Union minister Ravi Shankar Prasad asked Tuesday why there had been a delay of 34 years before Dr B R Ambedkar was awarded the Bharat Ratna. Ambedkar was awarded the Bharat Ratna in 1990, 34 years after his death. Similarly, Prasad said in the Rajya Sabha, Sardar Patel was awarded the Bharat Ratna in 1991, 41 years after his death; Maulana Abul Kalam Azad in 1992, 33 years after his death; and J P Narayan only in 1998.
Prasad said Ambedkar did not let any anguish creep in while drafting the Constitution despite facing discrimination in his life. To those who had asked why November 26 was chosen as Constitution Day and why a discussion was necessary, Prasad said the answer lay in the preamble to the Constitution — “… in our Constituent Assembly this 26th day of November 1949, do hereby adopt, enact and give to ourselves this Constitution.”
He added the notification to observe November 26 as Constitution Day was issued by the Social Justice Ministry after proper procedure was followed.
Speaking about the contribution of members of the Constituent Assembly, he stressed the role of Ramnath Goenka, founder of The Indian Express. “When I see the list of the Constituent Assembly, I want to mention another name, that of the person who signed last. I have the original Constitution here, which I will present before you. That is the name of Shri Ramnath Goenka, who was the founder of The Indian Express. When the entire spirit of the Constitution and India’s liberty was under the greatest threat, he kept the flame burning,” Prasad said.
Referring to intolerance, Prasad spoke of blasts in Patna in October 2013 when Narendra Modi was in the city. “Bombs kept exploding for three days. We are alive today, that’s by the grace of God. But what did Narendra Modi say in his speech? He said we should not fight between Hindus and Muslims, we should fight against poverty… this is our tolerance and this is what we will maintain in the future,” he said, leading to an uproar from the Opposition.
Those who speak of tolerance remained silent for 10 years on the plight of Kashmiri Pandits in Kashmir, he added.
Prasad said that while secularism means the state should not have any religion, India’s secularism is also about equal respect for all faiths. He said India belongs equally to Muslims and Hindus from Kashmir to Kanyakumari and from east to west. “When we make a strong and optimistic India, we will truly pay homage to Ambedkar.”