(Weekly Organ of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)
January 25, 2009
Towards A More Inclusive Republic
ON January 26, this year, we would be entering the 60th year of our secular democratic Republic. In ancient living civilisations like those in China and India, 60 years is an auspicious event signifying the end of one working life and the beginning of a new life. In later civilisations though, with the increase in the longevity of human life, this has shifted. For instance, the biblical lifespan is considered to be three score and ten (70).
“We, the people” gave ourselves this Constitution after a very intense debate in the Constituent Assembly for more than three years. The first clause of the first article of the Constitution states: “India, that is, Bharat shall be a Union of States”. Two fundamental features were thus defined by this clause. One, that independent India would have a State based on federalism. The other that independent India would be a secular State. This aspect was finally adopted after a long discussion in the Constituent Assembly on how the new-born country should be named. Various alternative proposals were considered by the Assembly. Hindustan, Hind, Bharat Bhoomi or Bharat Varsh were some of these. There was also some discussion whether the word `India’ should be used with a qualification that it is the English translation of the local name. Finally, on September 17, 1949, the amendment moved by Dr B R Ambedkar was accepted which resulted in the first clause of the first article as it stands today.
Coming in the wake of the bloody partition of the country and the vituperative campaign of the RSS and others who sought to declare India as a country only of the Hindus, the Constituent Assembly consciously chose Bharat because of its secular connotation.
The word `Bharat’ has many sources of origin. One of them traces to the son of Dushyant and Shakuntala in Kalidasa’s epic play in verse. Incidentally, it is here that one finds the earliest of references to Chinese silk. There is also a vedic origin interpretation. Be these as they may, there is an interesting conceptual interpretation of `Bharat’. According to this, the name emerges from the confluence of `Bha’ - Bhavam, i.e., expression of character, `Ra’ – Ragam, i.e., melody of the tune and `Ta’ – Thalam, i.e., the rhythm. `Bharat’, therefore, is the character that arises from the harmonious melody and rhythm of a celestial musical composition.
In many senses, such an interpretation captures the rich mosaic of Indian diversity and states emphatically that the organic unity within this diversity is the harmony of India. If, however, this fine balance within our rich diversity is disturbed then instead of having a harmony we shall end up having a cacophony.
As we move into the 60th year – shashti – the strains of cacophony are growing louder. Communalism and terrorism, growing and feeding each other, chauvinistic and separatist tendencies raising their ugly head, Left adventurist violent activities unleashed by various streams of the naxalites are one aspect of such cacophony. Another relates to the widening hiatus between the `shining’ and `suffering’ India. Nearly a thousand children die every day due to completely preventable diseases and malnutrition. In a country where 54 per cent of our people are below the age of 25, one-third remain illiterate and less than 10 per cent enter higher education. This combined with the strains of social oppression and injustice threaten to tear asunder our social fabric. Yet another aspect is the growing regional economic imbalances. Such a list can go on, coming perilously close to fostering the seeds of disintegration.
The challenge in this 60th year is, therefore, whether we are able to convert this growing cacophony into a melodious harmony. Yes. This can be done. However, this is crucially dependent upon a decisive shift in the country’s policy trajectory. The trajectory of economic policies need to shift sharply in favour of improving people’s welfare rather than being solely pre-occupied with corporate profits. Secondly, the unity and integrity of India, which is non-negotiable, can be maintained only when we fiercely safeguard our political and economic sovereignty and pursue an independent foreign policy defining our relations with the world with dignity. Thirdly, India’s social harmony can be safeguarded only by strengthening the bonds of commonality that runs through our rich diversity and not by imposing a uniformity, like all varieties of communalism and fundamentalism seek to do, upon this diversity.
Clearly, if such a decisive shift in the policies to be pursued has to be made, then a political alternative capable of affecting such a shift, given the class nature of both the Congress and BJP and their proven refusal to pursue pro-people policies, needs to be strengthened. In this 60th year of our Republic, we shall be having our 15th general elections. This must be utilised as the window of opportunity in our country’s shashti to create the basis for a new melodious harmony. Clearly, this means that a political alternative which steers clear of both a BJP-led coalition and a Congress-led coalition is required to bring about such a shift in the policy direction of the country.
It is this challenge that we, the people, have to meet. We, therefore, have to brace ourselves for mightier struggles to forge such an alternative through people’s movements. It is through the process of strengthening such struggles that we will move towards the final solution – the socialist Republic of India – for establishing a harmonious melody of existence of our country and its people. This solution lies in the successful replacement of the bourgeois-landlord ruling classes with the working class leading a coalition of all the working people.
In this 60th year, let us take our steps forward in this direction.