ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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The Republic of Reasons

Discourse within a constitutional framework alone can be the foundation for a possible solidarity in societies which are vibrant with real diversities and differences.

The intellectual and moral foundations of our republic seem insecure from time to time—for reasons both trivial and, alas, grave. The trivial threat is exemplified, for me—by the advertisers’ fascination with the princeling culture of yesteryear. The bewhiskered twits who figure in the advertisements that wish to signal gracious, old-world aristocracy—and look for all the world like the grand durbaans in five-star hotels—are an anomaly in a democratic republic. But there are unfortunately more serious reasons to make one wonder about the depth of our republican culture.

At its simplest, a republic is a freely constituted community of equals. This is distinguished from communities that make archaic and often fanciful claims for their existence, involving both hierarchy and even, God help us, God. But a republic is a voluntary, freely constituted community of equals—and the necessary foundation of this freely constituted community is, naturally, the Constitution—which has even been endorsed as our “only sacred book” by the Hon’ble Prime Minister Narendra Modi. This “coming together” of diverse peoples is not a “natural” or easy process—as will be evident from the laborious wranglings in our own Constituent Assembly. The Constitution is a heroic achievement, and it is only appropriate that the people who are associated with its making—notably, B R Ambedkar—are honoured by a grateful nation. By the same token, the repeatedly signalled desire of certain political elements to open up the Constitution to fundamental reconsideration is—and should be recognised to be—an attempt to tamper with the very foundations of our republic. Mercifully, good sense has prevailed—so far. But my primary concern here is with another threat that, while it is not quite foundational, is still extremely serious.

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