“Safeguarding the country’s secular democratic fabric is as important as defending her borders. The country’s internal and external health are equally important and interdependent,” Shiromani Akali Dal patron and former Punjab Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal said on Thursday.
In a statement on the 45th anniversary of the Emergency imposed by the Indira Gandhi government in 1975, Mr. Badal said the commitment to democracy could become meaningless without an equally profound commitment to the secular ethos as enshrined in the Constitution. “Secularism is a prerequisite for democracy, and vice-versa. Each ideal strengthens the other.”
Mr. Badal said India’s federal structure was vital for the health of Indian democracy. “Democracy is not a single-tier structure. It functions at the individual and social levels through the universal voting right, but at the national and inter-State levels, a genuinely federal structure is the only guarantee for meaningful working of our system for national prosperity and turning India into a global super power,” he said.
Underscoring the need for “constant vigil” against “overt and covert dictatorial tendencies that can always threaten democracy,” Mr. Badal said, “Like our independence and sovereignty, secularism and democracy, too, have to be defended every moment of every single day in the life of our nation. Even a moment’s let-up can prove disastrous and even fatal,” he said.
Mr. Badal cautioned the people, especially the youth, against taking democracy and secularism for granted. “It would be a mistake to believe that what happened in 1975 can never happen again. We saw then how easy it was for a dictatorial leader to trample on the Constitution. Democracy is not a mere provision in the Constitution but an expression of the collective will, dreams and aspirations of the people. The day the people’s will or their aspirations weaken, and that weakness gets reflected in the absence of vigil, then even the Constitution cannot prevent democracy and secularism from falling victims to the whims of dictators,” he said.