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From 50 Years Ago

Vol II, No 41 OCTOber 14, 1967

Creeping Shadow of the Lamp

It is difficult to decide whether to be dismayed or heartened by the fact that there is in this country still a small section of people which is startled and anguished at the periodic reminders of the ubiquitousness of religion in our national life and part of it. This section will carefully follow the ascendancy of the Jan Sangh in the Hindi-speaking North and even its induction into the Governments of States and yet be surprised when there is organised killing of Muslims in Ranchi or when the police stand by and let the killers get on with their work. So hypnotised is it apparently by the external trappings of Western style democracy, replete with a secular constitution which exorcises by a stroke of the pen religion from public life. …

It is part of the swadeshi-ness of the emerging pattern of Indian politics that the most potent counter to the growth of religious communalism should come from linguistic regionalism. Thus, it is not a coincidence that the Jan Sangh should vent more spleen on the DMK than on the Left CPI or that, at another level, it should be checkmated by the Shiv Sena in the suburbs of Bombay. In communist Kerala, by contrast, the Jan Sangh may well succeed in establishing a beachhead through the Nair Service Society, now frustrated with both the Congress and the Kerala Congress. Where communalists are also the defenders of regional interests, as they are in U P or Bihar, they are naturally irrepressible.

The Centre can no more lay pretence to the role of defender of the Constitution. It is three years since Nehru was Prime Minister and it may be much less than that before the Jan Sangh provides the Home Minister in New Delhi. From the Jan Sangh, the DMK and the Shiv Sena we are learning how a pluralistic society expresses itself through the institutions of Western democracy. The lesson is far from being complete.

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