Controversy is our destiny and hence we Indians seem to embrace it, as and when it comes our way. Even important days like Republic day isn’t spared. However, this time the birth to controversy was given by the government rather than the common man.
The ad, published in newspapers across the country on January 26, quoted the preamble as: “We, the people of India, having solemnly resolved to constitute India into a SOVEREIGN DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC….” The original preamble says: “WE, THE PEOPLE OF INDIA, having solemnly resolved to constitute India into a SOVEREIGN SOCIALIST SECULAR DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC and to secure to all its citizens...”.
Ever since this advertisement is published, there is debate across all platform to eliminate the two words – “Socialist” and “Secular” from the preamble in the advertisement. As far as the government is concerned, this was a blunder since our preamble still has these two words. Hence, till the time an amendment is passed, these advertisements can carry them. But more than what was mentioned in the advertisement; we need to check the ground realities.
Are we indeed socialist as the preamble says? The answer is firm no. As per Merriam-Webster dictionary the word socialism means , “Any of various economic and political theories advocating collective or governmental ownership and administration of the means of production and distribution of goods”.
While this may not be the precise definition of socialism, the problem is that it is difficult to define socialism anyways. No wonder there is a famous quote which says Socialism is like a hat that has lost its shape because everybody wears it. But if we believe the definition given above, are we a socialist nation?
The fact is that we did pretend to be socialist before 1991, but after that we became the filthiest capitalistic economy of the world. The means of production and distribution are owned on the basis of might is right.
Some influential people define policies in the country and make maximum out of it. A series of scams is testimony to this. Middle class and upper middle class people enjoy the justification of private ownership of resources as propagated by governments from time to time on the basis of trickle-down theory.
The poor have no say or very limited say in the ownership and whatever benefit some of them have been able to get is not because of socialism but because of the fact that we are a democratic set up with a part of media from time to time raising questions related to poverty and deprivation.
The right to vote gives poor a right to change government’s at least. However, true benefit of socialism could never come to the poor. We have crores of people who are still landless, survive somehow and are classified as extremely poor. Since 1947, till then these people could hardly get what socialism could have offered to them. There are some who may as well argue that since socialism has failed in its own backyard at many places in the world, then how it can succeed in India. So the controversy around word, “Socialist” is completely out of the context. And not many would have objection to its removal from the preamble.
But the word secular would still carry so much weight that its removal can raise hornets’ nest. The concept of secularism took birth in west and the word secular is often understood as a principle that involves two basic propositions – The first is the strict separation of the state from religious institutions. The second is that people of different religions and beliefs are equal before the law. The belief further goes on to say that secularism seeks to ensure and protect freedom of religious belief and practice for all citizens. Secularism is not about curtailing religious freedoms; it is about ensuring that the freedoms of thought and conscience apply equally to all believers and non-believers alike.
The most important question is that is it possible to separate religion from state practically?Over the years, Congress party has been accused of appeasing people belonging to a specific religion and now with BJP coming to power it is being said that it is giving more importance to people belonging to majority community. More than the role of state, people’s thinking also need to be aligned to the secular belief but unfortunately that has not happened in India. A large section of India continues to be communal deep down and this gets manifested time and again.
The fact is that practically deep down we are neither secular nor socialist, so why this obsession with these words. Let the controversy surrounding these two words put to rest as we have many important works to do. We cannot afford to waste time discussing something which is not so meaningful.
By: Vivek Sharma