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Indian Republic 2017: Times are a Changing

Peoples Voice on February 1, 2017 - 8:48 am in Governance

Ram Puniyani

As we are the approach the republic day (2017) many questions start to haunt our mind. What has been the direction of our politics in last few decades, does it conform to what was expected of our Republic as outlined in our Constitution? Are we living up to the dreams and visions of the freedom fighters and the founding fathers of India?

What we need to recall is that the Indian Republic came to become one through the long period of struggle against the colonial powers, the British rule. Those participating in the struggle were people of all religions, all regions; women and men both. The movement itself was founded on the principles of equality and justice. While those who were part of the upcoming India, the industrialists, the workers, the educated classes, the peasants, the Adivasis, and Dalits, aspired for the Republic based on secularism and democracy. All these sections had the longing for the modern values of Liberty, Equality and Fraternity, away from the prevailing feudal values of birth based hierarchy of caste and gender.

These sections were the mainstream of the anti-colonial movement, the movement for ‘India as the Nation in the making’. In contrast sections of feudal elements, Kings and landlords were opposed to the values of equality; they threw up the politics of feudal values, couched in the language of religion. In contrast to ‘India as the nation in the making’ they wanted to build a Muslim Nation or a Hindu nation. For them, glorification of the past and its norms were the central points of their effort to preserve their feudal social and political privileges. They kept aloof from freedom movement and helped the British policy of ‘Divide and rule’; this is what led to the tragic partition of the country into Pakistan in the name of Islam and India as a secular democratic state.

Indian Constitution is the core of Indian republic. It is the document which expresses the aspiration of national movement. The Constitution makers referred to most of the modern Constitutions of the World and came up with this document, calling us as ‘India that is Bharat’ and its directive principles and fundamental rights outlined the rights and duties of citizens and of the state. Lately, its directive principles and Fundamental Rights have come to be questioned. During last four decades, many a basic tenets of the Republic are being challenged.

The first major value of the republic which came to be criticised is the one related to pluralism, diversity and secularism. Globally right wing politics has been asserting itself; the rise of Ayatollah Khomeini was the first major indication that vested interests are going to use the cover of religion for retrograde-pre-industrial political values. With the demise of Soviet Socialist states and the emergence of US as the sole super power, globally the politics started being asserted around identity issues particularly identity of religion. This politics is built to undermine liberal-democratic ethos globally and undermines the essence of democracy.

As such the decade of the 1980s has been a major turning point in the history of mankind. From the early decades of the twentieth century, the path leading to values of equal rights of citizens were coming up. Inspired by the Soviet Revolution many countries came forward to put an end to the feudal values, the values prevalent at the times of kingdoms. While the language was that of socialism, the agenda was that of ending landlordism and promoting the industries with the assistance of the state. China, Vietnam, Cuba being the major examples. In India the inspiration of Socialism guided the state policies to bring in public sector, which in turn promoted creation of vast number of jobs paving the way for participation of Dalits, women and Adivasis in particular in the so far forbidden public space, It opened up the space for vast industrial and educational development of the country, this is what gave an edge of India as a major economic power in times to come.

Initial three decades of the Indian republic were dominated by the issues of the society; the problems of the downtrodden were on the centre stage. Apart from Industrial production, green revolution and white revolution also lifted the country from a backward country to frontline economies in the World. During these decades the republic focused mainly on the libertarian values, equity and dignity for all. The fundamental rights and directive principles were interpreted in the direction of concern for the rights of all citizens. During the decades of 1990, globally and nationwide, the globalisation of economy led to the dominance of corporate sector leading to decline in the concern for rights of average people and religious minorities in particular. While earlier India was sort of an example for marching towards a just society, during last two decades, in particular, the march has been reversed. The factors reversing this march are within the republic as well as there are global factors affecting this march. Worldwide we see that those leaders having rightward shift, those influenced by narrow nationalism are coming up, it may be Italy, France, Turkey or even United States for that matter. It is precisely in these times that in India, the secular democratic republic is being challenged and Hindu nationalism is being asserted. This Hindu nationalism is pushing back the policies of social welfare and the policies of affirmative action for weaker section, minorities in particular. Countries like Pakistan had been dominated by such politics all through. The matter of concern now is that Indian republic, which had shown the way to South Asia in matters of values of justice, is mired more in issues of identity. Policies which are giving more powers to the Corporate sector are becoming the norm and social control on these matters is coming down, This republic day (2017) it’s time that we shift the focus back to issues of average people and weaker sections of society along with nurturing back pluralism and diversity.

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