A deeply disturbing,indeed ominous feature of our contemporary debates and struggles on the question of the state has been the increasing penetration and dominance of Hindutva ideas in them. It has not occurred abruptly and suddenly,but over years,incrementally and with increasing force and conviction,supported by well-planned popular movements at the ground level.The opposition,after having long ignored it as of no significance and contemporary appeal,has suddenly found itself disarmed of effective clinching arguments and its resigned silence is met with triumphant jeers by the jubilant mobs of the ruling party.
Having thus pushed the opposition into a corner the proponents of the new narratives makes no secret of their eventual and final goal, i.e.the complete make-over of the state.With this aim it is proceeding to mount a campaign on the Constitution as a ‘colonial’ document and fairly explicitly declaring an intention of indigenising it.
The Prime Minister’s ritualized assumption of a sacred sceptre said to have been received by Nehru from a Hindu Monastery on independence and the multiple associations of the new Parliament building with Vaastu Shastra and Hindu religious mythology reveal the latent intention.Needless to say that the culmination of such steps will be the junking of the secular,rational and humanistic features of our present constitution and the adoption of a radically reactionary undemocratic foundational document of the state.
The debate on decolonization in our country in the nineties of the last century well into the early years of the twentieth had tapered off with a general sense of weariness and disenchantment with secular humanism and scientific rationalism.Whatever their limitations the latter ought not to have been so devalued as to be regarded as rubbish.But in academic circles and among the general intelligentsia that became the fashion and in consequence all resistance to the deadly backswell from the reactionary and superstitious traditions and ideas of the moribund past had been undermined.The Supreme Court declared ‘Hindutva’ to be a mere ‘way of life’.Fast forward a couple of decades and then come upon one high court judge holding forth publicly that Brahmins deserved pre-eminence because they had innate superiority and another claiming that you cannot reject Sanatana Dharma as it underlines our most basic duties as man and citizen.
The currently triumphant mythology holds that there was nothing wrong in our past ideas,beliefs and customs,except some superficial influences of Muslim rule.Indeed what the West has woken up to now,its deep moral inadequacy bequeathed by its materialism,the blindness of its science and rationalism had been recognized and overcome long back in time by our sages.
But this is not what pioneers and pathbreakers of the Indian Renaissance like Tagore and Vivekananda thought of our heritage.Critical as they had been of the crass materialism(actually worship of commodities) and the tendency towards aggressive violence of the West in their assessment ,they profoundly admired its concept of innate human dignity,its use of reason to overcome blind superstitions,and its active will that believed in transforming the world. Incidentally Vivekananda made fun of worshippers of the cow who cared not a rap about plight of men.
These fore-runners of people who led our freedom struggle and laid the foundations of our Constitution had been clear-sighted about the vices of colonialism and wanted our thinking to be purged of them.But they were perceptive of the weaknesses of our traditions too. The adoptive father of the hero of Tagore’s novel,GORA,is a caricature of all that the author found deadening and suffocating in Brahminical Hinduism.He is shown as a man practically imprisoned in a plethora of rites and mindless customs,without any living relationship with fellow men and the world,his will bent mechanically towards the other world.Such a man lacked the spontaneous creativity,Tagore seemed to hint,to be able to revive the life of the country.It thus followed that science and reason were of vital importance to rid the country of its inertia.
Our academic and intellectual leaders who had come under the spell of postmodernism automatically shared the West’s disenchantment with reason and gone on to reject any active rational intervention to improve the given conditions of real life.The sense of liberation it brought was merely theoretical and actually illusory.Their campaign against reason without any sense of the actual shackles put upon it by capitalism(and socialism when it blindly aped it) had actually in our time and country led to revival of unwholesome Brahminical Hinduism and its “mind-forged manacles”.
Hence we have failed to understand that our Constitution,as framed by people such as Nehru,Ambedkar,the socialists and the emancipated women leaders,was not simply a rule-book to govern our political conduct,but an energetic programme to change our society and culture in order to create a new social and political order.
Millennia-old customs and beliefs,fossilized patterns of social relations, moribund ideas and attitudes were proposed to be changed in the light of such seminal far-reaching ideas as human dignity,liberty and equality. The stranglehold of religion was to be loosened to let in fresh rejuvenating air.And politics was to serve as a human instrument to serve intelligible human ends with secular import.No sacred canon, or venerated tradition,was to be invoked in implementing this agenda.Hence the proclaimed relevance of “the scientific temper”.
All this will be a thing of the past if the messiahs of a new constitution have their way.The purported decolonization will then be a radical denudation of the real content of our Constitution and abandonment the true heritage of our freedom struggle.
The Prime Minister has remarked that the new Parliament building has witnessed the first session of the Lok Sabha on the day of Ganesh Chaturthi.Thus every occasion,every programme associated with it has symbolic value in Hindutva discourse.
That MPs had received copies of the Constitution with the words ‘secular’ and ‘socialist’ missing in the Preamble is also not without meaning.Though a BJP spokesman has later explained it away as simple commemoration of the first un-amended Constitution,it seems a mere cover-up.For in that case that should have been made clear when passing the copies around.
Actually it is nothing less than a dour gesture of rejection of the amendment inserted in 1976.And the entire opposition should have erupted into vehement protests in view of the outrage.
Hiren Gohain is a political commentator