“In the first place the Constitution, as I stated in my opening speech in support of the motion I made before the House, is merely a mechanism for the purpose of regulating the work of the various organs of the State. It is not a mechanism where by particular members or particular parties are installed in office. What should be the policy of the State, how the society should be organised in its social and economic side are matters which must be decided by the people themselves according to time and circumstances. It cannot be laid down in the Constitution itself, because that is destroying democracy altogether.” —Dr B R Ambedkar in The Constituent Assembly Debates on the issue of adding words ‘Secular and Socialism’ in the Indian Constitution, (http://parliamentofindia.nic.in/ls/ debates/vol7p6.htm)
As we are inching towards the 40th year of the darkest period in post-Independent India’s democratic journey, National Emergency, people would argue whether similar situation would arise or not. At present, we can definitely say that Indian democracy is maturing day-by-day and our civil liberties are much more secured than that of 1975. The real question is whether we could really nullify the ill effects of Emergency or not. The answer is certain scars of Emergency are still haunting the Indian democracy, which needs to be addressed.
The 42nd amendment through which the words ‘Secular’ and ‘Socialist’ were inserted in the Preamble to the Indian Constitution were not because of some democratic demand or contemporary need but as a political ploy of a authoritarian leader. Both the term were thoroughly discussed and debated in the Constituent Assembly and deliberately excluded. Both the terms are foreign in Indian context and subject to varied interpretations.
If being secular means division of power between the religious and the secular head as happened in the case of Europe, such division is absurd in India where there is no organised religion. If secularism means ensuring equal respect for all worships then it is inherent in Indian ethos, about which Constitution makers were well aware of. Therefore, till 1975, we find no debate on secular-communal question. With the insertion of this term, in the name of secularism, communalism is on rise in politics. The debate on Anti-Conversion Bill is a classic example of this where political forces vouching in the name of secularism are not ready to support the Bill banning religious conversion either by force or allurement.
Similarly, ‘Socialism’ was symbolically used to practice the politics of poverty. Nationalisation of banks and abolition of privy purse were significant steps adopted much before the word ‘Socialism’ was added to the Constitution. If socialism means positive role of the State in the eradication of poverty and to create exploitation-free and equitable society, enough provisions have been made in the Constitution regarding the same. Within ten years of the insertion of this misplaced term, not only India but the whole world has gone away from the socialistic pattern of State. Unfortunately, the mindset nurtured in the name of socialism—‘freebies, redtapism and government will do everything’— remained the same.
Surprisingly, the propagators of these terms have also promoted casteism and caste based regionalism, negating another insertion to the Preamble ‘Unity and Integrity of the nation’. These leaders blatantly use caste identities to further their political ends and use another insincere term ‘social justice’. Instead of strengthening the values of fraternity, faction feud Janata Pariwar experiments, always infuse animosity among social groupings with their vote-bank politics.
Besides these terminological scars turning into political misuse, institutionalised corruption and criminalisation is a legacy of Emergency which is a challenge to democratic system. While deliberating on the aftermath of Emergency, while ensuring protection of civil liberties, we also need to take care of these scars on our democratic culture. They cannot go away by mere dressing or cosmetic posturing, but curing these scars may require major operations at the conceptual, psychological and if necessary, constitutional level.