Modi regime is turning secularism into mockery: Prashant Bhushan

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Prashant Bhushan delivering the MP Veerendrakumar commemoration lecture | Photo: Mathrubhumi

Kozhikode: ''The BJP-led government at the Centre is destroying all the democratic foundations of the nation,'' said Prashant Bhushan, the renowned lawyer and human rights activist. He was delivering the MP Veerendrakumar commemoration lecture here in the city on Sunday. He pointed out that the President of India was not invited to the inauguration of the new parliament building:

''The President is not there. Most of the opposition parties are not there. Instead, the PM is accompanied by a large number of religious pontiffs and with great pomp and show the new parliament house is inaugurated. The inauguration takes place at a time when the parliament virtually doesn't function. The number of sittings in parliament has come down drastically to around sixty in a year. The amount of time spent in debates and discussions has been reduced to ten percent of what it used to be in the heydays of parliament. Today almost all the bills are passed without any discussions,'' he noted.

Bhushan alleged that the PM has turned the inauguration of the parliament into a spectacular religious show at a time when the importance of the parliament has been reduced to almost nothing.

He remarked that secularism as a basic structure of the Indian constitution has been severely assaulted by the present regime at the Centre. The seven-member SC bench that gave the verdict in the Bommai case made it crystal clear that the state should have no involvement in religious affairs, he pointed out.

''They said that though the word secular republic was introduced in the preamble only by the 42nd amendment in 1976, even from the very inception of the constitution secularism has been a basic feature of the constitution. Then they proceeded to define what secularism means. The judgement was given in the context of the dismissal of many of the BJP governments in the wake of the demolition of the Babri Masjid. The SC said that secularism means that the state has to be completely divorced or separated from religion. Even political parties, which are there to get state power, shouldn't have any business with religion and they should also remain secular. The Indian constitution doesn't recognise the existence of religious political parties. What we are witnessing today is the complete mockery of what the SC laid down in the Bommai case. The BJP-led governments both at the states and the centre have become religious and communal. Many religious functions are promoted and sponsored by the BJP-led governments. An enormous amount of state money is spent on these religious ceremonies in violation of the constitution.''

Bhushan lamented that even though the SC has stipulated that secularism is part and parcel of the basic structure of the constitution the present BJP regime, which has turned majoritarian, is doing all it can to dismantle this fundamental character of the constitution. The Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) and a slew of other measures by the Modi government are aimed at destroying the concept of secularism. Every person in the country should be treated equally irrespective of religion, race or colour. But the minorities in the country are subjected to discrimination by the government which is constitutionally bound to protect their rights. Muslims and Christians are tortured in the name of cow protection. The burning of churches in Manipur has been the latest in this series of attacks against minorities. State-sponsored encounters of primarily Muslims are on the rise in UP which is ruled by a BJP government. It is really unfortunate that there are a number of communal judges in the judiciary.

The way, scientific temper and critical thinking are sidelined in the country, is quite alarming, decried Bhushan. ''Darwin's Theory of Evolution has been removed from school textbooks. The periodic table too has been withdrawn from the syllabus. It is a sad fact that the PM himself is promoting a lot of this nonsense. While speaking at a function at the Reliance Hospital in Mumbai, Modi said that there was plastic surgery in ancient India. He brought forth the story of Lord Ganesha as an example of this. He told the Air Force personnel to attack enemy territory when there were dark clouds so that the radars couldn't spot the fighter jets. The present law minister promoted a particular brand of papad during the Covid-19 pandemic saying that the papad has some elements which could fight the virus. Children are not at all encouraged to question and challenge the unscientific things they come across. The cabinet members of the Modi regime have no courage to tell the PM to his face that what he has been doing is anti-constitutional and anti-democratic. All the major institutions are under attack from this government.

The government is trying to control the judiciary mainly through two methods. Post-retirement jobs were always there to tempt the judiciary. Today the BJP government has invented two new methods to rein in the judiciary. They don't allow independent judges to assume charge. The Collegium's recommendations are undermined subtly by the Modi regime. The second is the deployment of various agencies to dig out some dirt that can be used against the judges. If the government manages to get something on the judge or his family members then that is used to blackmail the judges. They want judges who are ready to compromise.

The mainstream media too have been tamed and forced into being the lapdogs of the regime. Crony capitalism is another feature that characterises the Modi regime. Adani functions as the banker of the BJP government. The Election Commission has also become a puppet in the hands of this regime. The institution which was ferociously independent during the time of Sheshan has turned out to be an extension of the executive. The BJP government has also miserably failed on the economic front. The value of the rupee has been falling day by day. The unemployment rate has gone up resulting in huge inequality.

Bhushan recalled that Veerendra Kumar was a source of immense energy and inspiration for those who stood for a pluralistic India. ''If Veerendra Kumar had been alive today he would not only have been aghast but he would have done his best, he would have spent every waking moment of his life to fight this catastrophe that has befallen us.''

The event was graced by many eminent personalities including Beena Philip, the Mayor of Kozhikode, Elamaram Kareem, MP, PV Chandran, the Chairman and Managing Editor and MV Shreyams Kumar, the Managing Director of Mathrubhumi.

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