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Govt says word ‘secularism’ misused;Sonia raises ‘intolerance’

New Delhi:The Winter session of Lok Sabha today began with an animated debate on the Constitution during which the government said the word ‘secularism’ mentioned in it had been “misused” while the opposition, led by Congress President Sonia Gandhi, raked up the issue of ‘intolerance’.

Initiating discussion on ‘Commitment to India’s Constitution as part of 125th birth anniversary of B R Ambedkar, Home Minister Rajnath Singh said the architect of the Constitution had never thought of putting the term ‘secularism’ in the Preamble but it was incorporated through an amendment in 1976.

“The words ‘socialist’ and ‘secular’ were incorporated in the Preamble through the 42nd amendment of the Constitution. We have no objection. Let bygone be bygone. B R Ambedkar had never thought the necessity to incorporate it in the Preamble as these two words were part of the Constitution.

It is inbuilt in the Indian system,” he said amidst protests from Congress.

Singh objected to the use of Hindi word ‘Dharma Nirpekshta’, saying the literal translation of the secularism should be ‘Panth Nirpekshta’ and it should be regularly used as it is the official Hindi translation of secularism.

“Secularism is the most misused word in the country. Its misuse should come to an end. Because of the rampant misuse of the word, there have been instances of tension in the society,” he said in the packed House where Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Congress chief Sonia Gandhi were present.

Singh said it was difficult to maintain social harmony because of the “rampant misuse” of the word secularism.

Gandhi, in turn, targetted the government over the issue of intolerance, alleging that ideals and principles of the Constitution are under threat and being attacked deliberately.

Several other opposition parties also raked up the intolerance issue, saying the untoward incidents witnessed in the recent past should be condemned as they send out “negative messages” and asked Prime Minister Narendra Modi to address the matter.

Gandhi hit out at the BJP government for organising the debate, saying “People who never had faith in the Constitution nor had they participated in its drafting, are now swearing by it and are laying claim to it. They are now having a discussion on commitment to it. There cannot be a bigger joke than this.”