There is a Bengali saying,”He who rides a tiger cannot dismount”.This would seem to apply to the entrenched political lobby which have been seeking assiduously to undermine the country’s constitution by burrowing into it and weakening it from within.
The recent rather strict action taken against a national spokesperson of the ruling party,though nine days after her offending remarks,and only after a furious reaction from Gulf countries,has provoked adverse reaction from party ranks,and the leadership seems at a loss as to how to contain it.
More.The Hindu religious establishment, particularly the Shankaracharyas of four Maths,which had been traditionally associated with the Adi Shankaracharya in the ninth century,have taken a strong stand against both the government’s decision against the party spokesperson and the Prime Minister’s new compromise with the so long. snubbed secular interests. Sadhvi Prajnaa(or Pragya) a person whom the Prime Minister said he would never be able to forgive for calling Gandhi murderer Godse a ‘Desh Bhakt'(patriot)and then chose as the nominee for the party in the general elections, has come out openly supporting the suspended spokesperson and bluntly declaring that India is a country of the Hindu religion and no other religion could demand state protection in this country.
One Shankaracharya had visited Assam a few months back and publicly professed similar sentiments on the overriding primacy of the Hindu religion in a state where religious bigotry was not a familiar phenomenon.Now apparently all the Shankaracharyas have expressed contempt for the government’s concession to the idea of religious tolerance.
They have also denounced vigorously the RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat’s recent advice to Hindu militants that there was no need to find a Shivling in every mosque.They say in plain terms that the RSS and the BJP were ‘political’ outfits which could not be expected to defend the honour of the Hindu religion.
All this in spite of the government’s attempt to placate its home constituency by using an unusually brusque language in a diplomatic response to Arab outrage at the implied insult to the Prophet.
These elements have called the leadership’s bluff by asserting that the government has no business to intrude in a matter where only religious authorities can have the last word.All this must be clear enough to the temporal leadership that has so far been conniving at if not colluding with such manifest fanaticism.And it must also be deeply embarassing as they have so far been encouraging such outbursts of prejudice and hate with their studied silence and passivity
This situation has actually been the direct outcome of the leadership’s systematic subversion of the constitution. It is the very essence of our democratic constitution that it is a product of human reason,of prolonged discussion and negotiation for achieving political ends of today.It is not part of a religious canon that appeals to any higher divine authority like the MANUSMRITI.
By putting religion at a much higher pedestal and thereby weakening secular authority,the leadership had indirectly helped put a particular religion as the final arbiter of all constitutional issues.Our constitution has chosen not to yield any higher authority or status to religion.It promises equality of all religions as and when they come under its purview.
But both the party and the government have for the last decade or so spared no pains to turn its principles on its head and place religion practically at the foundation of the state.The courts too have helped these developments by gradually yielding ground to such religious trespassers. And the outcome has been its inability to resist and act authoritatively when its own essential powers as the legitimate agents of the state acting under its secular constitution are challenged.
It must now be stated without mincing matters that such developments had actually begun under the watch of the Congress when it started dabbling with religion in the hope of winning popular support.It certainly had no idea of such consequences when it did so.But it should and could have.It is time that it cleared its position and invoked its prestige as the heir of the organisation that had power transferred to it when the British declded to call it the day.It also steered the drawing up of the constitution.
Hiren Gohain is a political commentator