Narrative of ‘New India’: Destruction of Indian Constitution
AS we approach our 73rd Independence Day, a new national narrative is being scripted to bequeath to India’s future. This narrative of a `New India’ suggests that on August 15, 1947, India achieved its independence; on August 5, 2019, with the abrogation of Articles 370 and 35A of the Indian constitution; and August 5, 2020, when the Ram temple construction was formally launched by the prime minister is the day of India’s real freedom.
This new narrative is the complete negation of and the antitheses of India’s epic struggle for independence and the republic that emerged under the Indian constitution. This is the essence of PM Modi’s Ayodhya speech, to which we shall return later.
The Indian constitution reflects the rich plurality and diversity that defines our people and our country. India’s unity can be consolidated only when the threads of commonality amongst this diversity are strengthened and every aspect of this plurality – linguistic, ethnic, religious etc – are respected and treated on the basis of equality. Any effort to impose a uniformity of any variety, upon this diversity will only lead to a social implosion. The imposing of such a religious uniformity which the RSS and its political arm – the BJP – seek using the government and the State will necessarily have to be accompanied by jettisoning democracy, democratic rights and civil liberties under an authoritarian/totalitarian State employing fascistic methods against those whom they define as “internal enemies”.
The establishment of such a `New India’ is not a product of this Modi government, it has a history of nearly a century – from the founding of the RSS in 1925, Savarkar’s theses on Hindutva and the ideological construct and the organisational structure to achieve the aim of a fascistic `Hindu Rashtra’ by Golwalkar in 1939.
Repeatedly, the Indian people rejected this vision and the freedom movement did so emphatically by declaring independent India as a secular democratic republic. This was in total contrast to the vision of an Islamic republic which materialised with the partition in 1947, with the formation of Pakistan. The efforts, however, to replace the secular democratic character of Indian republic with the RSS vision continued all these decades leading to the present situation.
ASSAULTS ON INDIAN CONSTITUTION
The first and foremost requirement for this `New India’ is the destruction of the old India as defined and concretised by the Indian constitution. This assault on the constitution, we have seen intensifying during the last six years of this BJP government with Modi as prime minister by the undermining of every foundational pillar of our constitution – secular democracy; federalism; social justice; and economic self-reliance.
This assault on the constitution has to necessarily be accompanied by undermining, rendering ineffective all constitutional institutions and authorities that are designed as instruments of checks and balances to preserve the functionality of the constitution and the constitutional guarantees for the people. The three organs of our republic, as defined by the constitution, are the executive, the legislature and the judiciary. Each being separate but complementing each other in the discharge of duties and responsibilities.
The legislature, i.e., parliament, has been severely undermined by reducing it into the `tyranny of the majority’. Parliamentary procedures, methods of committee functioning and deliberations are all being undermined.
This is dangerous in the sense that the centrality of the Indian constitution – the sovereignty of the people – is exercised by the legislators being accountable to the people and the government being accountable to the legislature. This is how, “We, the People” exercise our sovereignty. If the parliament becomes dysfunctional, then accountability to the people is given the go-bye and government escapes from being accountable or answerable to the legislature.
An independent judiciary was established to ensure that the constitutional provisions are not violated by executive actions and to uphold the fundamental rights and guarantees that the constitution gives to the people. If the impartiality and independence of the judiciary is compromised, which has been alarmingly noticed during the last six years, then the judicial oversight ceases to exist along with the protection of the people’s democratic rights and civil liberties.
The independence and impartiality of the Election Commission of India is the cornerstone that maintains the health of our democracy by conducting a free and fair elections and providing a level-playing field to all contestants. When this is compromised, then governments are no longer a reflection of the people’s verdict or mandate.
The constitutional authorities such as the CBI, Enforcement Directorate, Vigilance Department etc were all designed to ensure that criminal and civil offences are investigated and guilty punished under the law of the land as established by the constitution. If these start becoming compromised or functioning as the political arm of the government, then all crimes and corruption of the ruling party and its members will be protected from any action while its opponents will be harassed, intimidated and silenced.
Such a holistic erosion of the constitution and its institutions create avenues for large-scale corruption and promotion of `crony capitalism’, which is the route for the accumulation of massive money power by the ruling party. This, in one stroke, undermines the quality of democracy. It creates conditions whereby the people’s mandate for a government in any election can be violated by horse-trading, leading to a common refrain today that the BJP may lose the elections, but it will nevertheless form the government!
ASSAULT ON REASON
For such a narrative of a `New India’ to succeed, it is necessary to rewrite Indian history to make it dovetail to sustain the ideological content of this narrative.
Indian education system, hence, would have to be necessarily revamped to ensure that it promotes irrationality in thinking and practice as opposed to rationality; promotes obscurantism/mythology/blind faith instead of nurturing scientific temper. In the field of culture, the character of the institutions and academies must be so changed as to conceal the syncretic evolution of Indian culture by imposing a uniformity and a mono-cultural narrative. This is in complete contradiction with the culture that evolved from India’s diverse and plural character. History has to be rewritten and restructured. Indian mythological epics replace the study of India’s syncretic history. Archeology has to produce evidence to prove historical and unscientific assertions of Hindutva as against conducting a scientific study of our past.
The success of such a `New India’ can only be sustained with the creation of a new symbolism in our society. The Central Vista at huge expense during the pandemic on the lines of Hitler’s infamous Dome in Berlin; statutes; bullet trains and such fanciful products is this narrative’s antidote to Nehru’s “Temples of Modern India”.
This narrative of `New India’ also cannot be sustained without a complicit media bombarding people’s consciousness with fake news; false narratives and consigning to the background news of the real issues plaguing the Indian people and the accompanied agony.
The spread of social tensions through hate campaigns and violence against the dalits, adivasis, women and minorities is an essential accompaniment of this `New India’, in order to consolidate the exclusivist communal Hindutva vote bank as its lifeline support.
PM MODI’S AUGUST 5
SPEECH AT AYODHYA
Modi’s speech launching the temple construction at Ayodhya, in a sense, encapsulated the above vision of `New India’.
The Supreme Court had delivered a verdict on the Ayodhya dispute, but not justice. It had termed the destruction of the Babri Masjid as a criminal violation of law and called for speedy punishment of those involved. It has entrusted the task of building a temple on the disputed land to those very people involved in the destruction of the mosque. But this construction was to be undertaken by a Trust.
The prime minister and the government brazenly took over this job by converting the launch of the temple construction as an official governmental function. The prime minister, who is in office under the oath on this very secular democratic Indian constitution, went on to violate it. The constitutional guarantee of the choice of religion for every citizen has to be protected and ensured by the government. The government, itself, has no religion. This constitutional inviolable proposition was thrown to the winds by the prime minister himself. This gross breach was the signal heralding the `New India’ as the RSS political project.
The worst aspect of the speech was the comparison he made of the movement to build this temple with the country’s freedom movement. He said: “There was not a place in our country where sacrifices were not made for the freedom. August 15 is the embodiment of sacrifices of the lakhs of people and a deep yearning for independence.
“Similarly, several generations have made self-less sacrifices for several centuries for the construction of the Ram Temple”.
The freedom struggle had the vision of an India of inclusion, as opposed to the RSS vision of an India of exclusion. This inclusivist vision inspired the mass mobilisation of epic proportions during our freedom struggle culminating in independence on August 15, 1947. The current narrative of a `New India’ of an exclusivist India is the direct negation of everything that India’s struggle for freedom represented.
Importantly, the RSS was never part of India’s struggle for freedom. Even sympathetic accounts of the RSS (The Brotherhood in Saffron by Walter K Anderson and Shridhar D Damle, 1987, amongst others) detail the virtual absence of the RSS in the freedom movement and the consequent concessions it gained from the British. Even RSS ideologue, late Nanaji Deshmukh raised the question: "Why did the RSS not take part in the liberation struggle as an organisation?” In fact, the Bombay home department, during the 1942 Quit India movement, observed: “the Sangh has scrupulously kept itself within the law, and in particular, has refrained from taking part in the disturbances that broke out in August 1942…”
In order to conceal these truths, the RSS/BJP mount a vituperative attack against the Communists for the so-called betrayal of the 1942 Quit India movement. It will do well to recollect what the then president of India, Sankar Dayal Sharma, addressing the midnight session of the parliament commemorating the 50th anniversary of the Quit India movement, August 9, 1992, said: “After large-scale strikes in mills in Kanpur, Jamshedpur and Ahmedabad, a dispatch from Delhi dated September 5, 1942, to the Secretary of State, in London, reported about the Communist Party of India: the behaviour of many of its members proves what has always been clear, namely, that it is composed of anti-British revolutionaries."
Does anything more needs to be said?
PREVENT THE DESTRUCTION
OF INDIA’S FUTURE
This `New India’ not only rewrites Indian history; not only destroys the Indian constitution and the associated institutions, authorities, guarantees to the people, people’s lives and civil liberties, but also undermines the future of India by promoting strife and hatred and mounting growing attacks on the dalits, adivasis, women and religious minorities.
This `New India’ undermines India’s economic self-reliance and foundations. The destruction of the Indian economy during the last six years is testimony to this. The current economic blueprint for the loot of national assets, wholesale privatisation of the public sector, India’s mineral wealth, India’s forests and green cover and the abolition of constitutional rights of the working class and working people to represent the wholesale surrender of India’s wealth to the profit maximisation of foreign and domestic corporates. The corporatisation of Indian agriculture, the ordinances brought now to abolish the Essential Commodities Act, eliminate even the minimum protection to farmers like MSP, price controls, procurement, will lead to the total destruction of any public distribution system with dangers of food scarcity at the expense of bolstering the profits of agri-business corporates. This is the ruination of our annadatas.
This `New India’, thus, poses an existential crisis for our constitutional order. It poses an existential crisis for the livelihood, liberty, dignity and prosperity of the vast majority of the Indian people. It poses an existential crisis for Indian pluralism, its linguistic diversity and federalism. It poses a crisis for democracy, people’s rights and the pursuit of reason and rationality.
It is these dangers of this `New India’ that need to be resisted and defeated. This is the meaning of any pledge that the Indian people will take on this year’s Independence Day.