There are those who believe that India was born when the written Constitution was framed. However, they forget the Hindustan that existed before this
In today's India, the Constitution may perhaps be the least read amongst the most quoted books.
Nani Palkiwala, an eminent jurist had challenged the powers of the said Constitution, when it was abused, and he had won decisively against none other than the Prime Minister of India.
The Constitution, he had argued - gives powers to alter or amend the Constitution but not in a manner that the basic core structure of the Constitution is irreparably damaged or destroyed.
There are those who believe that only because of the British drawing lines on paper and because the written constitution was framed in 1950, that India was born.
That may be true from the modern physical landmass that defines a country and the mass of people ruled by a government, but in itself, it is a severely incomplete definition.
The lines and borders thereof is a compromised understanding at worst and a quick fix convenience at best.
A nation is also a common identity of people, united by common descent, history, culture, social practices or language, etc inhabiting a particular territory.
It does not mean that India, simply because it was "born" on paper as a Republic on that fateful day, didn't exist before that.
Indian civilisation, culture and values, which give the nation its collective mindset and conscience, lie beyond the ambit of any legislation. It too governs lifestyle at the conscious and unconscious level, all of which existed for several millennia before the written Constitution and continues to do so.
In that, it's ultra-uniqueness was the practice of polytheism, which centuries ago, outsiders such as the Arabs & Europeans referred to as "Hindus" and the region became known as "Hindustan" - of the people that lived in the regions between the Him (now Himalayan) mountains and the Indu-mahasagar (now Indian ocean).
The people in the West then recognized that in this form of faith existing in India - all and any belief or practice, including none at all, is accepted, if one is seeking peace or redemption or salvation.
The only fundamental here - is that there's none. Thus, the narrow singular steadfast concepts of The God, The Holy Place, The Holy Book, The Holy Day, etc do not exist. There are no claimants, each is a seeker based on his, or her method or understanding.
Obviously then blasphemy, heresy, apostasy and punishment thereof are alien to the land here. Thus, there's been no conflict between the state and religion. Nor have there been "holy wars" here, as it has happened in the West.
It would mean that those following any, including the Abrahamic religions are not the "others" or "separate" and they too would be accepted in the land.
In other words, the polytheistic way of living is fully compatible with the monotheistic religions.
Thus, as examples, it is this cultural secularism which allowed for the making of one of the earliest mosques in the world i.e. Cheraman Masjid by a Hindu king for the convenience of his Muslim visitors. It allowed a Hindu king to resettle the displaced from Persia the Parsis including the building of a fire temple for them - one in which the king and his subjects agreed to not enter as requested by the Parsi immigrants; the Hindus accepted the Jews fleeing from persecution to provide them shelter. All this much before a written Constitution or its pet word 'secularism' found its roots here.
One could compare this Hinduism and its ancient, open & wise “cultural secularism" as an integral part of an operational constitution of sorts; one that predates the one made by man as derived by copying the West and frankly somewhat incompatible with the innate indigenous thought.
For the record, the word 'secularism' was inserted in the written Constitution's preamble only in the midst of a national emergency in the 1970s, when technically the Constitution was abrogated. It was not considered worthy by the founding fathers to include secularism in our preamble when they wrote it following independence!
If the Constitution is supposed to mean a firm and final authority, with written codes or basic laws - it would be important to highlight at this juncture, that there's no such thing as a documented UK constitution!
It would shock some to know that the system in UK merely works on some cultural principles coming down over the centuries as hand-me-downs, traditions, conventions, ideological principles or social consensus.
It would therefore be important at this juncture to assert that Indianness, its innate Hinduism existed in philosophy, practice and principle - much before the written code was made and the latter cannot be a replacement for the former.
However, going by what Nani Palkiwala fought for and won - we cannot allow any faith to be cannibalizing, disproportionately proselytizing, propagating or making claims that theirs is the only way to achieve peace, redemption or salvation.
A few of the clergymen of the monotheistic religions have been heard making claims that the practitioners of polytheism, no matter what, are doomed to die as sinners.
The propagation of that thought would destroy all that's very much at the basic core of being an Indian first.
Those who believed that they wished to be both non-inclusive and non-compromising, have already willingly alienated themselves by forming independent and exclusive theocratic nations by breaking away from India's landmass.
Those within the country must now not test further on what is already proven. For peace and harmony amongst people, one mustn't rely only on the man-made written Constitution and its conceptual secularism. Instead one must willingly surrender to the much more time tested, ancient and wiser - the functional cultural secularism, one in which there's no exclusivity or exclusions.
Let's be clear, the Hindutva movement is actually an antithesis of Hinduism.
However, it has come about as an ideological, legal and political response to the over reliance by some on the written constitution and as a measure to form a protective moat around the time preserved Hindu heritage.
That has happened after the Hindus, in many instances, got a raw and a discriminatory deal, due to the law.
Also, let us summon our common sense. For a peaceful society, one needs to understand the following:
1 - That faith is a fact beyond the reach of proof or reasoning and every stakeholder of the nation must accept and respect the same.
2 - That the security of any minority is in the goodwill of the majority.
3 - That the civility of the majority is in its ability to accommodate the minority.
4 - That media's freedom is a right but its responsibility towards national integrity is paramount.
At times, some zealous media personnel however have been found not to have recognised the above axioms and so, in their reportage, are missing the spirit behind the words, even in the written Constitution. This lacuna blemishes the beauty of Indianness.
Nobody wants a Hindu Rashtra as defined by the literate but not learned political scientists.
However, we should want that unique Hindustan, as recognised by those that lived outside of India centuries ago.
(Kevin M Shah is an industrial engineer from University of Houston and the MD of KEVIN Enterprises Pvt Ltd, Mumbai)
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Last Updated 4, Mar 2020, 3:42 PM