One hopes the old idiomatic phrase is still understood by many. For nothing else can catch the frenzy the words ‘secular’ and ‘socialist’ provoke among die-hard adherents of Hindutva.Our Prime Minister has re-affirmed his old links with them with a recent remark. Shedding his jovial neighbourly expression and putting on his portentuous mien and manner,he has reportedly declared that the time has come to purge the Preamble of our Constitution of these hated words.
Inserted during the Emergency by Indira Gandhi,for decades some of her inveterate enemies did not care to remove them when they were in power.Why?Because they thought they only made explicit what is implicit in the Constitution. And if BJP wants to remove them it is because they understand the enormous symbolic power of this superfluous gesture.
Besides,that also indicates farther push of the country towards the swamp of capitalist dictatorship in the guise of religious hegemony. Indian leaders had not for decades cared to model the country on Marxist lines.For them ‘socialism’ had been a looser and broader concept implying empowerment of the working masses and control over the overweening ambition and greed of the wealthy.As for ‘secular’,it denotes a condition of the state essential to maintain fraternity among equal citizens.In our present conditions these appear reasonable goals.
The ruling party has strife as a basic principle in its approach to the world.You cannot properly exist unless you dominate and taste dominance.Belligerence is for it the only proper attitude to strike in the world, of course supplemented by Yogic search for poise and freedom from stress.This is the cherished lesson it draws from tradition.
In this connection I remember a rather hazardous journey for my age to the caves of Ellora and Ajanta at the insistence of my daughter.But what is etched more clearly on my mind is the hazardous journey on sedan chairs carried by men up steep flights of narrow stairs where even a minor slip of one of the bearers would mean a terrible disaster,than fading paintings and dim carved figures viewed under torchlight in thick darkness.
However, one experience continues to haunt me.On the surface of overhanging rocks outside in Ellora one could see on one panel armies of Pandavas of the Mahabharata proceeding to meet the Kauravas in superb battle array.Each elephant,each war-horse had its own individual expression.The soldiers were also in fighting mood full of spirit.
One could hardly fail to admire the skill and artistic sensibility of the carvers.Nearby were remains of an earlier and Buddhist period,and one niche there had the bas relief of a woman and a child.I asked our guide who apart from his profession seemed to have a personal passion for these magnificent relics of the past what that woman meant in that context.He replied she was a demoness who kidnapped and devoured children.The story went that the distressed people sought the Buddha’s help.The Buddha by his magic power caught and kept hidden the demoness’s own child.When she herself was distraught with grief and fear for his life,the Buddha made her realize the grief of the human parents whose children she had devoured before restoring her lost child to her.And the story ended with her reform.
On the way back I pondered on the contrast between the two traditions.Both Hindu and Buddhist traditions affirmed the existence of evil and the need to confront and overcome it.But while in the Hindu tradition thought the evil-doer must be destroyed, whence the epic battles of the Ramayana and the Mahabharata, the Buddha’s teaching emphasized reasoning, persuasion and an essential humanity of approach.That is why Nehru had harked back to Ashoka in choosing the national emblem.
By preferring the method of strife over persuasion and fraternity,the ruling party creates more strife within the nation and is compelled to provoke more strife in a never-ending process. The move to obliterate these two words in its thirst for dominance is bound to provoke more suspicion and dismay and create a field for more conflict.It is in the paradoxical position of enforcing unity unilaterally and creating more divisions and conflicts by this very act.
It had deprived labor of hard-earned gains of a century-old struggle,and seems determined to break down farmers’ resistance at an opportune moment.Now it is out to create a new grand vista out of the Constitution. It has no respect for the dignity of those it considers as hurdles on its project.Of the four traditional methods of dealing with the enemy it prefers DANDA (retribution) and BHEDA(division)
as the ideal ones.In stead of understanding and conciliation it goes for repression and elimination.
Hence the attraction of the largely symbolic rite of purging the constitution to serve its own needs.And this ought to be resisted as a sacrilege by people who are nauseated by its methods.
Hiren Gohain is a political commentator