Presidential election: whither Indian republic?
The Democratic-Secular-Socialist Republic of India is all geared up for the 13th Presidential poll. The Election Commission issued the notification for the Presidential election on June 16 and the election is scheduled for July 19. Despite histrionics of the newly formed UNPA (mainly an amalgamation of AIADMK, Samajwadi, Telgu Desam and Indian National Lok Dal - all regional parties) which tried to introduce the outgoing President APJ Abdul Kalam as a consensus candidate, the battle lines are clearly drawn. The NDA has fielded the current Vice-President of India as an “independent” candidate while UPA has already announced the name of Pratibha Patel, Governor of Rajasthan as UPA-Left-BSP candidate for the Presidential office. One of these two is bound to occupy the highest office of the Indian republic on the coming July 19.
India is passing through a terrible phase of resurgence of communal and caste violence in which minorities and Dalits are the hapless victims. The crimes against women have crossed all past limits. It was the belief of the well-wishers of the Indian Republic that genocide of Muslims in Gujarat in 2002 would prove to be an exception but the future course of events left them disillusioned. The Hindutva gang flushed with money and political legitimacy today presents the greatest challenge to the democratic-secular republic of India. The violence (and hatred) against minorities, specially Muslims and Christians, has been institutionalized to the extent that it is not only in Gujarat where they continue to suffer but states of MP, Chattisgarh and Rajasthan, ruled by BJP, are not only emulating but trying to improve over the Gujarat Hindutva model of cleansing minorities.
The minorities and their rights are not safe even in the states ruled by Congress is a well-known fact today. In such a situation the Presidential elections are highly significant for the future of the Indian Republic. There is no denying the fact that the personality and ideological leanings of the occupant of this august office which is regarded as the guardian of the Indian Republic will, to a great extent, determine the safety of democracy and secularism in the country. Unfortunately, if we look into the personalities and ideologies of these two contenders for the office of the Indian President, the situation is fraught with dangers.
The NDA candidate, Bhairon Singh Shekhawat, is an old RSS hand and was thrice chief minister of Rajasthan at its call. He is an old supporter of the Hindutva order in which opposition to Sati is not permitted. It is a documented fact that in September 1987, Sati Virodhi Padyatra (against Roop Kanwar's Sati at Deorala village in Rajasthan) undertaken by well-known social and women activists from Delhi to Deorala, had to be abandoned at the outskirts of Jaipur as an aggressive mob led by BS Shekhawat laid siege to the village.
He is the only Vice President in the history of Independent India who publicly graced a function of the RSS. On February 18, 2007, he was the chief guest at the grand closing ceremony of the year-long centenary celebrations of MS Golwalkar at Delhi. He declared Golwalkar to be one of the greatest sons of India. Shekhawat did not care that the first Home Minister of independent India, Sardar Patel, held the RSS, led by Golwalkar, responsible for the assassination of Gandhiji. Patel in a letter to Golwalkar (11 September 1948), clearly stated that it was communal poison spread by the RSS which was responsible for this tragedy. Without mincing words he wrote: “As a final result of the poison, the country had to suffer the sacrifice of the invaluable life of Gandhiji. Even an iota of the sympathy of the Government, or of the people, no more remained for the RSS. In fact, opposition grew. Opposition turned more severe when the RSS men expressed joy and distributed sweets after Gandhiji's death.”
Shekhawat, a diehard fan of Golwalkar should have known that Golwalkar was a hardcore fascist who rejected any talk of a democratic-secular India. In 1939, he penned a terrible book We or Our Nationhood Defined which ousted minorities like Muslims and Christians from the Indian nationhood. Even after Independence, in another book of his, Bunch of Thoughts, Golwalkar declared Muslims as “enemy number one” and Christians as “enemy number two” of the country.
Golwalkar glorified dictators like Mussolini and Hitler and insisted on adopting their methods for cleansing minorities in India. In his 1939 book while eulogizing Hitler he wrote: “German race pride has now become the topic of the day. To keep up the purity of the Race and its culture, Germany shocked the world by her purging the country of the Semitic Races-the Jews. Race pride at its highest has been manifested here. Germany has also shown how wellnigh [sic] impossible it is for Races and cultures, having differences going to the root, to be assimilated into one united whole, a good lesson for us in
Hindusthan to learn and profit by."
Shekhawat misses no opportunity to idolize Golwalkar and it would be pertinent to know what this icon of Hindutva thought of the National Flag. When the Indian Parliament decided to have the Tri-colour as the National Flag, the English organ of the RSS, Organiser, (“Mystery behind the Bhagwa Dhawaj”, August 14, 1947), denigrated this great choice in the following words: “The people who have come to power by the kick of fate may give in our hands the Tricolour but it will never [sic] be respected and owned by Hindus. The word three is in itself an evil, and a flag having three colours will certainly produce a very bad psychological effect and is injurious to a country.” The RSS has been demanding the adoption of the saffron flag as the National Flag of the country. It also needs to be known that when the Constituent Assembly of India finally passed the Constitution on 26 November 1949, the RSS demanded that it should be replaced by the Codes of Manu (Organiser, November 30, 1949) which openly glorified Casteism, upheld persecution of Untouchables and denigrated women.
Shekhawat is the product of Golwalkar and must be in agreement with his mentor when he declared in 1940 that Hindu India of his dreams needed only “one flag (saffron), one leader and one ideology.” This thought was directly picked up from Fascist and Nazi ideologies.
Not much was known about the ideological moorings of the UPA-Left-BSP's Presidential candidate, Pratibha Patel. However, she was touted as a secular woman candidate. But it did not take her long to show her true colours. Two days after being adopted as a secular candidate, she was the chief guest at a function at Udaipur on June 18. It was organized to commemorate the 467th anniversary of Maharana Pratap. While addressing the gathering, she said: “Maharana Pratap always ensured that women had a status in society. Women had always been respected in the Indian culture. The Purdah system was introduced to protect them from the Muslim invaders.” [The Indian Express, June 19, 2007]. This kind of thesis has no historical validity. As a pious religious woman, if this Presidential candidate of the UPA had read Manusmriti, Shiv Puran, Ramayana, Mahabharata, works of Kalidas and many other ancient scriptures she would have known that India did not need Muslims to denigrate Indian women. Long before the advent of Islam we had no dearth of anti-woman philosophies and practices. Most probably she picked it from RSS shakha circuit. A leading English daily in an editorial correctly commented: “If she does become the next Head of State, Mrs. Patel will be expected to embody secularism, not hurt religious and social sensitivities.” (The Statesman, June 21, 2007).
Despite all round condemnation, she did not withdraw her statement and simply came out with the statement that "I believe in religious freedom and I have respect for all religions. Whatever I said should be seen in this context. I can not think of hurting the sentiments of any section of the society." (The Indian Express, June 21, 2007)
Thus we have a sickening scenario and much is at stake for our Republic. The only saving grace is that Indian masses continue having faith in secularism and democracy. That is the reason that NDA is forced to repackage its Hindutva candidate as “independent” while the UPA and its allies mount campaign about their fake secular credentials.