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Power Politics: A Test Of Indian Secularism

Perspective

Power Politics: A Test Of Indian Secularism

Indian secularism has had a chequered history where political expediency means trading off secular ideals for power

Etched in History: The Golden Temple complex a day before Operation Blue Star
Etched in History: The Golden Temple complex a day before Operation Blue Star Photo: Getty Images

On October 17, 1949, as the Preamble of the Constitution of an independent India was brought on the table for discussion in the Constituent Assembly, the debate over secularism took a determinist shape that still impacts its understanding.

H.V. Kamath started the discussion by moving an amendment that proposed to start the Preamble with ‘In the name of God’. Following Kamath, Shibban Lal Saksena and Pandit Govind Malviya also moved similar amendments and said that it was under no circumstances ‘anti-secular’ and of ‘narrow, sectarian spirit’ as termed by Pandit H.N. Kunzru. Rather, citing the use of the word ‘God’ in the Preamble of the Irish Constitution, Malviya said that by invoking phrases like “By the grace of the Supreme Being, lord of the universe, called by different names by different peoples of the world”, they were not sanctifying God of any particular religion and hence must not be considered contrary to the spirit of secularism.

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