The leader of the Congress party and the Lok Sabha leader of the Opposition, Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury, recently raised concerns about the new copies of the Indian Constitution distributed to Members of Parliament in the new Parliament building. He claimed that these new copies did not include the words “socialist” and “secular,” which are integral to India’s preamble. This controversy has sparked debates about the significance of these words and their historical context.
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The Missing Words
Chowdhury’s assertion about the omission of “socialist” and “secular” in the new copies of the Constitution has raised eyebrows and questions about the government’s intention behind this change. It is important to note that these words were added to the preamble of the Indian Constitution through the 42nd Amendment in 1976, during the period of Emergency imposed by Prime Minister Indira Gandhi. The primary motivation for inserting these words was to reassure the nation that minorities would be safeguarded, and the economic dominance of the wealthy class would be curbed.
To understand the significance of these words, it is essential to delve into the historical context. India’s first Prime Minister, Jawaharlal Nehru, and the Architect of the Indian Constitution, Dr. B.R. Ambedkar, were both proponents of secularism. However, they were cautious about explicitly including “secular” in the preamble. Ambedkar argued that the policy of the state and the organization of society in social and economic aspects should be determined by the people themselves, not enshrined in the Constitution.
Nehru, too, had reservations about explicitly stating secularism in the preamble. He believed that secularism was an ideal that needed to be pursued. He acknowledged that prejudices and communalism existed in society, and the truest meaning of secularism might not be immediately applicable in the Indian context.
While the Constituent Assembly adopted Articles 25, 26, and 27 of the Constitution, it did not formally insert the term “secularism” into the document. Instead, the concept was deeply embedded in the constitutional philosophy, emphasizing the importance of religious freedom and equal treatment for all.
The 42nd Amendment
The turning point came on June 26, 1975, when Prime Minister Indira Gandhi declared a state of Emergency in India. This declaration granted unprecedented powers to the Parliament, allowing for significant changes to the Constitution. During this period, various aspects of the Constitution, including the preamble, were modified. India was described as a “sovereign, socialist, secular, democratic republic” in the amended preamble.
Controversy and Concerns
Chowdhury’s concerns about the missing words “socialist” and “secular” in the new copies of the Constitution raise questions about the government’s intentions. Critics argue that the omission could signify a shift away from the principles of secularism and socialism, which have been integral to India’s identity since the 1976 amendment. The absence of these words could be interpreted as a subtle attempt to redefine the nation’s character.
The controversy surrounding the missing words in India’s Constitution preamble highlights the enduring importance of principles like secularism and socialism in the nation’s identity. While the historical context of their inclusion and the 42nd Amendment’s circumstances are essential to consider, the absence of these words in the new copies of the Constitution raises valid concerns about the direction of India’s governance and values. It remains to be seen how this controversy will evolve and whether it will lead to a broader debate on the nation’s core principles.