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Home > 2022 > The Failed Fraternity Factor: A wake-up call | S G Vombatkere

Mainstream, VOL LX No 33, 34 New Delhi, August 6, August 13, 2022 [Independence Day Special]

The Failed Fraternity Factor: A wake-up call | S G Vombatkere

Saturday 13 August 2022, by S G Vombatkere


On 13 Dec 1946, Jawaharlal Nehru moved an “Objective Resolution” during the Constituent Assembly, which outlined the objectives of the Constitution. These were discussed and later became the constitutional Preamble, assuring to the People, the democratic core values of Justice, Liberty and Equality. Fraternity as a core value, was added by B.R.Ambedkar on 21 February 1948.

B.R.Ambedkar urged that the Constitution should strive towards the creation of unity among citizens by improving relations between different castes and religious communities. This is the reason for Fraternity, “which assures the dignity of the individual and the unity and integrity of the Nation”, being prominent in the Preamble.

Justice, Liberty and Equality are for the State to provide to citizens and for citizens to demand from the State, whereas Fraternity is for the State to promote, and is a fundamental duty for citizens.

This fundamental duty is described in Article 51-A(e):

“It shall be the duty of every citizen of India to promote harmony and the spirit of common brotherhood amongst all the people of India transcending religious, linguistic and regional or sectional diversities; to renounce practices derogatory to the dignity of women“. This precIsely is about Fraternity.

It is necessary to emphasise the obvious fact that people’s elected representatives are citizens. But they are a special category of citizens, because the people in their constituency have entrusted them with political power. Thus, every legislator takes oath of office to abide by the Constitution, and has a special responsibility to do their duty according to Article 51-A(e), to promote Fraternity, thereby assuring the dignity of the individual citizen and the unity and integrity of the Nation.

The preambular values are unexceptionable, regardless of religion, language, region, and gender. However, Justice, Liberty and Equality are chimeras unless Fraternity is actively practiced and encouraged. Fraternity strenghtens social ties and gives to the individual, a personal interest in the welfare of others. A person who lacks in social feeling or social sensitivity, would value social or fraternal ties only limited to family, community, or religion. Such a person would think of welfare in limited terms, not extending to the nation, let alone humanity.

Every person’s emotional ties to other persons, family, community, and religion, are essential, because they not only make up his/her personality, but enable society to function. However, when a person’s emotional ties assume primacy, and truth and justice become secondary considerations, he/she is unable to think beyond petty sentiments. He/she cannot understand that the concept of Fraternity concerns other humans within the society of which he/she is a part. Many politicians of different hues and persuasions may fall in this category.

Indeed, Ambedkar wrote:

“A person in whom social feeling is not developed, cannot but bring himself to think of the rest of his fellow beings as rivals struggling with him for the means of happiness, whom he must endeavour to defeat in order that he may himself succeed”.

Without Fraternity, a person cannot be expected to respect the rights, needs and aspirations of others outside his close circle, and will lightly give a go-by to Justice and Liberty concerning others. The absence of Fraternity between citizens imperils the unity and integrity of the Nation, besides of course leading to conflicts around various issues.

Arguably, the commonest cause of conflict in recent times is religion, based upon religious absolutism. Thus, adherents of Religion-X are aggressively opposed to, even rivals or enemies of “inferior” Religion-Y, and these feelings are aggressively reciprocated by words and deeds. The adherents of every religion unquestioningly accept interpretation of their religion by their respective religious leaders who, more often than not, stoke ill-feeling between religions, precisely because these religious leaders are limited by their respective religious dogmas. They openly teach and preach that other religions are inferior, and adherents of other religions should be hated, overcome, defeated, even killed, in order to protect one’s own religion.

It is worth quoting John Hicks, speaking at a Theological Society in England (2001):

“We should not see the other religions as rivals or enemies, or look down upon them as inferior, but simply as different human responses to the divine reality, formed in the past within different strands of human history and culture. We should seek a friendship with people of other faiths, which will do something to defuse the very dangerous religious absolutism that is being exploited in almost all the conflicts going on in the world today. To support religious absolutism is to be part of the problem which afflicts humanity. But we can be part of the solution by setting an example of transcending that absolutism”.

Although the title of Hicks’ speech was, “Is Christianity the only true religion, or one among others?”, his introspective words concerning absolutism apply directly and equally to every religion. When Hicks speaks of friendship, it is about Fraternity. In practice, religious absolutism is exploited by religious leaders playing politics for power over their laity, and politicians (mis)using religion for power over populations. Both are condemnable.

More importantly, the social conflicts and unrest due to the missing Fraternity factor is a direct attack on the unity and integrity of the Nation.

The elected representatives of successive central and state legislatures have not only failed to perform their fundamental duty as citizens, but they have also violated their oath of office. Sadly in present times, far from doing their duty, many legislators in government and opposition, in centre and states, may be observed actively speaking, writing and acting to prevent Fraternity from “breaking out”. They are destroying our Nation.

Equally sadly, politicians are motivatedly leading people to imagine that their religion is threatened by another religion, and blatantly instigating them to mindless paroxysms of violence against “the other”. We may well be on the brink of social collapse. All are unmindful that internal weakness of a nation increases its vulnerability to external threat, even as external threats grow.

Only the feted, charismatic, articulate, elected political leaders of all political hues, and the religious leaders of all religions, can turn the tide of religion-based hate and violence, by simply performing their Article 51A fundamental duties as citizens of our great nation, especially revive the Fraternity factor. Only then will the mindless, nation-destroying violence of words and deeds stop. In default, India will be no better than its hapless, failed neighbours.

The call going up is: “Nafrat chodo! Bharat jodo! Bharat jodo!”

This is a wake-up call to all legislators in the states and centre to do their duty before it is too late.

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