The narrative emerging from Union home minister Amit Shah’s claim that the sceptre, which has now become popular by its Tamil nomenclature ‘Sengol’, was handed over to Jawaharlal Nehru on the eve of Independence to symbolise transfer of power has been questioned. But more than trying to prove the veracity of their stories, what Mr Shah or the Union government should explain to the people first is their proclivity to celebrate a ‘Sengol’ that is basically a symbol of monarchy and the reasons for their plan to give it a pride of place in Parliament, a temple of democracy.
Whatever was the inspiration for the making or the handing over of the ‘Sengol’ to the Prime Minister designate on August 14, 1947 the British never said that the sceptre symbolised the transfer of power — there were other things like lowering the Union Jack and the raising of the tricolour. For, India won Independence on the midnight of August 15, 1947, not because the invaders were kind enough to hand over the sceptre but because of the sustained freedom movement that saw several people making sacrifices.
It was an enduring democratic fight against an overseas monarchy that had appropriated power by force. In the reclaiming of the right for self-assertion and self-rule through peaceful means, an ornamental sceptre may have had no role to play. In fact, the ‘Sengol’ the present Union Government is celebrating was a gift to the new government — one among thousands that Nehru received at that time — and was treated as one by the distinguished recipient.
It is not by resurrecting a relic from the past that we can do justice to democracy or the parliamentary system that does not rely on such gilded symbols. Democracy should be practised through the implementation of the people’s will. The symbol’s value is just one of historicity as it was associated with India’s tryst with destiny as a nation freed of the colonial yoke.