On November 25, 1949, a day before the draft constitution of independent India was submitted before the Constituent Assembly, Dr. B.R. Ambedkar, the chief architect and the father of the Indian Constitution, gave a stirring speech. 

“However good a Constitution may be, it is sure to turn out bad because those who are called to work it happen to be a bad lot. However, bad a Constitution may be, it may turn out to be good if those who are called to work it happen to be a good lot.” 

He continued, “India has once before lost her independence, but she lost it by the infidelity and treachery of some of her own people. Will history repeat itself?… I do not know. But this much is certain that if the parties place creed above country, our independence will be put in jeopardy a second time and probably be lost forever. This eventuality we must all resolutely guard against. We must be determined to defend our independence with the last drop of our blood.

About 70 years since India had officially adopted the Constitution, and when the nation is celebrating the Constitutional day, the fears expressed by Ambedkar are seemingly coming true. 

Post-independent India has witnessed numerous episodes that validate Ambedkar’s concern. Religion, caste, and creed have always remained detrimental to the soul of India and its democratic values. But the threat of communalism has never been so real since the Narendra Modi government came to power with a thumping majority in 2014 and 2019. The last six-year period saw the transition of India from democracy to authoritarianism and theocracy.  

The BJP-led states mulling laws to ban interfaith marriages in the name of putting an end to forceful religious conversions is the latest stride in this direction. The moves of BJP governments in Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Haryana and Karnataka are the newest means by which the these government is determined to witch-hunt particular communities as a part of the larger agenda, which puts the onus on the defendant to prove that conversion was not for marriage, by use of force, or allurement. This has brought the discussion on ‘love jihad’ back into the tables.

These steps manifest India’s weakening democratic system and a faster transition to a Hindu nation. This is a clear deviation from what the founding leaders of the nation have envisioned for India. There are no checks and balances, and the institutions entrusted with the responsibility are weakened. The BJP government at the Centre and at the states are also enjoying judicial impunity that has helped them to come up with draconian laws.

The weakening of the democratic system and institutions have not happened over the night. The present dispensation and their ideological parents have been working on a larger master plan since 2014. They achieved their first objective by weakening institutions that guarded democracy and rights of the citizens, sowing unrest between the Hindu-Muslim community, muzzling dissent, and gagging media. The absence of a unified and strong opposition has given impetus to the unassailable march of the BJP government. Despite its massive failures in all fronts – economy, foreign policy, national security – BJP continues to win elections and woo voters. The apparent invincibility is supplemented by a subservient fourth estate and other organs of the state.

Dr. Ambedkar was prophetic when he gave the speech 71 years ago. As he had feared, India might lose it forever if it fails to uphold its democratic values and guard its independence with the last drop of blood.

(Views are writer’s own)