India is considered as the world’s so-called largest democracy, but is it truly operating on democratic terms or is it vying for a change towards a more extremist Hindu state? Ever since, Narendra Modi came into power in 2014, his policy of religious degradation of other minorities has tented the secular image of India. The events that unfolded in the recent past suggest that India is in a continuous flux of political and social uncertainty for last few years which is tearing at the social fabric of the state.
Last month, the Indian government published copies of the Indian constitution, and distributed them to Indian parliamentarians. Congress leader Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury, who is also an opposition leader at the Lok Sabha, made the shocking revelation in a press conference that words such as ‘Socialist’ and ‘Secular’ had been omitted
from the newly published copies.
Historical readings show that the words ‘Socialist’ and ‘Secular’ were not part of the first draft of the constitution of India that was formulated by the Bhimrao Ramji Ambedkar and Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru in 1949. However, these terms were included after the 42nd constitutional amendment in 1976 during Indra Gandhi’s regime.
The biggest challenge to the secular identity of India is the Hindutva ideology. Proposed by Vinayak Damodar Savarkar, an Indian politician, social activist and writer in 1922, it was brought forth in the wake of Khilafat Movement initiated by the Muslims of subcontinent. According to this ideology only Hindus, Jains, Buddhists and Sikhs belong to this land (India), while Muslims, Christians and Jews should leave India as their religious roots traced back to Middle East.
The Rastriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) organization was formed in 1925 in order to provide ultra conservative right-wing Hindus a platform to keep their struggle of Hindutva alive, and it became notorious in the years afterwards for the Muslims of India. RSS had established different wings to propagate their agendas and the current ruling party of India Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) was formed as the political wing of RSS. Which is why the BJP is not only following but practically implementing the RSS ideology.
In addition to legal and political aspects, another concerning trend observed in India in recent years is the indiscriminate oppression of minorities.The most vulnerable among them is the Muslim community of India. The policies of the BJP led current Indian regime are not only threatening for minorities but are alarming for the very fabric of the Indian state structure.
Last month, at the G-20 summit in India, the name tags for the head of states were placed on the table like in any official gathering; but they attracted the attention of the press because that of the President of India, Droupadi Murmu, stated she was the ‘President of Bharat’.
This might not get such an attention, if it happened during any domestic event, but the G-20 summit is an international event where leaders of the twenty states get together and discusses global policy issues. Minister of External Affairs of India Mr. Subrahmanyam Jaishankar defended it by stating that there is no harm in using the term ‘Bharat’ because both it and ‘India’ are written there in the constitution of India.
‘Bharat’ is the Sanskrit term which dates back to 2000 years, but critics are of the view that the name ‘India’ is the true modern day branding of the state in the international arena and changing it out of the blue will complicate things. Indian congress lawmaker Shashi Tharoor shared a similar view when he tweeted, “While there is no constitutional objection to calling India ‘Bharat’, which is one of the country’s two official names, I hope the government will not be so foolish as to completely dispense with ‘India’, which has incalculable brand value built up over centuries”.
India has never been as much divided domestically as it is today. The societal and political divisions are quite visible. Analyzing the last nine-year rule of BJP under Modi’s leadership, India is in the process of shifting from being a liberal democracy to a Hindu autocracy. Muslims, Christians and low caste Dalits are subject to immense repression and violence by the RSS goons. Such acts of violence and harassments have become a new normal in modern day India. Additionally, anti-Muslim sentiments are actively propagated and promoted, even from the floor of the parliament, by Hindu politicians of the ruling BJP who are now bluntly threatening the Muslims with extermination.
Involving the international community would be pointless at this juncture, unless and until such emerging threats are internally intercepted and countered. Eventually the huge responsibility lies on the Indian civil society, academicians and liberal political elites who must play an effective and influential role in order to protect the endangered secular democratic identity of India. Otherwise, it is evident that in the near future India will declare itself as the first Hindu state, which is not only threatening for the existing Indian secular democratic norms, but it will create regional uncertainty among its neighbours.