully protected our rights over the years.
Hindutva votaries often question the relevance of the Constitution by saying that how can a document be called `perfect’ if it has been amended 104 times since independence by way of adding, deleting and changing provisions.
My answer is –
1: As we grow up in life from infancy to adulthood and old age, our needs change in life according to the requirements of that time. We make changes in our lifestyle and way of life to meet challenges as and when they come. However, our basic priority to work for the well-being of our entire family never changes. This priority is guided by our conscience comprising values such as love, compassion, honesty, empathy, sympathy, truth and non-violence.
2: Similarly, the Constitution as a conscience-keeper allows amendments to meet various challenges thrown up by changing times and circumstances, but without changing its basic structure – the Preamble – whose sole aim is to ensure well-being of its family which comprises the entire country.
Hence, tampering with the basic structure of the Constitution to make India a Hindu Rashtra or Majoritarian Democracy would not only amount to betrayal with freedom fighters, it would also mean killing our Conscience.
DISCLAIMER : Views expressed above are the author’s own.