From Prez Rajendra Prasad To PM Modi—Understanding the Grievance Of The Not So “Secular” Ones

Is is not surprising that Owaisi finds that if the Prime Minister attends the Bhumi Pujan of Ram Mandir, the same will be a violation of his constitutional oath. Owaisi and his friends in the opposition are, after all, the ideological successors of Nehru.

History is well documented on the point that the restoration of Somnath Temple was a civilisational promise made good by the efforts of Mahatma Gandhi, Sardar Patel, and most of all, by KM Munshi, whom Nehru often referred to as “someone connected to Somnath”. Such was the Nehruvian resentment to the Somnath project, that he undermined the discretion and authority of the President by pressurising him not to inaugurate the same! Not the one to give in, Rajendra ‘babu’ went for the historic inauguration nevertheless, but Nehru made it a point to black out his address on All India Radio. This incident was among the first political imprints of Nehruvian secularism, which a lot of people over the years, began to interpret as “pseudo-secularism”. What is the cause of their disillusionment?

It is the understanding of Owaisi and his friends that secularism strengthens when a leader wears a skull cap, and gets defeated when he sports a tilak. Secularism strengthens when he visits a mosque, but gets defeated when he takes a dip in the holy Ganga. Secularism strengthens when a leader says “Inquilaab Zindabad” but gets defeated when he says “Bharat Mata Ki Jai”. Secularism strengthens when a leader does sher-o-shayari, but gets defeated when he recites Vande Mataram. Secularism strengthens when religious travel to a foreign land is subsidised, but gets defeated when a Yatra is allowed. Secularism strengthens when a leader hosts an Iftaar party, but gets defeated when he attends Ram Navami celebrations.

This Nehruvian definition of secularism stands heavily contested, 69 years after Nehru blacked out Rajendra Prasad’s address during the inauguration of Somnath Mandir. I hope that Shri Ram Janmabhoomi Teerth Kshetra will pay special attention to the fact that the real architects of the Ram Mandir project are honoured. But there is absolutely no reason as to why the Prime Minister of India must not grace the occasion, or why his address must not be broadcasted, among other things— on the same, old All India Radio.

As for Owaisi and his friends: Does Indian secularism contemplate an irreligious state? Does secularism take away the fundamental right of a leader to practice his religion, or attend a religious function? Does secularism mean a complete rejection of our civilisational history, our cultural heritage? Does attending a religious event make a person less secular? These are complicated questions, which cannot simply be answered by claiming that the word “secularism” was introduced in the Preamble, through the 42nd Amendment—without much substantiation, without much debate, and against the wishes of Constitution-makers—for perpetuity.

The ideological battle must go on- though, with civility in discourse!

Gaurav Sansanwal
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