Friday, September 21, 2018

In support of Satyapal Singh’s Private Bill against anti-Hindu discriminations






On 22 September 2018, an ad hoc group of Hindu citizens led (to my knowledge) by Rahul Dewan, Bala Ramya Rohini and Pushkar Agnihotri, will work out a charter of Hindu demands and present it to the Narendra Modi government, the public and the media. The text will be finalized during the conference, but in essence, it is a move in support of a Private Bill introduced in the Lok Sabha by Dr. Satyapal Singh prior to his becoming a Minister. It is Private Member’s Bill No. 226 of 2016 to amend Articles 26 to 30 of the Constitution, of which a copy can be found at https://mail.telenet.be/service/home/~/?auth=co&loc=nl&id=926118&part=2.2, or below. The central request from the Government is to get it passed by the current Parliament itself at the earliest. The organizers emphasize that “this does not take any rights away from any groups, but ensures that all sections including Hindus are treated equally under the law”.

This initiative for a public statement in support of Satyapal Singh's Private ill for amendments annulling the anti-Hindu discriminations is correct and potentially historic. If the media pick it up, the government will not be able to ignore and stonewall it (which it otherwise probably would do). I had been advocating a policy in this sense since my book On Modi Time in 2015, but like so much free and unsolicited advice by pen-pushers, this had been to no effect at all. I had been wondering why, during this historic window of opportunity which may never come back, so few Indians take this issue up. Now I am relieved to note that news of Hindu society's death was premature after all. Congrats to those who took the initiative.



The Private Bill and the present initiative will surprise a part of the Indian public and the vast majority of the foreign India-watchers, as they don’t know (or the knaves among them feign not to know) that there exists any anti-Hindu discrimination at all. They are even less prepared for the fact of BJP secularism, an ideological development (described by me since a decade or so) that pin-pricks their whipped-up depiction of the BJP as a fanatically Hindu party.



For the record, I am publishing another piece of free and unsolicited advice, viz. the one I wrote on the Indic Academy forum: about how to formulate this demand towards the public.



’It is vital to publicize this as a demand for equality and secularism, rather than to focus on its importance for Hinduism. On Hindu forums like this one, you can of course discuss the beneficial implications for Hindu civilization, such as conferring the freedom to impart your own inheritance to the young generation and abolishing the main reason why Hindu communities seek to leave the sinking ship of the legal category "Hindu". Towards non-Hindus, in contrast, it will be necessary to emphasize not the way the amendments will serve Hindu interests, but why they are a necessary application of secularism and legal equality.



‘The non-Hindus are not concerned with any Hindu benefits. As far as Christians and Muslims are concerned, the only good Hindu is a converted ex-Hindu. For all the predators feasting upon the dying body of Hindu society, there is nothing valuable in trying to revive it. But in the Indian context, they are more or less forced to pay lip-service to the principle of secularity. Now, it is not hard to remind them that "secular" implies "equal before the law regardless of religion". Going by that principle, it becomes obvious that they should support (rather than oppose) the abolition of religious discriminations.



‘Since decades I hear Hindutvavadis pontificate how all Hindu problems will be solved by declaring India a Hindu Rashtra. Really? Instead, it is purely a waste of energy on an impotent symbol that had better been expended on substantial Hindu gains. The Hindu Rashtra demand can only make you enemies, or strengthen their enmity and confirm their anti-Hindu prejudices ("Hindu Taliban"). Chandragupta, Vikramaditya, Raja Bhoja and all the other Hindu kings didn't waste anything at all on declaring a "Hindu Rashtra". (Though admittedly, the Maratha "Hindu Pad Padshahi" or “Haindava Swarajya” comes close.) This is an example of how contemporary Hindus will to better to follow Chanakya rather than Golwalkar, and to go for Hindu Dharma rather than Hindutva. And in this case, for law reform rather than for hollow rhetoric.



‘As for the BJP leadership, unconcerned with Hindu interests nor with degrees of secularity but certainly understanding the language of electoral calculus, to them it must be emphasized that a principled stand is a vote-getter. You see it all the time: parties shouting lofty principles from the rooftops during election campaigns, only to relapse in humdrum everyday dealings once in office. To be sure, instituting these purely secular amendments won't endear you to the contractors of the Christian or Muslim vote-banks, who will not give the BJP their votes; but then, everybody except the occasional BJP buffoon knows that they have not done so in the past election either, no matter how secular the promise of Development. (Well, there may have been one or two, but if they could value development over their own religion, they can likewise see the fairness of equality before the law.)  Only the Hindus will ever vote for the BJP, and it is they who will turn out in vast numbers to cast their vote for the party that has freed Hindu Dharma from the legal discriminations that presently hold it back.



‘On this list, we have heard some voices pleading that the vast majority is too busy with their daily needs and duties to concern itself with this issue. It seems that there are always Hindus (BJP men and others) ready to thwart any initiative that threatens to serve Hindu interests. And indeed, Hindus are selfish and think of their own families' interests before those of their society. As a polite outsider, I would never dare to say this, but then I am only quoting what numerous Hindus have confided to me. Moreover, to whisper to you a little secret, Westerners are not much more public-spirited either. Anyway, it is true that the multitudes are not going to move a finger for this consequential matter of principle. Nor, for good measure, will they move a finger to get a toilet for their neighbour built, or any other item on the public development agenda.



‘But for those things, you have the elected political and the self-appointed intellectual leadership class. It is this class that expends effort and time to devise and execute development policies, or to work out matters of principle. What the overly busy multitudes are expected to do, is only to cast their votes, which is a very brief effort and in which voting for the one party takes no more breath than voting for the other. In representative democracies, people are quite accustomed to leave policy-making to a selected leadership class. Even in Switzerland with its referendum democracy, common people do a bit more deliberating on policy matters, but apart from casting their votes a few times per year, they too leave the nitty-gritty of politics to the professionals. So, the priorities on the multitudes' busy agenda do not come in the way of this Delhi conference on policy-making regarding the anti-Hindu and un-secular parts of India's legislation.’





Appandix: full text of Satyapal Singh’s Private Bill:



1

THE CONSTITUTION (AMENDMENT) BILL, 2016

By

DR. SATYA PAL SINGH, M.P.

A

BILL

further to amend the Constitution of India.

BE it enacted by Parliament in the Sixty-seventh Year of Republic of India as follows:—

1.  This Act may be called the Constitution (Amendment) Act, 2016.

2. In article 15 of the Constitution, clause (5) shall be omitted.

3. The existing article 26 of the Constitution shall be renumbered as clause (1) thereof and after clause (1) as so renumbered, the following clauses shall be inserted, namely:—

"(2) Notwithstanding anything contained in article 25, the State shall not control, administer or manage, whatsoever, any institution, including its properties, established

Bill No. 226 of  2016

Short title.

Amendment of article 15.

Amendment of article 26.

AS INTRODUCED IN LOK SABHA

5

2

or maintained for religious or charitable purposes by a religious denomination or any section thereof.

(3) All laws in force in the territory of India in so far as they are inconsistent with the provisions of this article shall, to the extent of such inconsistency, be void.

(4) The State shall not make any law which enables it to control, administer or manage, whatsoever, any institution, including its properties, established or maintained for religious or charitable purposes by a religious denomination or any section thereof, and, any law made in contravention of this clause shall, to the extent of such contravention, be void.

(5) In this article the expressions "law" and "laws in force" have same meaning as respectively assigned to them in clause (3) of article 13.".

4. The existing article 27 of the Constitution shall be renumbered as clause (1) thereof and after clause (1) as so renumbered, the following clause shall be inserted, namely:—

"(2) No moneys out of the Consolidated Fund of India, the Consolidated Fund of a State, the Contingency Fund of India or the Contingency Fund of a State or out of the fund of any public body shall be appropriated for advancement or promotion of a section of citizens solely or primarily on the basis of their religious affiliation or belonging to one or more religious or linguistic denomination.".

5. In article 28 of the Constitution, after clause (3), the following clause shall be inserted, namely:—

"(4) Nothing in this Constitution shall be deemed to forbid the teaching of traditional Indian knowledge or ancient texts of India in any educational institution, wholly or partly maintained out of State Funds.".

 6. In article 29 of the Constitution, in the marginal heading, for the words "interests of minorities", the words "cultural and educational rights" shall be substituted.

7. In article 30 of the Constitution—

(a) in the marginal heading for the word "minorities", the words "all sections of citizens, whether based on religion or language", shall be substituted;

(b) in clause (1), for the word "minorities", the words " sections of citizens" shall be substituted;

(c) in clause (1A) for the words "a minority", the words "a section of citizens" shall be substituted; and

(d) in clause (2), for the words "a minority", the words "a section of citizens" shall be substituted.

Amendment of article 27.

Amendment of article 28.

Amendment of article 29.

Amendment of article 30.

5

10

15

20

25

30

3

STATEMENT OF OBJECTS AND REASONS

As per our Constitution, the State has no religion. The State has to treat all religions and religious people equally and with equal respect without, in any manner, interfering with their right to freedom of religion, faith and worship. As evident from the sub-text of the debates of the Constituent Assembly, the rights assumed for the majority were only made explicit to the minorities as an assurance to the latter in the backdrop of the peculiar circumstances then prevailing in the aftermath of partition. In any case, it was never the intention of the makers of our Constitution to deny to the majority the rights expressly provided to the minority. Yet, it gradually led to interpretations that only the minorities were given rights withheld from the majority generating an unhealthy feeling of discrimination among the majority community. It goes without saying that nursing any real or perceived grievance against the State by any section of citizens, majority or minority, is detrimental to the unity and integrity of the country.

Article 26 bestows rights on all religious denominations, irrespective of majority or minority, to establish and maintain institutions for religious and charitable purposes, to manage their own affairs, and to own, acquire and administer property thereof. In a catena of judgements, the Supreme Court iterated the same. In Ratilal Panachand Gandhi  v. State of Bombay, it was held "in regard to affairs in matters of religion, the right of management given to a religious body is a guaranteed fundamental right which no legislation can take away. On the other hand, as regards administration of property which a religious denomination is entitled to own and acquire, it has undoubtedly the right to administer such property but only in accordance with law. This means that the State can regulate the administration of trust properties by means of laws validly enacted; but here again it should be remembered that under article 26(d), it is the religious denomination itself which has been given the right to administer its property in accordance with any law which the, State may validly impose. A law, which takes away the right of administration altogether from the religious denomination and vests it in any other or secular authority, would amount to violation of the right which is guaranteed by article 26(d) of the Constitution". The apex Court in Pannalal Bansilal Pitti v. State of Andhra Pradesh opined "While articles 25 and 26 granted religious freedom to minority religions like Islam, Christianity and Judaism, they do not intend to deny the same guarantee to Hindus. Therefore, protection under articles 25 and 26 is available to the people professing Hindu religion, subject to the law therein. The right to establish a religious and charitable institution is a part of religious belief or faith and, though law made under clause (2) of article 25 may impose restrictions on the exercise of that right, the right to administer and maintain such institution cannot altogether be taken away and vested in other party; more particularly, in the officers of a secular Government".

There has been widespread legitimate grievance and feeling of discrimination among Hindus that despite the Constitutional provisions and judicial decisions, Hindu temples and religious and charitable institutions are routinely taken over by  the secular State on the pretext of maladministration, mismangement, etc., whereas mosques and churches of the minorities are allowed to be exclusively managed by the respective communities even though article 26 confers right equally upon all sections of citizens. Hindus also genuinely feel that such State control results in despoiling the Hindu religious centres, large scale misappropriation of the temples' income and properties and its redirection to secular purposes by the State, which is a major factor in the grinding poverty afflicting most Hindu temples, priests and their families. In order to maintain the secular character of the State and prevent it from usurping the religious and charitable institutions of any religious denomination or a section thereof, it is felt necessary to amend article 26 of the Constitution.

Article 27 provides that no person shall be compelled to pay any taxes, the proceeds of which are specifically appropriated in payment of expenses for the promotion or maintenance of any particular religion or religious denomination. Hon'ble Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi as the then Chief Minister of Gujarat had in his speech to the National Developmental Council on 19th December 2007 took the stand that discrimination amongst the eligible beneficiaries based on religion will not help the cause of taking the people of India together on the path of development, and the correct criteria for flow of funds for various schemes and programmes should be based on principles of equity by taking only socio-economic criteria alone. In the interest of maintaining true secular character of the State, there is imperative need for amendment of article 27 forbidding expenditure from the Consolidated or Contingency Fund of Union or any State or from the funds of any public body for any purpose premised solely or primarily on the religious affiliation or language. Language as a primary or sole consideration should also be excluded as certain languages have exclusive association with certain religions which may be used as subterfuge to circumvent the proposed embargo.

Article 28 rightly keeps religious instructions out of public educational system in the country. However, it was never the intention of the framers of the Constitution to keep the study and learning of traditional knowledge systems and civilizational heritage including study of such great texts like the Vedas, the Upanishads, the Mahabharata, the Ramayana, etc. from out of public education system, yet, these have been completely kept out of education system leading to deracination of Indians from their cultural and civilizational moorings which does not augur well for the future of the country. There is thus a case for amendment of article 28 to provide for teaching of our traditional knowledge and ancient texts.

Article 29 confers cultural and educational rights to all sections of citizens, majority or minority, having distinct language, script or culture of their own. However, the word 'minorities' in the marginal heading of article 29 is incongruent with the body of its contents as also with the group heading 'cultural and educational rights'. Such incongruence has the potential for misunderstanding as if these rights are conferred only on minorities. It is, therefore, felt necessary to amend article 29 to remove any doubts.

Our Constitution mandates that the State shall not discriminate on grounds only of religion, race, caste, language or any of them. Article 30, as it stands, confers educational rights on religious and linguistic minorities without saying anything about the majority. If it had not assumed the same rights for the majority, it would not had been passed by the Constituent Assembly. An eleven-Judge Bench of the Supreme Court in T.M.A. Pai Foundation v. State of Karnataka expressed an expansive opinion when it said, "The right to establish and maintain educational institutions may also be sourced to article 26(a), which grants, in positive terms, the right to every religious denomination or any section thereof to establish and maintain institutions for religious and charitable purposes, subject to public order, morality and health". Further, the aspirations for conserving and communicating religious and cultural traditions  and language to succeeding generations is legitimate and applies to all groups, big or small. It is, therefore, felt that the scope of article 30 of the Constitution should be widened to include all communities and sections of citizens who form a distinct religious or linguistic group. Consequent to such proposed amendment, clause (5) of article 15, inserted by the Constitution (Ninety-third) Amendment Act, 2005, loses its relevance and accordingly it is proposed to omit clause (5) of article 15 of the Constitution.

Hence this Bill.

NEW DELHI; SATYA PAL SINGH

July 6, 2016.
 


1 comment:

Aniketana said...

When it comes to temple construction (be it Somnath or Ayodhya), government should not interfere with the faith. When it comes to revenue collection from temples, it is fine. Is it not double standards?

Also with the temple management. Government will not appoint a Christian as the head of Mosque or a Muslim as the head of Church. Why does it try to interfere in appointing priests to temples? Each temple/Mata has got its own tradition and one does not interfere with the other. Dvaita followers will not become pontiff of Sringeri. Advaita followers will not become priests in Udupi temple. (Devotees go to all temples irrespective of jaati or matha). These temples appoint priests from the same community. That does not mean, it is looking down at non Brahmins. (In fact, they don't let another sect of Brahmins too). It is just to maintain the same ritual. But government wants to appoint priests from different castes. Can it guarantee, the rituals are held in the same manner? Can it do the same thing for Church?

Teaching Vedas/Gita in school is good. But they should be introduced at proper section. There is no "Religion and Philosophy" subject in secondary schools. Last time, government introduced Astrology in Science and it became a controversy. If the subject is introduced, it should felicitate debating ideologies. Not mugging up of year in which Adi Shankara, Madhwa were born etc. (That is what our history has become). Kids will not want another headache. But if the subject is taught scientifically, future generation will be able to counter those who attack Hinduism baselessly.