Constitution Of India And The Sikhs

Pritpal Singh Bindra

Recently in a radio phone-in interview relayed to the people in Canada directly from India, Mr. Ramowalia, the `innovative' Welfare and Labour Minister of the Government of India, was asked, "You have become Minster after taking an oath on the Constitution of India. The Constitution retains the Article 25. Getting together, you along with other five Akali leaders, have put this Article to fire. Now have you started to consider this Article as a just measure?"

Mr. Ramowalia replied, "It is like this; at the time putting the Article 25 to fire, I, S. Balwant Singh and S, Parkash Sing Badal, in the opinion of three of us, we thought we should not burn the Article 25, this is a wrong step. This gives the Sikhs, Jainis and Bodhis equal rights. No doubt it deems the background of Hindu Religion but it, also, accepts the individual status of the Sikhs. I asked it not to be torn. But they replied, as it puts Jainis and Bodhis at par, it must be torn off.... When the party had decided... (we) were duty bound and it was torn. But according to my personal view, even at that time, the Article 25 (2) (b) is not wrong. Now every body has acquiesced to the same and has sworn on it." (verbatim quote)

To study Mr. Ramowalia's statement in its right perspective we need to look into the provisions of the Constitution with regard to the religions and the minorities.

Article 15 (2) states, `No citizen shall, on grounds only of religion, race, caste, sex, place of birth or any of them, be subject to any disability, liability, restriction or condition with regard to:-

  1. "access to shops, public restaurants, hotels, and places of public entertainment; or

  2. "the use wells, tanks, bathing ghats, roads and places of public resorts maintained wholly or partly out of State funds or dedicated to the use of the general public."

Article 16 (2) mentions, "No citizen shall, on grounds only of religion, race, caste, sex, descent, place of birth, residence or any of them, be ineligible for, or discriminated against in respect of, any employment of office under the state.......

"(5) Nothing in this article shall affect the operation of any law which provides that the incumbent of an office in connection with the affairs of any religious or denominational institution or any member of the governing body thereof shall be a person professing a particular religion or belonging to a particular denomination."

Articles 25 hypothesises, "(1) Subject to public order, morality and health and to the other provisions of this Part, all persons are equally entitled to freedom of conscience and the right freely to profess, practice and propagate religion.

"(2) Nothing in this article shall affect the operation of any existing law or prevent the State from making any Law:-

  1. "regulating or restricting any economic, financial, political or to the secular activity which may be associated with religious practice;

  2. "providing for social welfare and reform or the throwing open of Hindu religious institutions of a public character to all classes and sections of Hindu.

"Explanation I.- The wearing and carrying of kirpan shall be deemed to be included in the profession of the Sikh religion."

"Explanation II. In sub-clause (b) of clause (2), the reference to Hindu shall be construed as including a reference to persons professing the Sikh, Jains or Budhist religion, and the reference to Hindu religious institutions shall be construed accordingly."

Article 26 specifies, "Subject to public order, morality and health, every religion denomination or any section thereof shall have the right:-

  1. to establish and maintain institution for religious and charitable purposes;

  2.  "to manage its own affairs in matters of religion;

  3. "to own and acquire moveable and immoveable property; "and

  4. "to administer such property in accordance with law."

Article 28 pronounces. (1) "No religious instruction shall be provided in any educational institution wholly maintained out of the State funds."

Article 29, dealing with minorities says, "Any section of the citizens residing in the territory of India or any part thereof having a distinct language, script or culture of its own shall have the right to conserve the same."

Articles 30 also deals with minorities, "(1) All minorities, whether based on religion or language, shall have the right to establish and administer educational institutions of their choice."

Article 329 specifies the election procedure, "There shall be one general electoral roll for every territorial constituency for election... and no person shall be ineligible for inclusion in any such roll or claim to be included in any special electoral roll for any such constituency on grounds only of religion, race, sex or any of them."

No doubt the Article 25 (2) (b) (leaving aside Explanations I and II) was included to reward Dr. Ambedkar, and to woo the vote-banks held by the Late Shri Jagjiwan Ram. A little addition to the Article 15 (2) (a) could have easily served the purpose i.e. `access to shops, public restaurants, hotels, places of public entertainment, the social and welfare reforms and religious places of a public character.' (The steps to be taken in respect of the protection and uplift of down-trodden low castes have been dealt under a few other articles, any way)

All the Articles (except 25 (2) (b) along with the Explanations I and II) relating to the religions apply universally; neither any religion is given priority nor is demeaned. There is no specific mention of Sunnys, Shaiyas, Catholics or Protestants.

The addition of Explanations I and II was an intelligent, subtle and clandestine move of the Hindu-mind at the helm of the power. Particularly for the Sikhs the policy of carrot and stick emerged with this; whereas the Sikhs, with shallow thinking, were pleased with the Explanation I, they never fathomed the clever intention of making them a part of Hinduism. They were, as a matter of fact, reprimanded, "Forget your `Ham Hindu Nahin'." (Reading this Bhai Kahan Singh Nabha's soul must be in agony).

Only a few, who were intelligent enough, comprehended the writing in between the lines and refused to acquiesce to the contents of the Explanation II at the time. But, unfortunately, even those were swayed by the temporal gains at the end. The Sikhs along with Jains and Budhists are made a part of Hindu religion, and their independent ideologies are decimated.

So far as the Jains and the Budhists, particularly the Jains, are concerned they have accepted this disgraceful anomaly and have, willingly, obscured there own independent doctrines; their participation at the Hindu ritualistic milieus, such as deities worship, Havanas, Arya Samajic Activities, Goddess Pooja, etcetera is very much prevalent.

But for the Sikhs to accept the `Explanation II' is not only detrimental, but also humiliating; it eliminates the Sikhs ever claiming an independent entity let alone a Nation-hood. It demeans all the efforts rendered and sacrifices made by Guru Gobind Singh to create a Sikh Nation.

Whatever prominence Mr. Ramowalia has achieved (according to his own acknowledgement) has come through the benevolence of the Akal Purkh and the Tenth Master. To put the creation of Tenth Master in the lap of the Hinduism is most sacrilegious. The Article 25 (2) (b) is not harmful, as he maintains and he may be right too, but only if the `Explanation II' is not there.

To earn the blessings of Tenth Master, as he aspires most of the time, at the least, he can arrange to move an amendment to delete the derogatory Explanation II.

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