The framers of our Constitution dreamt of an ideal nation, which aspired to be inclusive and respected the nation’s rich diversity. Striving at the nation’s prosperity and progress, India’s Constitution embraced a democratic ethos ahead of its time. The far-sightedness of these leaders could be summed up as phenomenal. The extensive constitutional debates at the time of its formation are a testimony to the efforts put in by our nation’s founding fathers to make India the inclusive country that it is intended for.
Cut to 2022, where do we stand as a nation? The state-affiliated violence ushered on minorities, the vilification of Muslims and weaker sections of society, and the Hindutva zealots’ pursuit of recasting the democratic nation into a Hindu Rashtra pinpoint the failure of the vision of independent India entwined by the Constitution makers of India. The country has been stooping low each day to a new record. Now, the students belonging to the Muslim community are being denied their fundamental rights, and the people of India are busy debating whether sporting a hijab is an “essential” practice or not.
The sacrifices made by our people during the Partition, who lost their blood and sweat, are being humiliated and ridiculed by the demonstrative pseudo-nationalists. The spirit of the Constitutional institutions is losing its sheen and has been painted in the hue of “saffronised” political ideology. The utter silent policy adopted by the ruling party on the matters of hate speech, lynching, online auction of Muslim women, slapping draconian laws on political activists, etc., against people from minority communities say a lot about their ideological alignment.
In such bleak days, what are we left with? The Constitution is the simplest answer. The idea of justice, liberty, equality, and fraternity of “SOVEREIGN SOCIALIST SECULAR DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC” India is the only ray of hope we have at our disposal. Upholding these values is both the responsibility of our government and its people, especially those who believe in religious majoritarianism. We must remind ourselves why India embraced everyone, irrespective of caste, class, and religion. There is a vast contrast between what our forefathers imagined India and how it turned out to be. We now have our elected leaders who use derogatory name-calling for Muslims and identify people by their clothes. What are they feeding the young mind? Isn’t this behaviour normalizing institutional violence and hate speech? The other pillars of democracy need to take cognizance of the departure of democratic India into an authoritative one and proceed accordingly.
The vision of our forefathers to set a precedent for the world, modeling India as an inclusive and diverse country, is being crushed by anti-minorities brigades. Prior to this, India had been looked up to as one of the fastest-growing economies with socio-cultural development, aiming to make India a global power. Currently, India is lagging in all the social indices, which puts India into a compromised position. Globally, multiple reports indicate decay in India’s democratic ethics. Earlier, the world that used to look at India with such fascination with regards to its commitment to secularism and economic progress is now watching India’s violent attacks on minorities at each step. The dent in the Constitutional practices has placed India as “partly free” (according to an annual report on global political rights and liberties) from a “free” country, indicating a downfall of India’s democracy.
Assessing the rise in hate speech and violence against minorities, Justice Madan B. Lokur, former judge of the Supreme Court, called for enacting a special law to combat hate speech against minorities. There is no doubt the Hindu nationalist ideology has compromised the institutions of democracy. But, it is never too late to come back to the Constitutional obligation to secularism. As Justice Lokur pointed out, the court machinery has to ensure that they are functioning as per the Constitution and not aligning towards the majoritarian assertion of India by the Hindutva forces.
India is home to people belonging to a different religion, caste, ethnicity, culture, class, etc. Therefore, coercing this multiplicity into a dogmatic and hollowed idea of Hindu Rashtra could break India into shards. (The writer is General Secretary, All India Milli Council)