There is a much famous quote of Joseph Goebbels, the chief propagandist of Hitler, about how ‘It would not be impossible to prove with sufficient repetition and a psychological understanding of the people concerned that a square is in fact a circle’. But then there is another quote by the same gentleman which is of relevance to the topic I am about to broach upon.
‘If the day should ever come when we must go, if some day we are compelled to leave the scene of history, we will slam the door so hard that the universe will shake and mankind will stand back in stupefaction.’
This is one quote which reflects closely to the statement made by a senior Congress leader after the electoral rout in 2014 elections. One could have called that statement as frustrated outburst of a leader who was struggling to stay relevant in the world which was fast-changing around him. But then, if we look at the lies which have been propagated with ample support of media and sold-out intellectuals, we realize Goebbels speaking through that leader. This propensity to lie with a straight face, unburdened by a conscience, has now placed our society at large in a strange situation. I am sure when the farce wears out, we, as citizens, will find ourselves standing back in stupefaction.
The young, created softly, over the years with little facts and an overdose of emotions, are reading Preamble of the Constitution these days. People have told them that the current Narendra Modi government has messed it up and the constitution of India is in danger. For a democratic nation, there are two things in the Constitution which were of utmost significance- the definition of the nation and freedom of expression. The government which came to power in 2014 is being attacked by the young on both the counts. What helps them is that before and after 2014, the students continue to read the same books which were meant to create a zombie out of them, of the kind which ignored facts and celebrated lies.
Only other day, a young kid argued vehemently with me on the above matters. I wanted to tell her, that while the first amendment of US constitution was brought in to liberalize thought and speech, the first amendment of Indian constitution, brought in by Jawaharlal Nehru, was affected to curtail the freedom of speech. But I have written on the first amendment earlier as well. I will here restrict myself to the Preamble. That is something which defines the nation.
There have been 104 Amendments to the Indian constitution. Between Modi and late Shri Atal Bihar Vajpayee, the BJP ruled government has made 20 amendments (6 by Modi and 14 by Vajpayee). The most far-reaching amendment in the history of independent India was made by Mrs Indira Gandhi and that amendment was called 42nd amendment. This amendment came in when the opposition was in prison under the draconian rules of Emergency. The dictatorial right of the state to pick up anyone and throw in the prison was challenged in Supreme Court and was rejected by a judiciary which was led by the Chief Justice of India who was had superseded three judges senior to him and was appointed with the blessings of Mrs Gandhi. This amendment did many things to the democratic constitution of India which was put in place with much care by Dr. Ambedkar and Dr. Rajendra Prasad.
Let us go back to the time when the Preamble was finalized to understand the damage that the Congress government brought to it when India was suffering under an Emergency. The Preamble was brought in for the debate on 17th of October, 1949. The earlier Preamble, in its unadulterated form, read that “We, the people of India, having solemnly resolved to constitute India into a sovereign Democratic Republic”. Initially it was proposed to put the Constitution in for third reading without Preamble. This was objected by Maulana Hasrat Mohani and supported by Shri KM Munshi. Maulana Hasrat Mohani brought in three amendments to the Preamble, first being, replacing Sovereign Democratic Republic as the nation with Sovereign Federal Republic or Sovereign Independent Republic. The amendment was rejected. The second amendment or alternative he proposed was to name India, Union of India Socialist Republic, in line with the Russia being called USSR. This too was rejected. Then another amendment was sought to introduce ‘In the name of God’ or ‘In the name of Gandhiji’ in the preamble. This too was rejected by 68 votes to 41.
Shri Brijeshwar Prasad brought the discussion on the inclusion of the word- Secular and Socialist- in the Preamble. This inclusion was also sought about in a debate on 15th November, 1948, when Shri KT Shah brought in amendment seeking in Clause (1) of Article 1, mention of the terms “Secular, Federal and Socialist”. Dr. Ambedkar’s response explains that the Preamble should never have been tampered with. Dr Ambedkar was against the hard-wiring of the Constitution according to the wishes of Constituent Assembly which might or might not have represented the wishes of all the people, at all the times. He said, “What should be the policy of the State, how the Society should be organized in its social and economic side are matters which must be decided by the people themselves according to time and circumstances. It cannot be laid down in the Constitution itself because that is destroying democracy altogether.”
When the state was under democracy, the opposition was in prison or underground, Mrs Indira Gandhi sneaked in the two terms into the preamble of the constitution. Apart from circumstances, Dr Ambedkar’s words do tell us what she did- destroyed democracy. It is unfortunate that the same Congress which thus destroyed democracy is now handing the same preamble to ill-informed youth who read it believing it to be Ambedkar’s Preamble. Another reason Dr Ambedkar gave while rejecting the amendment is that this was ‘superfluous’. Dr Ambedkar cited Fundamental Rights which anyway assures freedom, liberty and equity to the citizen. It was quite an irony that the 42nd Amendment while introduced these two terms to compensate for Indira Gandhi’s excesses against the minorities and to the people at large under Emergency, they diluted the same fundamental rights like never before.
The 42nd Amendment, 1976 brought in by Indira Gandhi Government, and presented in Lok Sabha on 28th of August, 1976 by HR Gokhale, in essence, sought to make 59 changes in the Constitution. It took away the authority of the Courts to examine the decisions taken by the Parliament (this is exactly what the opposition today wants the court to do on CAA). It also proposed that no law providing for the prevention of anti-national activities and prevention of the formation of antinational associations shall be deemed void on the grounds of being inconsistent with article 14, 19 or 31. Essentially it meant that fundamental rights cannot be cited to escape the laws to prevent anti-national activities. Imagine a Narendra Modi bringing such an amendment.
The amendment defines antinational activities too. For instance, action by individual or association which is intended to bring about, on any grounds whatsoever, the cession of a part of the territory of India, or which incites any individual or association to bring about such cession or secession. I do not think supporters of Sharjeel Imam have read Indira Gandhi or 42nd Amendment much. This amendment also brought in fundamental duties under 51A which included the duty of every citizen to abide by the Constitution and respect its ideals and institutions, the national flag and the national anthem. The amendments contained in 42nd Amendment gave discretionary powers to the state and the individual rights which are so strongly contested today, were curtailed like never before.
The ceiling of the maximum duration of the President’s rule was increased from 6 months to 12 months and allowed the union to deploy central military forces to handle any grave law and order situation in any state. Mamata Banerjee was then with the Congress. It was only later decisions of Supreme Court which struck down some of these amendments and restored the balance. The amendment to the Preamble which should have happened after Emergency could not happen as initially it was defeated by the Congress which held 163 seats in the Rajya Sabha, even while in the opposition, and later dismissed in the SC by CJ KG Balakrishnan in 2008 on a petition filed by an NGO and represented by Fali Nariman as being merely academic since the government had not attempted to restore the Preamble in its pre-emergency form. As we see, after the first Amendment, again it was Congress which was on the side working to cripple the liberty and democracy, and as fate would have it, the Right on the side of freedom and fundamental rights. It is really unfortunate that the evil desperation of the opposition and the lack of grassroot communication by the BJP has allowed the truth to be twisted and turned to such an extent that all squares have turned into circles.