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Mainstream, VOL LVI No 6 New Delhi January 27, 2018 - Republic Day Special

Skill Development Minister, RSS and Secularism

Saturday 27 January 2018

by Binoy Viswam

All along its history the BJP has had a position on secularism. It was full of antagonism and arrogance against the very concept. To reflect this, their stalwarts had coined a phrase long back—pseudo-secularism! Their cadres were taught in such a way to believe that secularism is nothing but unnecessary appeasement of minorities. And those in the BJP are asked to believe that secularism is anti-thetic to the Indian ethos. According to them Indian ethos are based on Chathurvarnya and their guiding principle is Manusmriti. One of the reasons for the BJP’s bitterness towards the Indian Constitution is its allegiance to secularism.

The other day Union Minister for State for Skill Development Ananth Kumar Hegde was proving his loyalty to the Sangh ideals. The Minister openly questioned the relevance of secularism in the Indian Constitution. He called for its removal. Not satisfied with that, the hardcore Swayam Sevak went to the extent of telling that those who adhere to secularism are people who don’t know about their parents. Naturally this speech might have enthused the protagonists of racial pride in the BJP and RSS. At the same time the sophisticated elements dealing with the task of governance smelled the risk of a Minister making such a speech. With in no time they took to fire-fighting measures. The Parliamentary Affairs Minister disassociated from the statement of his ministerial colleague and Hegde was called to rectify himself. Understanding the danger he made a statement saying that “if it hurts anybody’s feelings......â€

That means the Minister finds nothing wrong about his statement. But if it hurts anybody’s feelings, this is for their sakehis regrets are recorded. The wise men in the BJP might be thinking that everything is fine with the first and second statements of the Skill Development Minister. But that is not the case with the vast majority of Indians who believe that secularism is the cornerstone of the Indian polity and guiding principle of the Constitution. They naturally are in absolute disagreement. Their disagreement is not only with the statement but more with the philosophy from which that statement emanates. Anyhow on the eve of the 68th anniversary of the Republic the RSS, BJP have once again notified the nation of their uncompromising standpoint on secularism.

Whatever certain BJP leaders might have told as part of their hand-washing efforts, their ideology is in blatant conflict with secularism. For an organisation that has proclaimed Hindu Rashtra as their final goal it cannot be otherwise. That is why M.S. Golwalkar, their ideologue of all times, came out openly as a crusader against the concept of secularism. In all his speeches and writings his enmity to secularism was vividly argued. If one goes through his works like We or Our Nationhood Defined (1939) and Bunch of Thoughts (1966), he/she would be astonished to see the gravity of his bitterness. It is worthwhile to remember the editorial appeared in the July 31, 1947 issue of Organiser, the officialorgan of the RSS which was titled ‘Hindustan and the Argument was for Making India a Hindu Rashtra.In the August 14, 1947 issue, Organiser went one step ahead and pleaded that Saffron should be the colour of the National Flag. Tricolour, according to them, would only create confusion among the people.

Again in November, 1947 when the Constituent Assembly was announced, Golwalkar came out and expressed his resentment against the move. At a meeting in Delhi during those days he had ridiculed democracy saying that it is nothing more than granting rights to dogs and cats. In Bunch of Thoughts Golwalkar wrote: “Our Constitution is only a compilation of various paragraphs taken from various Western Constitutions tailored together. It is complicated and diversified. There is nothing in it which we can call ours.â€

His sharp reservation against federalism was aired in a public meeting at Kanpur in 1949 just before the Constitution was enacted: “When the Constitution was drafted they have forgotten us. They forgot Hindutva, the unifying factor. In its absence the Constitution will create only disunity. ‘One country, one nation, one state’ should be the unifying motto. There should be only one legislature and one Cabinet for the whole country.†That is to do away with federalism and embrace a unitary form of government. In 1973 at a seminar held in Bangalore he further exhorted, “We should proclaim a unitary constitution through appropriate amendment in the existing one.†All these facts tell us that ever since the Constitution came into being the Sangh Parivar was at loggerheads with it. During the period of the Vajpayee Government they took the first step in this regard by appointing an 11-member Commission headed by former Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, M.N. Venkatachellaiah. But the Commission’s report disappointed them. His recommendation was not to make any change in the basic structure of the Constitution. The Supreme Court in the Kesavanda Bharathi case and S.R. Bommai case also held the view that there should not be any alteration in the basic features of the Constitution like secularism.

All these narratives make it clear that the RSS, BJP always nurture a sort of vengeance about the secular, democratic and federal nature of the Indian Constitution. Needless to say, the constitutional goal of socialism is like a poison for them. This is natural for an organisation which is tuned to believe that Muslims, Christians and Communists are internal enemies of the country. Ananth Kumar Hegde was only being trustworthy in his fundamental, ideological doctrine. But poor Skill Development Minister! Out of his over-enthusiasm he was a bit unskilful in communicating those ideals espoused by all Swayam Sevaks. Hence the regrets and denials are all part of the drama. The RSS-BJP position on secularism and Constitution will ever continue unchanged.

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