Special on 44th BJP Foundation day
– Atal Bihari Vajpayee
It is a pity that we in India never seriously tried to translate this idea into action whereas some other countries, such as the UK have started experimenting with it.
If in 1947 India had decided to pursue the Gandhian path we might perhaps have been spared the terrible crisis we are having to confront at the moment. Even after 33 years of development and planning, poverty continues to grow, inequalities have become sharper, and the unemployment problem has become explosive. If we had evolved an indigenous pattern of development in conformity with our genius and requirements and having regard to our human and material resources, we would not have been in our present plight. As it is, today we are having to suffer the worst features of both western capitalism and Soviet planning.
A third Alternative
The fact is that capitalism and communism are twin-brothers. One denies equality, the other freedom; and both deny fraternity. In spite of their spectacular achievements, both capitalism and communism are showing signs of decay. Communist countries are developing greater and greater inequalities. In capitalist countries, on the other hand, attempts are on to abridge freedom. There is a ferment in the world in search of a third alternative. Protagonists of both capitalism as well as communism find themselves face to face with problems which cannot be answered within their own systems.
Outside the national frontiers also, there does not seem to be any great difference between capitalist and Marxist attitudes. Marxist powers have proved no less expansionist than the capitalist countries.
The Bharatiya Janata Party will mobilise a national campaign to have Gandhian socialism accepted as a Third Alternative.
Since ancient times, the State in India has always been regarded as secular. The concept of theocratic State is alien to Indian traditions and Indian political thought. “Truth is one but wise men describe it in different ways” is a belief fundamental to our thinking. The State has never discriminated between followers of different faiths. A very natural outcome of our commitment to the concept of “Sarva Dharma Samabhava” was that in 1947, when we became independent, we resolved to set up a political system in which followers of all religions would have the same place. There would be no Class I citizens and Class II citizens. The fanaticism, the tensions that prevailed at that time did not deter us from this resolve, because doing anything else would have been repugnant to our traditions and culture.
Commitment to Democracy
Democracy and secularism are inseparable. A state that discriminates between one citizen and another on grounds of their faith, which does not treat them equally, cannot claim to be truly democratic because one of the cardinal principles on which democracy is based is equality of all citizens. Our commitment to Secularism, therefore, is as fundamental as our commitment to Democracy. Among those asembled at this convention, there are thousands who in 1975-76 put up a valiant fight in defence of democracy.
They underwent all kinds of sufferings. Several colleagues of ours became martyrs in that struggle. Today, we can only offer them our respectful homage.
It is a matter of regret that over the years, Congress policies have distorted the concept of Secularism. It has come to be identified simply with the protection of interests of religious minorities. Indeed, very often Secularism becomes only a respectable garb for the appeasement of narrow communal or sectional interests.
True Secularism is Positive Concept
No doubt, protection of minority interests is an important aspect of secularism. But in its totality, secularism is a much wider and a more positive concept. As indicated earlier, it constitutes the bedrock of democracy. It is also a guarantee of nationalism and national integration.
It is this broad and positive concept of secularism that the BJP subscribes to. In the Indian background, we can claim to have established a truly secular State only if we are able to instil in every citizen, irrespective of his religion, caste, region or language, a sense of Indianness, which I believe exists in all our countrymen and which needs to be assiduously nurtured and strengthened. This Indianness is based on a value system developed out of a synthesis of divergent experiences of various sections of the population over the centuries. This process of synthesis and harmonisation must continue, and all religions in the country can contribute towards making our citizens better Indian’s and all Indians better human beings.
Twelve months of Failure
Twelve months have gone by. But in Delhi, the Government that works is still nowhere in sight.
There is a Parliament, of course. Its winter session has just ended. By putting its seal of approval to 10 Ordinances in 24 days, it has set up a new record. The Houses have been kept sitting till past mid-night in order to pass black Bills like the National Security Bill. On 14 August, 1947, Pandit Nehru had said in the Constituent Assembly: “At the stroke of the midnight hour when the world sleeps, India will awake to life and freedom.”
New Chains of Slavery
On 22 December, 1980, when the Rajya Sabha, deliberating till 1.00 AM passed the National Security Bill, someone could well have observed: “While all India is asleep,
“While all India is asleep, the elected representatives of the people, instead of devising ways to guarantee them two square meals, are engaged in forging new chains to enslave them”
the elected representatives of the people, instead of devising ways to guarantee them two square meals, are engaged in forging new chains to enslave them.”
The Supreme Court also is there in its place. In the Minerva Mills case, it once again reaffirmed that there are in our Constitution some basic features which may not be tinkered with by Parliament. But Government is all set to have this verdict scrapped. The Supreme Court is being depicted as a roadblock on the path of progress. Quite a few vacancies on the Bench remain unfilled.
The Press generally is alive to its responsibilities. The demoniac blinding of undertrials in Bhagalpur may not have come to light if The Indian Express and Sunday had not shown the enterprise and boldness to expose these misdeeds.
Gagging of the Press
However, the newspaper world is gripped by an unarticulated fear-the fear of consequences that can follow non- conformist writing. The gherao of newspaper offices in Bangalore, and the mass rape, and murder of Chhabirani, wife of journalist Mahapatra of Orissa, convey an ominous significance that cannot be missed. If bizarre happenings such as these are not sufficient to keep the press in line, New Delhi is always willing to use its arm-twisting skills against press barons to fix the newspapers.
Abuse of official Media
Abuse of governmental media such as radio and television, has now transgressed all bounds of decency. The role of radio and television during the years has made utter nonsense of government’s pretensions about democracy. Our shortsighted rulers do not seem to realise that once these media lose credibility with the people, they cannot be effective even as drum-beaters of the ruling party, a task they have shamelessly undertaken.
To be continued…
(Presidential address of Shri Atal Bihari Vajpeyee at BJP National Council, Bombay, 28-December, 1980)