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

Ominous Forebodings

Saturday 27 January 2018, by SC


Today is January 23, the 121st birth anniversary of Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose, one of the stalwarts of our freedom struggle whose Azad Hind Fauj, which symbolised Hindu-Muslim unity, played a vital role in hastening the British departure from India thereby ensuring our nation’s independence from alien rule on August 15, 1947. And after three days we shall celebrate our sixtyninth Republic Day; we reinforced our freedom by becoming a Republic and adopting a Constitution which has few parallels anywhere.

While observing the sixtyeighth anniversary of our Republic we must necessarily remember the architect of our Constitution, Babasaheb Dr Bhimrao Ramji Ambedkar. In his last speech in the Constituent Assembly on November 25, 1949 after completing the onerous task of drafting the Constitution, Dr Ambedkar made a memorable observation:

On the 26th January 1950 we are going to enter into a life of contradictions. In politics we will have equality and in social and economic life we will have inequality. In politics we will be recognising the principle of one man one vote, and one vote one value. In our social and economic life, we shall by reason of our social and economic structure, continue to deny the principle of one man one value. How long shall we continue to live this life of contradictions? How long should we continue to deny equality in our social and economic life? If we continue it for long, we will do so only by putting our political democracy in peril. We must remove this contradiction at the earliest possible moment, or else those who suffer from inequality will blow up the structure of political democracy which this Assembly has so laboriously built up.

Over the years the course of events in the country has established the validity of this statement and the recent violence in Maharashtra on the occasion of 200 years of the Bhima-Koregaon battle has once again brought this out in sharp relief.

Today we are also constrained to admit that the dreams of our freedom fighters have largely remained unrealised even if India can justifiably boast of having maintained its image as the world’s largest democracy and has taken bold strides in several fields of science and technology while safeguarding our hard-won independence.

The idea of inclusive growth, which our leaders had projected at the dawn of our emancipation from colonial yoke, has, however, eluded us and our teeming multitudes have yet to overcome abject poverty whereas growing disparities in economic life are becoming increasingly visible thus stalling our self-reliant advance. Last year 73 per cent of the increase in wealth in India went to the top one per cent (with the country currently having as many as 101 billionaires, 17 of whom came up only in 2017) whereas the condition of those at the lower rungs of the socio-economic ladder continues to remain as in the past or has worsened of late.

But what is more alarming is the social unrest that has gripped the nation with mounting assaults on the minorities as an integral part of the majoritarian onslaught which has increased phenomenally since the assumption to power of the present dispensation in 2014. A sense of insecurity thereby prevails among the minorities, especially Muslims, and the possible transformation of secular India into a Hindu replica of Islamic Pakistan stares us in the face as those heading the Union Government are supremely indifferent to or actively in favour of such a possibility. Indeed the nation is threatened by both religious and caste violence triggered by myopic leaders.

Unless well-meaning individuals and groups come together for effective intervention, Dr Ambedkar’s apprehension may well turn out to be true.

Such ominous forebodings punctuate this year’s Republic Day. India must be on guard.     

 January 23 S.C.

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