- Nowhere in the world secularism is defined as an idea to throw away the cultural and traditional heritage of a civilisation except in India.
- The inauguration of the new parliament not only shows that new India is not ashamed of its Hindu roots anymore just because it might hurt the perceived sentiments of a handful of people in certain sections of society.
- The present dispensation has shown that it takes pride in its cultural heritage, whose secularism is a continuation of principles that has been practised in this land for thousands of years.
Genesis of the New Parliament Building
28th May can be considered a historic day in the history of India with the inauguration of the new Parliament building in Central Vista. It is built to replace the current Parliament. Its total cost is reported to be around 970 crores and is finished within 2 years. In an era where we equate Government with inefficiency and corruption, this is a huge achievement. There are examples in recent times where many state governments have expended hundred of crores to build small buildings.
It is significant to note that India being the world’s largest democracy and which many hail as the mother of all democracies have been using the buildings which are left over by the Colonial British. So what, should we start demolishing all the buildings and the infrastructure built by former colonial masters? Far from it. We must have an objective review of those which are built for practical and official purposes rather than continue using them and giving them historical significance.
In this regard, discussions around Krishna Janmastan mandir or Kashi Gyan mandir are a different matter altogether. The prime concern is the buildings built in and around Delhi for administration purposes. The primary objective of these buildings is efficiency in day-to-day administration and security. But eventually, it has become a symbol of exclusivity and status both figuratively and in practice. The name Rajpath is a great example of this. What does the Rajpath mean? We don’t have any system of Kings in our midst, even in our tradition the people were always considered to have the real power, and being a king is considered more a responsibility than a right. Many smritis quote that a king must never think he is sovereign and control the public, instead, he must always think of himself as a custodian. So, changing the name to ‘Kartavyapath’ is a nice gesture, but whether will there be a real shift in the mindset and workings of these institutions is still to be seen.
Congress being a major opposition party, started agitating against the building of new parliament from the beginning. It is really sad to look at the Congress and the issues which they pick to agitate. In trying to be an opposition in the Parliament, they inadvertently take the position of opposing the growth and development of India. When many people recognised the need for a new parliament building including one of the former speakers from the Congress party, Congress was just in a mad scramble to make sure it is seen as a credible opposition opposed to the building of new parliament. Sometimes it can be wondered if Congress knows its duties as a principal opposition party. It cannot be because it is on unfamiliar grounds. Since the 1984 elections, Congress has never gotten a majority on its own and has been in opposition positions several times. This is a question it must ponder over and look for answers as soon as possible.
Controversy over Sengol
The government for all the right reasons has decided to install the traditional Sengol in the new parliament beside the chair of the speaker. Sengol, historically, is a traditional sceptre handed over to a King during his coronation ceremony. This replica was created on the eve of Independence to representatively transfer the power from the British to the Indians. This particular Sengol is a replica of the one used by the Chola Dynasty to represent the transfer of power from one king to another. Chola dynasty for many who doesn’t know was one of the most powerful dynasty in India. They were one of the pioneers in naval technology in the world. They were able to explore and conquer nations till Indonesia. At one point, they were the most powerful kingdom that every other kingdom feared including many kingdoms in various parts of Asia.
Sengol has become a bone of contention. This is also an example of the phenomena of Congress, where they are unable to raise credible issues against the government. In an effort to appease certain sections of society and in the name of secularism, they were against the placement of Sengol in its rightful place.
Nowhere in the world secularism is defined to throw away the cultural and traditional heritage of the world except in India. It began with Jawaharlal Nehru’s policies of negating the cultural integrity and civilisation of India, which included the educational policy choices made, which decisively turned Left. The lack of cultural and historical understanding of India has led to keeping the same Sengol in a Museum in Uttar Pradesh and calling it the “Golden walking stick of Nehru”. No historian to date has raised the issue.
Secularism v/s Dharma
The concept of secularism comes from the times when the Church and the Pope started to take control of the Kings of Europe. This was because many European nations had developed their polity on divine right theory. That says that the king derives his authority from his divine right to rule. They couldn’t figure out any other criteria. This made them vulnerable to Pope of Churches who were perceived to be devotees of messengers of god eventually Popes started ruling in place of a king. Fed up with the misgovernance and atrocities of churches that were accountable to none, people raised against the rule and eventually gave rise to secularism which is purely a concept of the Church-State divide. But this concept is irrelevant to India, as the position of king was never decided with his divine right but Dharma. The first Prime minister perhaps was seduced by the romantic description of the Left and imposed the Secularism of the West on India in its grossest sense, which has led to many of the problems which continue to date.
The inauguration of the new parliament in a way marks the arrival of a new age, where the Prime Minister is not hesitant in engaging in traditional ceremonies to formally enter the building. It not only shows the attitude that new India will not be ashamed of its Hindu roots anymore just because it might hurt the perceived sentiments of a handful of people in certain sections of society. The present dispensation has shown that it takes pride in its cultural heritage, whose secularism is a continuation of principles that has been practised in this land for thousands of years. Its secularism is derived from the lives of people like Chatrapathi Shivaji Maharaj than a gross and superficial interpretation of Church-State division.
(Shreyas Goutham has an M.Sc. in Psychology and serves in NIMHANS. He writes regularly on politics, society, international affairs and technology. Opinions expressed are the author’s own)