Day before yesterday, our country celebrated the 66th year since the glorious constitution came into force. However, the Information and Broadcasting Ministry had a surprise in store for us that stunned and infuriated many. I&B newspaper advertisements wishing us a happy Republic Day features the Preamble to the Constitution in the background. What was astonishing was the fact that two important terms in our Preamble, “socialist” and “secular”, were conspicuously omitted. Each advertisement contained a message from the Prime Minister himself.
While some have termed the entire incident as an innocent oversight, it however triggered a furor and signature campaigns on social media platforms. I&B Ministry officials have tried to justify the situation by stating that the image of the “original Preamble” was used; the draft of the Preamble before the 42nd Amendment which reads – “A sovereign Democratic Republic”, and was afterwards changed to “A Sovereign Socialist Secular Democratic Republic”. Although on one hand the use of the Preamble for purely aesthetic purposes is in no way illegal, the government should have been more careful in preventing aberrations in the use of the text of the Preamble.
The words “Socialist” and “Secular”, both of significant value in our Constitution, have been evidently missed out. These two are dominant principles that our forefathers were deeply committed to and it was due to their persistent efforts that they got enshrined in our constitution. However, with intolerance and violence towards certain religious groups constantly brewing up, our secular foundations seem to only exist on paper. Incidences like the Trilokpuri riots, the ghar wapasi campaign etc. that are gaining momentum throughout the nation to reclaim “Hindus lost to other religions” and the aggressive assertion of a “Hindutva Nation” by the allies of the ruling party are bound to raise questions on the intent behind this ‘oversight’. In a situation where the religious groups are successfully spewing communal violence, it is imperative to remind ourselves the essence of religious freedom granted to us by our Constitution. In times like these, an “innocent fallacy” of a Government known to use symbolic gestures to communicate its agenda can have detrimental consequences.
The online petition campaign initiated by IndiaResists has been quoted saying – “These two values are non-negotiable and any attempt to dilute them would face strong resistance. At the time when the people of India, and even the global community, have genuine apprehensions about the secular character of the Indian democracy, which stands threatened by a right-wing government formed with less than one-third of the popular votes, this omission is utterly condemnable.”