Vol. XLII No. 04 January 28, 2018

Threats to the Republican Constitution

AS the country celebrates the 68th anniversary of the Republic, it is necessary to recall that it was the Constitution which came into effect on January 26, 1950 that made India a Republic.  It is a sombre fact that this Constitution is presently facing the biggest threat ever in its history. 

India became a parliamentary democracy based on secularism because of the Constitution. It is the Constitution which ordained equal rights for all citizens irrespective of race, religion, creed or gender and enshrined the fundamental rights of citizens.  It recognised the rights of minorities and socially oppressed groups like the dalits and adivasis.

The threat to the basic postulates of the Constitution emanates from the very people who are now entrusted with the task of upholding the Constitution and working its institutions.  The ruling BJP-RSS combine adheres to the Hindutva ideology which is inimical to the basic values of the Constitution.  The RSS and its ideologues have never hidden their contempt for the Constitution. 

According to MS Golwalkar, the second sarsanghchalak of the RSS, the Constitution was a “heterogeneous piecing together of various articles from various Constitutions of Western countries”.  Deen Dayal Upadhyaya, another RSS leader and one time president of the Jan Sangh, echoed this idea when he said that India’s Constitution is imitative and divorced from the India’s mode of life and ideals.  What they wanted instead was a Constitution which conformed to India’s ancient culture and ethos which includes presumably Manusmriti originating from the “first law giver” Manu. 

Ever since the Modi government came into office, ministers and those holding key positions in various State-run institutions have been talking about changing the Constitution.  The most recent expression of this was by Ananth Kumar Hegde, a union minister, who declared that the Constitution will be changed in the days to come.  Adityanath, the chief minister of Uttar Pradesh, has declared that the word ‘secular’ is the biggest lie told since independence, thereby launching an assault on one of the basic principles of the Constitution. 

Different aspects of the Constitution are under attack.  The Constitution propagates the scientific temper which is anathema for the Hindutva devotees.  Promotion of anti-scientific ideas and irrationalism are the hallmarks of the regime.  The recent claim by Satyapal Singh, the minister of state in the human resources development, that Darwin’s theory of evolution is scientifically wrong is the latest instance.

It is appropriate, at this juncture, to recall what Dr B R Ambedkar warned about in his last speech to the Constituent Assembly on November 25, 1949: “I feel, however good a Constitution may be, it is sure to turn out bad because those who are called to work it, happen to be a bad lot”.  Those who have been called to work the Constitution currently are indeed a bad lot.

There is a legitimate concern that the ultimate aim of the BJP and the RSS is to change the Constitution itself.  But what is happening at present is the subversion of the Constitution from within by those who are working it.  Every institution under the Constitution – whether it be the judiciary, the civil service, or, the armed forces – are all being corroded from within and their integrity compromised.  Those holding Constitutional positions like governors are propagating anti-Constitutional ideas. 

These efforts to weaken the Constitution and erode it constitute an attack on the fundamental rights of citizens and pose a grave threat to the secular-democratic Republic itself.  This assault has to be resisted and fought back.  Only the people can do it as they are ultimately the custodians of the Constitution. 

(January 24, 2018)