January 21, 2008historyIndialiberalismpoliticsPublic PolicysecularismSwantantra

Swatantra and secularism: setting the record straight

S V Raju responds to Vir Sanghvi’s allegations

This is an archived blog post from The Acorn.

In this article in Hindustan Times, among other things, Vir Sanghvi clubs Jan Sangh and Swantantra Party together and claims that they made the point that there was no harm in declaring that Hinduism was India’s state religion”. We asked S V Raju, an office-bearer of the erstwhile Swatantra Party, whether this was accurate.

Mr Raju’s response (via email):

During the life of the Swatantra Party there were many epithets hurled at us beginning with Nehru’s Rich Man’s Party” and a Party of Rajas and Maharajas” but none called us a a Hindu” party much less one advocating a Hindu State’. No one clubbed us with the Jan Sangh other than drawing attention to the fact that we had apparently similar economic policies. Even this was a half truth.

Though I was sure Sanghvi was talking nonsense about the Swatantra Party, I looked up some documents, including my Party’s three manifestos for the 62, 67 and 71 elections and confirmed that none of them have we even remotely suggested support for a Hindu State.

It is a fact that both Rajaji and Masani used the word secular’ very sparingly. Masani preferred to describe India as a non-denominational democracy’ and Rajaji in an article on The Secular State’ had to say this: It has been repeatedly affirmed that when the Indian Constitution laid down that India shall be a secular state it was not intended that the State shall discourage or be hostile towards religion, but that what was intended was impartiality towards all creeds and denominations. It was a refusal to accept the theory that different religions made different nations or that the State should belong to one religion more than another.”

He wrote this on August 3, 1957 in Swarajya. This formed the basis of the Swatantra Party’s policy, founded two years later, on the relationship between religion and the State. Sanghvi’s hindsight is, to say the least, flawed.

From the archives: Any party you like. As long as it’s socialist (Mr Raju responds)

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