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Constitutional Conundrum

Updated: August 18, 2012 11:56 am

India That Is Bharat

 

Every constitutional-law-abiding citizen, like Satiricus, will be happy to learn that in his very first proclamation after being elected, President Pranab has promised to “protect, defend and preserve the constitution” of India. Unfortunately, unlike every such citizen, Satiricus is a curious cuss. So he wonders….which exactly is the constitution that he will protect and preserve? Is it the constitution that “we, the people” gave to ourselves 60 years ago? Or the constitution that was cleansed of communalism and made specifically secular 30 years later? Or the constitution that has been ‘amended’ (read “improved”) 90 times in 60 years?

While trying to find the answers to these questions Satiricus found to his consternation that the original constitution that he, as a proud part of “we the (Indian) people,” had given to himself, had been crassly criticised by quite a few constituents of the constituent assembly itself. To cite some sorry samples: Damodar Swarup said, it is imported from outside; HV Kamath said, we may have borrowed this from France, England and America, but nothing from our own past and history; Loknath Mishra said, it is a slavish imitation of the west; Dr. Deshmukh said, nothing from our ancient civilization is taken in this; T. Prakasham said, this is not what the people of this country wanted; K Hanumanthayya said, we wanted music of the veena and the sitar, but what we have is an English band; and to cap it all, Gokulbhai Bhatt said, this can never be the constitution of India.

Well, now, do all these obnoxious observations and wretched remarks mean that the Indian President will protect and preserve an un-Indian constitution? And if it does, what is wrong with that? Is not being un-Indian the in-thing in India? Is not west always best? And if everything imported, from wrist-watches and perfumes to burgers and donuts, is the fashion of the day, why can’t an imported constitution be equally fashionable? As for Dr. Deshmukh’s complaint that nothing from our ancient civilization has been taken, why should it? Why should modern India have anything to do with ancient Bharat? In fact, were not the constituents who constituted the constitution being out and out outdated when they called India that is (still) Bharat?

Fortunately Indiraji corrected the constitution-makers’ mistake, divorced India from Bharat, and married it to secularism. Satiricus is sure she had done this because secularism is a high principle, not a low ploy. But alas, we live in a less than perfect (that is, perfectly secular) world, and there are benighted souls who do not possess the same penetrating perception of the concept of secularism. Take this World Book Encyclopaedia. Not content with belittling its entry titled “Secularism” as just a part of another entry titled “Political Science”, it says a philosophical movement in medieval Europe, called Scholasticism, had tried to fit the pre-Christian Greek political thought into the religious framework of Christianity, but the famous politician Machiavelli of Florence, Italy, rejected the Christian framework in favour of “realistic power politics” (now called realpolitik), and later this basic premise was generalised by English philosopher Hobbes, who held that a person’s entire life was a “ceaseless search for power”. “This approach,” to quote the Encyclopaedia, “became known as secularism….”

See? This proves that what Prime Minister Indira Gandhi achieved in the service of secularism, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh overachieved by publicly bestowing on Indian Muslims the first right to India’s assets. She enunciated the noble principle, and he put it into nobler practice. Secular Satiricus can even claim that her constitutional improvement was itself improved upon. But then, what does a non-believer know? He is not in God’s party, which, says the Quran, admits only believers as members. And currently, alas, God’s party in Indian politics seems to suffer from constitutional allergy of India’s constitution. A couple of years ago a certain anti-secular author of a book titled Anti-Hindus wrote in an article on Deoband that Jamiat Ulema-e-Hind, founded by Deoband’s Dar-ul-Uloom, “does not recognise the Constitution of India as a national document to guide the government of the country. Instead, in its own words, the constitution represents a contract entered into by Muslims with the non-Muslims since Independence to establish a secular state. In Urdu such an agreement is called “Muahadah”, which, Deoband contends, is similar to the one entered into during Prophet Mohammed’s lifetime between Muslims and the Jews of Medina. The Jamiat’s perception is: The constitution of India represents this Muahadah.”

So should Satiricus look forward to President Pranab doing his best to preserve and protect this meaningful Muahadah, meaning agreement?—At least till the believers believe the time has come for disagreement?

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