The real question is not whether the original Preamble to the Indian Constitution contained the words ‘secularist’ and ‘socialist’ but what the present India really wants to be. It is not a matter of words as much as about intentions and motives.
A flashback from history
Delhi, June 1947
Louis Mountbatten, the last Viceroy of the British Raj, Jawaharlal Nehru, the first Prime Minister of independent India, Muhammad Ali Jinnah, the founder of Pakistan, and a few others are giving the final touches to the governments of independent India and Pakistan.
“You be the first Governor-General of independent India,” says Nehru to Mountbatten who is visibly dismayed.
It is a gesture of gratitude and appreciation from the magnanimous people of India to a person who has been working heart and soul for the past four months keeping in mind the welfare of both the countries that are being created.
Jinnah has already declared himself the Governor-General of Pakistan.
“According to the Constitution,” points out Mountbatten, “it is the Prime Minister who will have all the power; the Governor’s role is a symbolic one with no real power attached to it.”
Jinnah takes a deep puff on his pipe and declares as solemnly as a king, “I will be Governor-General and the Prime Minister will do what I tell him to do.”
Should I accept this new role? Mountbatten asks himself. His wife is totally against it; she has already communicated her intention to him: leave India to the Indians.
Mountbatten says, “The Mahatma will take the decision.”
In spite of the numerous arguments and disagreements that they have had in the past four months, Mountbatten and Gandhi have grown to like each other. Gandhi never hates anyone. It is the British rule in India that he hated, and not the British people, Mountbatten knows that too well.
Gandhi is happy to have Mountbatten as the first Governor-General of independent India. It is symbolic of India’s tolerance and magnanimity.
Mountbatten is flattered by the tribute of the Mahatma. “We’ve jailed him, we’ve humiliated him, we’ve scorned him, and he still has the greatness of spirit to do this.” A miasma of moisture rises to Mountbatten’s eyes in spite of himself.
Delhi, January 2015
The President of America is the guest at the Republic Day celebrations. He is aware of the intolerance that has gripped the Indian society. So he is compelled to speak words such as: “India will succeed so long as it is not splintered on religious lines. Every person has the right to practice their religion how they choose,” and “Our nations are strongest when we see we are all God's children, all equal in his eyes. Sometimes I have been discriminated against on the basis of the colour of my skin.”
India has a Prime Minister who may not agree. His government erases or wishes to erase the concept of secularism from the Constitution. The Prime Minister knows how to create magic with words. And he has an invisible army of volunteers transmuting his magic into protean shapes of reality, into kaleidoscopic patterns that dazzle a nation’s fancy.