New Delhi: Days after a row erupted over a Republic Day advertisement issued by the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting which showed the Preamble page of the Constitution without the words “socialist” and “secular”, the latest calendar published by Rajya Sabha also carries the picture of the Preamble without the key words “secular” and “socialist”.
The alleged faux pas in the advertisement printed on January 26 came to light a day before US President Barack Obama said at a public event in Delhi that upholding religious freedom was the responsibility of the Indian government.
This has also led to a bitter war of words between the political parties, as the Opposition has took the matter to the social media wondering if the BJP government wanted to do away with the secular nature of the Constitution.
Notably, the row got further accentuated when NDA partner Shiv Sena demanded “permanent deletion” of the words “secular” and “socialist” from the preamble to the Constitution.
“We welcome the exclusion of the words (‘secular' and ‘socialist') from the Republic Day advertisement. Though it might have been done inadvertently, it is like honouring the feelings of the people of India. If these words were deleted by mistake this time, they should be deleted from the Constitution permanently,” Sena MP Sanjay Raut had said.
“From the time they (the words) were included in the Constitution, it is being said that this country can never be secular. Balasaheb Thackeray and before him Veer Savarkar had been saying that India was divided on the lines of religion. Pakistan was created for Muslims, thus, what remains is a Hindu Rashtra,” Mr. Raut said.
On its part, the I&B ministry defended the ad saying that the words socialist and secular were not part of the original Preamble.
"They were added in 1976," said a statement by Minister of State in charge of I&B, Rajyavardhan Rathore, adding that "Photo of original Preamble was a way of honouring founding fathers of the Constitution."
The Union Minister also claimed that the same picture had been used in an advertisement by the I&B Ministry in April 2014. Mr. Tewari had helmed the Ministry at that time.
The Preamble reads: “We, the people of India, having solemnly resolved to constitute India into a sovereign socialist secular democratic republic…”
Telecom Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad, who is an astute lawyer himself, had said that there was no “harm” in a debate on the issue. He said the image was of the “original”, pre-42nd Amendment Preamble, and “these two words were not there then”.
"What is the objection in placing some views in a historical perspective. The preamble, which was used in the advertisement was the original preamble and the Constituent Assembly which had prepared it had leaders like Jawaharlal Nehru, B R Ambedkar and others. These two words were not there then."
"Did Nehru have no understanding of secularism. These words were added during the Emergency. Now what is the harm if there is a debate on it. We have put before the nation the original preamble," Prasad said.
Union minister Venkaiah Naidu chose to put all anxieties to rest as he said in Chennai that the government was “committed to secularism and it didn't think of removing it (the word Secular)” from the Preamble of the Indian Constitution.
“We are committed to secularism. There is no problem about it. And there is no thinking to remove it also,” said the union housing and poverty alleviation minister.
“Secular is there in the blood of Indian people. That's part of our culture,” he said.