—Prominence to the Hindu rituals by the BJP-led union government of India during foundation stone laying ceremony of new Parliament house, despite the secular character of the Republic of India, has drawn criticism across the sub-continent.
Amid recitation of Hindu shaloks and performance of ‘hawan’, Prime Minister Narendra Modi on December 10 laid the foundation stone of the new building for Parliament house that is expected to be ready by 2022. The Hindu priests were called from Sringeri Math, Karnatka, to perform these rituals. The move has been considered as one that hits the secular character of the country which is full of diversity and claims itself as “largest democracy of the world”.
Though as per some media reports, religious representatives of other faiths were also called to say the prayer as per their respective rituals, this exercise was seen just a formality. All these representatives were made to sit on chairs in a row, while special and separate arrangements were made for the performance of Hindu rituals. As many as four Hindu priests sat around the ‘agni kund’ to recite the shaloks and Modi also took part in these rituals as an organizer of these rituals. Modi wore attire which looked like that of a Hindu priest. This ‘bhumi pujan’ was aired live on the TV channels, but prayers of other faiths were ignored for the telecast.
Reacting on this development, a Twitter user Rahul Goyat says, “All faith prayers were organized at foundation stone laying but they highlighted Bhumi-Poojan only, just to prove their point that this is a Hindu country now and let’s create divide”.
“Yesterday, Modi performed ‘bhumi poojan’ as per Hindu rituals for the new Parliament House. See his dress, he is looking the Prime Minister less but a Hindu Pujari more. Now followers of other faiths are raising questions if the parliament is Hindu only?…”, said Pali Bhupinder Singh, an activist from Punjab, in a Facebook post.
Nishan Singh Muse, a Facebook user said, “…India is a multi-lingual and multi-religious country. Has the Prime Minister done right by giving prominence to one religion and cornering others? Should followers of other religions consider them their beliefs getting minus now?…”
Before this ceremony, Trinamool Congress leader and MP from Krishnanagar, West Bangal Mahua Moitra had advised the PM not to do so. She said in a tweet, “In a secular multi-faith democracy, a PM should lay the foundation stone of a new parliament building, NOT to do a “Bhoomi Pooja”. And no, I am not anti-Hindu to point this out, merely pro-constitution”.
In a secular multi-faith democracy a PM should lay the foundation stone of a new parliament building, NOT do a “Bhoomi Pooja”
And no, I am not anti-Hindu to point this out, merely pro- constitution
— Mahua Moitra (@MahuaMoitra) December 6, 2020
Replying to her tweet, a Doctor named Gulam Sarvar said, “Gradually BJP will change the constitution like this. Doctor Ambedkar was a freedom fighter and who is Mr. Modi..the character of knife is to cut no matter in which hand it is today someone else rights is cutting tomorrow will be ur BHAKT”. (sic)
However, the majority of the secularists including Congress leaders are keeping mum over this issue. It seems that they fear losing the support of the Hindu voters by criticizing the BJP over this issue.
Known as critics of BJP-led union government of India due to its agenda of promoting Hindutva ideology, most of Punjab’s secularists including the rank and file of ruling Congress, are also silent on it, while a section of the secularists of some other states turned vocal against this move citing the secular ethos. The Congress leaders like Punjab Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh and Member of Parliament Ravneet Bittu remain vocal against the Sikhs who demand right of self-determination, but none of them issued any statement against the act of Modi. The same is the case of most left leaning activists of Punjab.
Notably, the Preamble of the Indian constitution declares India to be a sovereign, socialist, secular, and democratic republic. The objectives stated by the Preamble are to secure justice, liberty, equality to all citizens and promote fraternity to maintain unity and integrity of the nation”.
Some thinkers are considering its foundation laying ceremony, not for new parliament building but “Hindu Rashtra” (Hindu nation) which is being formed by the ruling RSS-BJP in India.