Current AffairsIndia

Protecting secularism rests on Constitutional Institutions: Dr Manmohan Singh

New Delhi, Sep 25(UNI) Stressing that any attempt to weaken the secular fabric of our republic would be an attempt to dismantle the secular, progressive, democratic polity, former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Tuesday said the onus of preserving the secular robustness of the country rests on the Constitutional institutions.

“We should be unambiguously clear that any attempt to weaken the secular fabric of our republic would be an attempt to dismantle the larger egalitarian project.—a secular, progressive, democratic polity.And, the onus of preserving the secular robustness of our republic rests on all our constitutional institutions,” Dr Singh said while delivering the second A B Bardhan memorial lecture here .

Calling the Judiciary as an institution whose primary duty was to protect the secular spirit of the Constitution; moreso in the present time when ” political disputes and electoral battles are increasingly getting over-laced with religious overtones, symbols, myths, and prejudices”, Dr Singh said, “the judiciary needs to arrive at its own enlightened view of its custodianship of the Constitution—irrespective of the irresponsible and selfish politicians who have no qualms in injecting communal virus in our body politic.”

He also called on the Army, the election commission and political parties to help presence India’s secular fabric.

“Our armed forces are a splendid embodiment of our secular project. Our armed forces have a glorious record of keeping away from the politicians manipulations and intrigues. It is vitally important that the armed forces remain uncontaminated from any sectarian appeal. As the custodian of the integrity of the electoral process, it is incumbent upon the Election Commission to see to it that religion and religious sentiments and prejudices do not get worked into the election discourse; the Commission must be thinking of rolling back the easy acceptance of over-manipulation of religious imagery. Above all, it is the duty of the political parties to keep on educating, enlisting and mobilizing our citizens in the cause of secular values and practices as the highest republic virtues, so centrally located in our Constitution, “ he said.

Dr Singh said that every civilized society is known and defined by the terms it offers to its minorities, especially its religious minorities and that was one of the principal issues facing our national leaders when they got down to writing a Constitution for the newly-Independent India.

SIngh quoted former Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru saying that ‘no majority in the society can suppress the minorities and we all must co operate to protect their culture and tradition’.

Noting that Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru disliked communalism, he also refuted the view of some people that he was for imposing European secularism in our Constitution.

‘It is now somewhat fashionable to suggest that it was Nehru and Nehru alone who insisted on introducing this European concept of a secular state in the Indian constitutional and political discourse. This suggestion is grossly unfair to the entire national leadership,— including Mahatma Gandhi, Sardar Patel, Maulana Azad and others— which fully endorsed and shared Nehru’s secular ideas and formulations. In a speech at Calcutta, just two days after India became Independent, the Mahatma was categorical in what kind of social order an Independent India would have; in his characteristic frank manner of speaking, the great man noted that “some Hindus were now beginning to feel that they had the upper hand, and some Muslims were afraid that they would have to play the underdog in the Union.” If this was to be so, Gandhiji said that this India was not the India of his dreams. In the India for whose fashioning he had worked all his life every man enjoyed equality of status, whatever his religion was. “The State was bound to be wholly secular,’Dr Singh said.

He said that secularism was one of the most important issue for our national leaders back then while they were writing the Constitution of the newly independent country.

In this context, he also quoted Former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s 2001 New Year ‘Musings’ from Kumarakom , stating,’ Secularism is not an alien concept that we imported out of compulsion after Independence, Rather it is an integral and natural feature of our national culture and ethos’.

Dr Singh said that no Constitutional arrangement can be protected an be preserved only by the law, ultimately it comes down to the political leadership , civil society , religious leaders and intelligentsia to defend the Constitution and its secular commitments.

He said that it was time to remind ourselves that the framers of the constitution, who conceived the secular order.

CPI General Secretary Sudhakar Reddy, famous journalist P. Sainath were also present on the occasion.

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