India is celebrating the 69th Republic Day today (26 January). It was on this day in 1950 that the Constitution of India was adopted. It represented the hopes of millions of Indians who had fought British colonialism and wanted a new society free of inequality and exploitation. Although many of these hopes are still to materialise, there is dark threat looming over the Constitution and our country’s republican democracy. Ironically, this threat comes from the ruling party and its ideology.
In the past nearly five years, the Narendra Modi-led BJP government has systematically subverted the Constitution and its many pillars, be it the Supreme Court, Parliament, the democratic election and governance system, the role of various watchdogs, such as the Central Bureau of Investigation, the Central Vigilance Commission or the Reserve Bank of India. This is not surprising because the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) draws ideological sustenance from the Rashtriya Swayamasevak Sangh, and today, most of the top government positions starting from the Prime Minister himself are held by RSS leaders. And the RSS openly strives for a Hindu Rashtra which it wants to establish on the ruins of the present Constitutional democracy.
RSS Wanted Manusmriti instead of the Constitution
After Independence and the Constitution was prepared, Organiser, the mouthpiece of RSS demanded that instead of the Constitution, the Manumsriti be enacted as the law of the land (see Organiser dated November 30, 1949 and January 25, 1950). Manusmriti is a treatise said to be written by the sage Manu laying down the Hindu principles of individual and collective life. It includes shocking prescriptions against women and dalits, so much so that Dr BR Ambedkar publicly burnt a copy of the Manusmriti as an act of protest.
The longest serving supremo of RSS and well-spring of most of its ideological premises, Golwalkar writes that democracy is a Western construct which is not suitable for India. The Hindu Rashtra, he writes (Shri Guruji Samagra Vol.5 pp.89-90), should be justly governed by a group of people who are selfless and self-sacrificing. Not only does this apparently naïve view hide a fascistic vision but it also invokes the chaturvarnashram (four caste) system wherein the rulers were Brahmins, mythically thought to be poor but all knowing, and they ruled over the warriors and the traders, and of course the whole labouring classes, including the outcastes.
As an aside, note that the RSS is itself organised in this fascistic manner. There are no elections in the RSS and each sarsanghchalak or the supreme leader nominates his successor. It is small wonder that RSS cadre like Prime Minister Narendra Modi and many of his cabinet colleagues who have been immersed and fostered in this ideology should have no respect for the Indian Constitution, and for democracy, accountability and dissent.
RSS Supported the British
To fully understand the deep-rooted hostility of the Sangh Parivar towards the Constitution, it is necessary to take a brief look at the role of RSS in the Freedom Struggle. The nature of India’s Constitution, and its lofty goals of building a democratic and secular country free of religious or caste-based discrimination, emerged from the Freedom Struggle against British colonial rule. Millions of Indians from all castes and creeds participated in this struggle aspiring to be thrown off the chains of servitude of both economic and social exploitation. The resulting document, and the economic political system that was built after Independence has not yet fulfilled these aspirations. But for the RSS and others like it, the whole freedom struggle was useless. Not only were they not part of it but, in fact, they and other similar organisations like Savarkar’s Hindu Mahasabha, objectively stood in opposition to the freedom struggle.
The RSS (formed in 1925) kept away from the many anti-British movements of the 1930-40s, like the Civil Disobedience Movement of 1930-31, the Quit India struggle of 1942, the Azad Hind Fauj, the 1945-46 upsurge around the INA trials and the revolt by sailors of the Royal Indian Navy in Bombay. That is why, there are no RSS leaders of that whole period who can be called freedom fighters.
Writing about the 1942 Quit India movement, Golwalkar admitted, “In 1942 also there was a strong sentiment in the hearts of many. At that time too, the routine work of Sangh continued. Sangh vowed not to do anything directly.” They didn’t “do” anything means – they didn’t participate. “Routine work” means their work of sowing communal hatred by mobilising Hindus against Muslims and Christians.
Savarkar, representing another thread of Hindutva, and much adulated by the BJP/RSS today, in fact apologised to the British rulers while in the Andaman Jail, writing for forgiveness on November 14, 1913:
“…I for one cannot but be the staunchest advocate of constitutional progress and loyalty to the English government which is the foremost condition of that progress…..”
And further saying:
“I am ready to serve the government in any capacity they like, for as my conversion is conscientious so I hope my future conduct would be. By keeping me in jail, nothing can be got in comparison to what would be otherwise. The Mighty alone can afford to be merciful and, therefore, where else can the prodigal son return but to the parental doors of the government”.
The RSS and the whole Hindutva stream never inherited the legacy of that heroic struggle. As a result, they never accepted the Constitution.
RSS/BJP Put Faith Above Constitution and Country
So, when they come to power, they immediately start undermining the Constitution, subverting various constitutional bodies, packing government bureaucracy with their followers, and throwing to the winds, all forms of democratic functioning. They have neither respect for democratic rights nor do they value dissent and disagreement.
In fact, they don’t think twice in changing rules to suit their narrow ends, or undertake subterfuge to achieve what they want. The Modi government, in its near five years in power, has gone about sabotaging the Constitution – from subverting Parliamentary procedures, to interfering with functioning of bodies like the Supreme Court, Reserve Bank and various watchdog bodies like CBI, CIC and CVC. They have also subverted the principles of democracy as enshrined in the Constitution by capturing power in various states through all kinds of trickery. And, they have violated the secular spirit of the Constitution by further marginalising dalits and adivasis, by failing to protect minorities from majoritarian violence and by openly adopting and propagating Hindutva-based policies.
It is strange – and disturbing – to see the destroyers of the Constitution paying homage to martyrs of the Freedom Struggle, heaping praise on Dr. Bhimrao Ambedkar, the moving spirit behind the Constitution, and celebrating the Republic Day. But then, such is Indian politics, and the lust for power.