Inro: Omar Abdullah took oath on January 5, 2009. Since then, the (NC-Congress) coalition has carried out constitutional amendments but have not added the word SECULAR to the Preamble of J&K Constitution.
Secularism versus communalism has always been a favourite topic for Indian media. It is also a pet slogan of Congress, left and many other regional political parties who’ve been using it to make communal distinctions. It is pitiable that those who have always favoured ‘secularism’ are also the ones who are against it. They stood side by side on 29th August 2014 brazenly against the Constitution of J&K (Amendment) Bill (No 13), 2011, introduced by Jammu and Kashmir National Panthers Party (JKNPP) legislator Harsh Dev Singh, who sought an amendment to the Preamble of the Jammu and Kashmir Constitution by inserting the words “socialist secular state”. Please do not forget that Congress is the coalition partner in the J&K government and it is this party which accuses its opponents most for being communal (non-secular) and made an issue of secularism during the election campaigns.
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According to the western concept of secularism and by definition in the Oxford dictionary, secularism means the non-involvement of the religion in the decision making bodies, but in India it is explained as the equal treatment to all religions. The word secular was added to the Preamble of Indian constitution along with the word socialist by ‘The Constitution (Forty-second Amendment) Act, 1976’ which was enacted during the emergency. By virtue of this secular character of Indian Constitution, India has become a secular country and no one in India is allowed to do anything that affects this secular character (basic nature of Constitution).
In the effort (not first of its kind) to include the word ‘secular’ in the preamble of J&K Constitution, JKNPP legislator Harsh Dev Singh, on 29 August, had introduced private member’s amendment bill “The Constitution of J&K (Amendment) Bill (No 13), 2011” in the assembly. While introducing the bill he rightly said that Preamble to the Constitution of J&K, 1957, was an adaptation of the Preamble of Constitution of India. After the amendment of 1976 the words “Secular and socialist” were added to the Preamble of Indian Constitution but the then government and successive governments of J&K, including that of Congress and PDP, did not allow to change preamble of J&K constitution in cohesion with the Constitution of India. (Please note: During the regime of Congress from 2005 to 2008, when Gulam Nabi Azad was the chief minister of the state, same demand was rejected.) This time also J&K Assembly headed by NC and Congress party disappointed the people by not supporting the bill seeking the hallmark change as per the aspiration of people of India.
Assembly of J&K was adjourned sine die on 30 August.
Dates for elections are yet to be declared and usually the government adopts strategy keeping in mind the upcoming elections. The functioning of the J&K assembly in such a session may raise eyebrows as it seems to be working on the agendas of Anti-Nationalists of the Valley. Firstly, it has passed an Anti-Nation resolution (disproportionate to its power) in which it sought from central government to resume talks with Pakistan and secondly it did not let the word secular be added to JK Preamble.
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|When Indira Gandhi in 1976 proposed amendment to add SECULAR to the Preamble of Indian Constitution, the Congress had 2/3rd majority in J&K but did nothing.|
In their second step J&K Assembly presumably has followed the Anti-Nationalist Sayeed Ali Shah Geelani. A few years back on 20th May 2010 while addressing a gathering Geelani had said, “Not secularism but only Islam brings peace and justice to people and nation.”
Though, media has not reacted as it should have, one wonders whether this is good for the health of Indian democracy. –Arvind (The writer is a researcher at J&K Study Centre, New Delhi)