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Thursday, April 25, 2024

Republic Day Musings

It was on November 26, 1949, that the Constitution was adopted and came into force on January 26, 1950. It signified the victory of democratic forces, with secularism implicit in it, in post-independence India. Despite the challenges from the Hindutva forces, especially in the conditions of partition in the country, the Constitution guaranteed in its article 25 “Freedom of conscience and right to freely profess, practice and propagate religion equally.”

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“Today, when there is so much talk about revising the Constitution or even writing a new Constitution, we have to consider whether it is the Constitution that has failed us or whether it is we who have failed the Constitution,” said the then President KR Narayanan while speaking in the Central Hall of the Parliament on the occasion of the celebrations of the completion of fifty years of our Constitution on January 27, 2000. The fear has raised its head again. Dr BR Ambedkar while writing the guiding principles, had prepared the foundations for a secular democratic republic, which is facing continual erosion for the last several years. The achievements, for which we had toiled and suffered for all the decades past, are today getting demolished. The scientific temper that we had nurtured among ourselves to build a secular state faces the deadly attack from obscurant, communal absurdities. It is done through banning books, pushing scientific research organisations to the edge, in an attempt to replace them with irrationalism, and destroying the cultural, and literary ethos. Nothing more harmful can be done than enslaving the mass consciousness which is the priority for the autocrat in the making. The fourth estate for democracy, the media, today stands shackled by corporate forces. The print and electronic both are facing the brunt.

While elaborating on the making of the Constitution which took almost three years, Dr Ambedkar said that the “…policy of the state, and how the society should be organised in its social and economic side are matters which must be decided by the people themselves according to time and circumstances,” since “…it cannot be laid down by the Constitution itself, …because that is destroying democracy itself.” Dr Ambedkar thus stressed people’s will. This ‘will’ is not the will of the majoritarian forces. It was the constituent assembly under whose guidance the Constitution was prepared that had added many points to protect the rights of minorities. It was on November 26, 1949, that the Constitution was adopted and came into force on January 26, 1950. It signified the victory of democratic forces, with secularism implicit in it, in post-independence India. Despite the challenges from the Hindutva forces, especially in the conditions of partition in the country, the Constitution guaranteed in its article 25 “Freedom of conscience and right to freely profess, practice and propagate religion equally.”

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The Constitution, with its declared features of a welfare state, was an achievement. In the process of characterising the Indian state, later terms like ‘secular’ and ‘socialist’ were added to the Preamble that was built into the Constitution. In this struggle, one of the prime points was Hindu Code Bill which was presented in the constituent assembly and faced grim controversy. The bill had to be divided into parts like the Hindu Marriage Act, which outlawed polygamy and had provisions for inter-caste marriage and divorce procedures, the Hindu adoption and maintenance Bill, and lastly, the Hindu succession Bill which brought widows and daughters at par with sons in matters of property inheritance. The Hindutva forces opposed it in the name of Hindu family norms, but Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru remained unruffled and got it passed. He also refused to make any alteration in Muslim Personal Law as he contended that the majority of Hindus need not force any change on the minorities. Any change would be introduced only if the suggestion came from them, especially the Muslims.

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The Hills Times
The Hills Timeshttps://www.thehillstimes.in/
The Hills Times, a largely circulated English daily published from Diphu and printed in Guwahati, having vast readership in hills districts of Assam, and neighbouring Nagaland, Meghalaya, Arunachal Pradesh and Manipur.
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