New Delhi: Many from the opposition have come down heavily on Union minister Anantkumar Hegde’s assertion that his party, the Bharatiya Janata Party, has come to power to “ to change the constitution” and remove the “word secular” from it, saying that this is the age-old divisive agenda of the Sangh parivar.
Speaking at an event organised by one Brahman Yuva Parishad in Koppal district of Karnataka, the employment and skill development minister kicked up a row on Monday when he said: “A few people say the constitution mentions the word secular, so you have to agree. Because it’s there in the constitution, we will respect it, but this will change in the near future. The constitution has changed many times before. We are here and have come to change the constitution. We will change it.”
He went on to contemptuously add, “There is a new culture now of secularists. If someone says I am a Muslim, or I am a Christian, or I am a Lingayat, or I am a Hindu, I feel very happy because he knows his roots. But these people who call themselves secularists, I don’t know what to call them. They are like people without parentage or who don’t know their bloodline. They don’t know themselves. They don’t know their parents, but they call themselves secular. If someone says I am secular, I get suspicious. I hope there are no secularists here.”
Responding to this, Manoj Kumar Jha, the national spokesperson of the Rashtriya Janata Dal, told The Wire, “Mr Hegde is one of the poster boys of right-wing authoritarianism of the Hindutva forces and has simply uttered the intent of the RSS (Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh) as declared by its ideologue M.S. Golwalkar in Bunch of Thoughts. Mr Hegde has only uncovered the latent desire of RSS and it must be seen as a warning signal for the citizens, political parties and civil society that the regime poses a massive threat to the idea of India and the spirit behind ‘We the People’ as enshrined in the preamble to the constitution of India.”
Earlier in the day, Jha took to Twitter to attack Hegde’s statement questioning the parentage of secularists.
Mr.Anant Hegde ji! It is beyond your cognitive capacity to understand the parentage of secularists. I am a Hindu and I am secular and so are millions &millions of my friends who have a religious faith to follow but are https://t.co/ozM5o6hGyo Gandhi dear! pic.twitter.com/aexA1ZBKo1
— Manoj K Jha (@manojkjhadu) December 26, 2017
Communist Party of India (Marxist) leader Vijoo Krishnan, who belongs to Karnataka, was of the opinion that Hegde was only following the BJP’s central leadership’s diktats.
“Both Hegde and Prathap Simha, BJP MP from Mysore, have been trying to make polarising statements for sometime now. Clearly, there is an attempt by the BJP to deliberately communalise politics in Karnataka before the next assembly elections,” he said.
“A conversation was also leaked in the media recently which showed BJP president Amit Shah was allegedly telling Simha and Hegde to organise militant protests all around the state of Karnataka. The leaders have used occasions like Hanuman Jayanti and Tipu Sultan’s Jayanti to polarise the electorate on religious lines. Similarly, the saffron party has been trying to rake up communal controversies in syncretic shrines like Baba Budangiri. All this is being done with election (scheduled for early 2018) in mind. After Gujarat elections, the BJP has perhaps understood that religious polarisation and stoking anti-Muslim sentiment among Hindus are its best bet,” he added.
Similarly, in an angry remark, Karnataka chief minister and senior Congress leader, Siddaramaiah called Hegde a “messenger of hate” and alleged that he has been polarising people on religious lines ahead of the state assembly elections.
“He has not learnt the social conditions of the country. Since he is a Manuwadi, (follower of ancient text Manusmriti, which codifies caste practices and punishments), he doesn’t respect the Indian constitution,” the chief minister said, alleging that Hegde was only trying to glorify Brahmins and other upper-caste groups while ignoring marginalised communities.
Terming Hegde’s contributions towards the state as “zero”, Karnataka Pradesh Congress Committee’s working president Dinesh Gundu Rao said at a press conference: “Five-time MP Mr Hegde was an unknown face before his induction into the Narendra Modi government. What are his contributions to the development of the state? Did he ever speak on Karnataka’s issues in parliament?”
Prakash Ambedkar, the leader of Maharashtra-based political organisation Bharipa Bahujan Mahasangh and B.R. Ambedkar’s grandson, saw in Hegde’s statements an assertion of what has been the “RSS’s dream”.
Speaking to The Wire, he said, “Ever since the constitution was adopted, the RSS has always been of the opinion that it should be changed. So Hegde’s statements are not surprising. Even before independence, the RSS dreamed that once the British go away, they can have a Manuvadi system and varnasrama dharma can be imposed.”
“If anybody reads the history between 1946 and 1950, when the constitution was being drafted, the RSS can be clearly seen as commenting negatively on all principles that ensured equality and brotherhood. Be it the adoption of parliamentary democracy or the state’s decision to have no religion, the RSS was opposed to all such clauses. It celebrated our independence day as a black day. If one sees a government resolution of July 26, 1949, one can see an agreement between the then home minister Sardar Patel and RSS chief Golwalkar. The resolution shows that Golwalkar had reluctantly accepted in writing to abide by the Indian constitution. We all know that it was banned after the assassination of Mahatma Gandhi. So, the RSS agreed to Patel’s conditions only to get the ban on it removed,” he added.
Hegde’s comments have clearly brought back controversies which have plagued the Sangh parivar since independence. He had also kicked up a controversy in 2016 when he equated “Islam” with “terrorism”. He was arrested following that in a hate speech case. Referring to Islam, he had said that terrorism will only be eradicated if certain religions were “eradicated”, adding that “Islam” and “peace” were opposites.