Former Chief Minister of Punjab, Parkash Singh Badal, on Thusrsday said “safeguarding the secular democratic fabric of the country is as important as defending her borders”.

“The country’s internal and external health are equally important and interdependent,” he said in a statement that coincides with the 45th anniversary of the internal Emergency imposed in the country by former Prime Minister, Indira Gandhi on 25 June 1975.

Badal said that commitment to democracy can become meaningless without an equally profound commitment to the secular ethos as enshrined in our constitution. “Secularism is a prerequisite to democracy, and vice versa. Each ideal strengthens the other,” he said.

Badal, widely regarded as one of the key architects of popular resistance to the internal Emergency, said the federal structure in the country is vital for the health of our 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,” the Shiromani Akali Dal veteran leader said.

Emphasising the need for ‘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,”.

Badal cautioned the people, especially the youth 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. The day the people’s will or their aspirations weaken, and that weakness gets reflected in the absence of vigil, then even the Constitution cannot prevent democracy and secularism from falling victims to the whims of dictators,” he added.