February 8, 2020 1:20:18 am
Member of the British Parliament’s House of Lords and former Vice-Chancellor of the MS University in Vadodara, Lord Bhikhu Parekh Friday said the Indian Constitution fails to address multiculturalism.
“Look at the Preamble, there is no reference to India’s plurality. It talks about liberty, sovereignty, justice and encouraged fraternity…but the Constitution does not say that India is a sovereign, plural, democratic country. Why? Plurality and multiculturalism is there, but it is hidden under sovereignty and justice,” Parekh said. He was delivering a lecture on ‘Indian Multiculturalism: A distinct perspective’ at the university.
“Our Preamble reflects the basic principles of our Constitution and our Constitution talks about India. What is India? Our Constitution is an ideological manifesto of what a society should be like — it talks about India not just consisting of Indians, but comprising communities. There are two kinds of communities, the minority and the majority, but the word does not appear even once in the Constitution. Rights are given to the minorities, but who is giving those rights? Our Constitution assumes that the Indian state has an affinity towards the Hindus. The Constitution does not mind interfering with the majority personal laws, but you cannot do so with the minorities,” he added.
He reflected upon how symbols of national identities fail to be symbolic of multiculturalism. Referring to ‘Bharat’, Parekh said that to counter the name ‘India’, which was considered to be a foreign name, ‘Bharat’ was the name given to the country. “We gave the name to ourselves but who are the we? Muslims did not call it Bharat, Parsis did not call it Bharat…”
“Even the national anthem is in Sanskritised Bengali language. The national flag — it was said that no communal inclination be given to the colours and we gave them philosophical meanings. Our national motto ‘Satyameva Jayate’ is in Hindi. Even the honour system — the Padma Shrees and the Padma Bhushans — how multicultural are they? Most of them are Buddhist, some of them Hindu, but none of them are Muslims or Christians,” he added.
Talking about Indian multiculturalism through its demographic construct, Parekh emphasised that unlike other countries where their minorities are immigrants and contribute to their multicultural societies, the main minorities in India were once rulers. “Our minorities, they were once rulers and not immigrants, and the bulk of our minority community are converts. Because they were rulers at one of time, there are instances of destruction and humiliation related to them. When we talk about multiculturalism, we talk about history and the whole debate instantly becomes about the destruction and the humiliation and it is historicised and politicised.”
He added that the Constitution needs to be interpreted with issues pertaining to contemporary times.
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