Safeguarding the secular and democratic fabric of the country is as important as defending its borders, said former Punjab Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal on the 45th anniversary of the imposition of the Emergency on Thursday.
In a statement here, Badal said the commitment to democracy can "become meaningless without an equally profound commitment to the secular ethos" as enshrined in the Constitution.
"Secularism is a prerequisite to democracy, and vice versa. Each ideal strengthens the other," said Badal, stressing that their protection was as important as "defending borders".
The Akali stalwart said the federal structure in the country is vital for the health of the democracy.
"Democracy is not a single-tier structure. It functions at the individual and social levels through the universal voting right, but at the national and inter-state levels, a genuinely federal structure is the only guarantee for meaningful working of our system for national prosperity and for turning India into a global superpower," said Badal.
Emphasising the need for a constant vigil against "overt and covert" dictatorial tendencies that can always threaten democracy, Badal said, "Like our independence and sovereignty, secularism and democracy too have to be defended every moment of every single day in the life of our nation. Even a moment's let-up can prove disastrous and even fatal," said the five-time CM of Punjab.
Badal cautioned people against taking democracy and secularism for granted.
"It would be a mistake to believe that what happened in 1975 can never happen again. We saw then how easy it is for a dictatorial leader to trample on the constitution. Democracy is not a mere provision in the Constitution but an expression of the collective will, dreams and aspirations of the people," he said.