Recently, Justice KM Joseph made a statement in response to a petition filed by an advocate Ashwini Upadhyay seeking directions to restore the names of places changed by “foreign barbaric invaders.” The petition had a divisive tone seeking to erase the contributions of non-Hindu communities in India’s history as well as the mention of the start of history by Muslim rulers. Justice Joseph’s statement was a reminder of the inclusive nature of India’s history and the contributions of all communities to the country’s development. The statement of Justice Joseph was specifically related to the history of Christianity in Kerala. Kerala has a long and rich history of Christianity dating back to the arrival of St. Thomas one of the Twelve Apostles of Jesus Christ. The state is home to a significant Christian population who have made immense contributions to the state’s development and culture. His statement also pointed out that it was the Hindu Rajas who had donated lands for churches and provided financial support for the construction of churches in Kerala. This statement is a reminder that the history of India is not a monolithic one and different communities have made significant contributions to the country’s development over the centuries.
The statement is also significant in the context of the ongoing debate around cultural nationalism in India. There have been attempts to rewrite history to suit a particular ideology which often leads to the erasure or downplaying of the contributions of certain communities. Justice Joseph’s statement is a reminder that such attempts are not only counterproductive but are also harmful to the social fabric of the country. Furthermore, the statement emphasizes the importance of acknowledging and celebrating the diversity of India’s history. India is a country with a rich and diverse cultural heritage and it is this diversity that has made the country what it is today. Recognizing and celebrating the contributions of all communities to the country’s development is essential to building a cohesive and inclusive society.
It is also worth noting that Justice Joseph’s statement is not meant to diminish the contributions of the Hindu community to Indian history. The statement recognizes that the history of India is not a zero-sum game and the contributions of any one community do not diminish those of another. Rather it is a reminder that India’s history is a shared one and all communities have a stake in it. Moreover, Justice Nagarathna disagreed with the petition and emphasized that Hinduism is a way of life that has allowed India to assimilate everyone and live together peacefully. Justice also warned against bringing back the divide-and-rule policy of the British which caused division in Indian society. The court emphasized that India is committed to the rule of law, secularism and constitutionalism with Article 14 ensuring equality and fairness in state actions.
The court also noted that a country should not be held captive by its past and similarly, future generations should not be burdened by its history as well. The bench stressed that unity can only be achieved through fraternity which is also one of the crucial principles enshrined in the preamble of the constitution. The bench in its order also said that India, also known as Bharat is a secular country and its founders envisioned it to be a republic that includes all sections of people not just an elected president. Moving forward is a crucial task for achieving the triple goals outlined in the Directive Principle of State Policy while also respecting Fundamental Rights. The court emphasized that actions bring all sections of society together rather than taking away only one.
The statement made by Justice Joseph results in a timely reminder of the inclusive nature of India’s history and the contributions of all communities to the country’s development. It warns that attempts to rewrite history to suit a particular political ideology are harmful to the social fabric of the country and counterproductive in building a cohesive and inclusive society. It is a message that resonates not just in the context of the ongoing debate around cultural nationalism but in building a better future for all Indians.