By Satya Narayana Sahu | PUBLISHED: 26, Jan 2020, 11:07 am IST | UPDATED: 17, Apr 2020, 16:34 pm IST
Establishment of Republic of India on 26th January 1950 was historic and constituted an event of global significance. While in our neighbourhood and other parts of the world Republics were founded on the basis of religion we, the people of India, chose to opt for a sovereign and democratic republic without religion defining its identity. It was done in spite of forces and formations within India exerting to create a Hindu Rashtra based the
faith of the majority people of India. Along with uncompromising features of sovereignty and democracy we opted for socialist and secular dimensions. Even though these two words were incorporated in the Constitution in 1976 these are of enshrined in every aspect of the Constitution. These are of abiding and enduring significance for India and flowed from the vision of our leadership while spearheading our freedom struggle.
Mahatma Gandhi stressed on neutrality of State to religion in 1930 when he drafted the resolution on Fundamental Rights for Indian National Congress for its adoption in Karachi session . Now secularism has been held to be the basic structure of the Constitution by the Supreme Court in its historic Bommai judgement delivered by 9 judge bench. The ''Jana Gana'' which Tagore invoked in our national anthem remain Supreme and their mandate and might is there at the root of our Republic. This secular fabric needs to be strengthened. The danger to it has come from the philosophy and outlook of many political parties and their actions. Opening of Babri Masjid for constructing a temple and its demolition posed grave danger to our Republic and we suffer its consequences even today. None other than the Supreme Court in its judgement has said that the demolition of that Masjid was grossly illegal and yet ordered that the land where Babri Masjid stood should be handed over to those who demolished it to construct a Ram temple. It is contrary to secularism. The danger is getting compounded day by day.
The march of the Republic in many sectors has been impressive. In several others it is very disappointing. The single most danger is that inequality has been increasing
and marginalising people and making them victims of exploitation. When the Constitution was adopted Dr. Ambedkar very rightly said that "On 26th January 1950 we are going to enter into a life of contradictions. In politics we will have equality and in social and economic life we will have inequality. ... How long shall we continue to deny equality in our social and economic life? We will do so by putting our political democracy in peril." In fact on 71st anniversary of our Republic the contradictions pointed out by Ambedkar have been multiplied and have assumed proportions of a crisis. Now economy has been destroyed by forces representing Hindutva and we are facing unemployment crisis which is the worst in last fifty years. The GDP has declined to a low level and the consumption levels are lower than the 1971 levels. Market economy is reducing everything to the level of commodities . Value of health and education and many vital aspects of our life is determined by market and corporates. This is very dangerous Intolerance stoked by the regime wielding power at the Center in the name of faith, food and dress has further exacerbated conditions adversely impacting the economy. It is extremely important to salvage the Republic.
In the name of cultural nationalism the creative nationalism fashioned during freedom struggle is being endangered. Minorities are living in perpetual fear and anxiety about their life and liberty. Other deprived sections of society are being targeted on the basis of food they eat and the caste or tribe they belong to.
And now all efforts are being made by the powers that be to target people on the issue of citizenship. There is fear among vast sections of Indians that they would not be able to produce documents to prove their birth and the birth of their parents in India for the purpose of registering their names in the National Register of Citizens(NRC) as provided in the Citizenship (Amendment) Act of 2003 based on which rules were framed by Atal Bihari Vajpayee Government in 2003 itself to determine citizenship of every Indian and prepare NRC. Now students, youth, ordinary people and more importantly women are agitating across the country against such measures to compel Indians to prove their citizenship status. The heartening thing in all these movements is that people are reading the Preamble of the Constitution and affirming the secular credentials of India and fraternity of people in spite of the diversity of their faiths, languages, ethnicities and regional identities.
The women leading from the front in many protests in defence of the Constitution and in defence of the citizenship based on broad, liberal and enlightened values and expansive nationalism is the defining feature of twenty first century India. It reminds us the words of Mahatma Gandhi who had said in a message to the Chinese women in 1947 that if women of Asia would come together they would release such heroic non-violence as to kick away the atom bomb like a mere ball. The persistence of women's movements across the country in defence of liberal and secular basis of Indian citizenship constitutes release of heroic non-violence which empowers the whole nation to defend its unity and integrity on the basis of a creative nationalism.
We need to salvage this great Republic. Only Jana Gana can do it. Ambedkar's slogan ''Educate, Organise and Agitate'' has to be followed to deepen public reasoning and democracy to empower people to use constitutional method for reducing inequality and contradictions pointed out by Dr. Ambedkar and defend citizenship values.
The spirit of the slogan of Ambedkar ''Educate, Organsie and Agitatet'' is embodied in the protests of the people to safeguard the ideals of citizenship which Sardar Patel said should be based on broad nationalism and not on narrow nationalism. On this Republic Day let us all remain wedded to the grand vision of India outlined in the Preamble of the Constitution which the Indians of all faith and persuasions are reading out in huge gatherings to affirm the constitutional morality which Dr. Ambedka wanted every Indian to cultivate to uphold the unity, integrity and fraternity of India. Long live Indian Republic.
.The author served as Officer on Special Duty and Press Secretary to President of India late Shri K R Narayanan and had a tenure in Prime Minister’s Office and Joint Secretary in Rajya Sabha Secretariat. Views expressed in the article are in his personal capacity.