Secular row: Govt sending out wrong signals

The government has a lot to explain as to why its Republic Day advertisement used an image of the Preamble of the Indian Constitution without the words “socialist” and “secular”.

The incident was being blown out of proportion, the concerned bureaucrats said, adding that the Preamble was used as a watermark for aesthetic effect in the advertisement. After coming under attack from activists, the minister of state for information and broadcasting Rajyavardhan Rathore told the media that the country celebrated the Preamble as it was originally, before the 1976 amendment. However, Rathore’s argument leaves scope for doubt over the government’s intentions.

The Preamble was changed through the 42nd Amendment in 1976 to read, “We, the people of India, having solemnly resolved to constitute India into a Sovereign Socialist Secular Democratic Republic…”

We think the government should avoid creating such unnecessary controversies that give the impression that a particular religion is dictating terms to policy makers. Instead the governments the current one and its predecessors should have focused on making the original concept of secularism work. Under this concept, no religion major or minor in numbers is allowed to affect governance and public life, and yet all are allowed to practise their faith without fear or favour. It does not allow fundamentalists to design evil and practise it.

A country as diverse as ours does not need such conscious designs that are detrimental to our already weakened social fabric. Minister Rathore had rightly asked whether the governments before 1976 were not secular, insisting that the country was secular then and would always remain secular. Still, his argument does not answer a basic question: why did his government do it?

BJP’s ruling partners, Shiv Sena demanded yesterday that the words ‘secular’ and ‘socialist’ be removed from the Preamble, primarily because unified India was partitioned on religious lines. Perhaps this response gives us the loud and clear answer that policy makers are shying away from.

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