Skip to main content

Whither "we the people"? Have we Indians really 'done away' with our Constitution?

Sworn in, resigned: CM, dy CM, Maharashtra: Devendra Fadnavis with Ajit Pawar
By Fr Cedric Prakash SJ*
Exactly 70 years ago on November 26, 1949, the Constituent Assembly of India adopted and gave to “we, the people” a landmark Constitution. The Constitution of India is the sacred book of every Indian citizen; it is a bulwark of fundamental rights and directive principles, which are a prerequisite for any healthy democracy.
The Preamble, with its emphasis on justice, liberty, equality and fraternity and its commitment to India being and remaining a “sovereign socialist secular democratic republic” spells out the vision and the intrinsic character of the Constitution. The Constitution of India with its minute details is undoubtedly a unique one.
Thanks to the vision of women and men of the Constituent Assembly, we can take genuine pride in a Constitution which is forward-looking and all-embracing and which respects the pluralistic fabric of the country.
Today, after several years of having and being guided by a masterpiece, unbelievable events have been unfolding in India. The past five years (up to May 2019) have seen several of them; and ever since, this regime seized the reins of power for a second term (after, what is believed by many, a fraudulent election), a sizeable section of the population is simply dumbstruck. The one question that most thinking citizens of India are asking today is, “have we really done away with our Constitution?”
What took place in the Raj Bhavan of Maharashtra in the wee hours of Saturday, November 23, 2019, provides a clear answer: “yes, we seem to have done away with the Constitution!” How else can one explain the way, the President threw all Constitutional propriety to the wind and revoked without a Cabinet meeting and a resolution President’s rule in Maharashtra? In a matter of time, the Governor of the State swore in a usurper as the next Chief Minister (CM) of the State.
How does one explain this ‘tearing and unprecedented hurry’ – even if there are some so-called legitimate provisions in extreme cases? The support for this nefarious act came from a turn-coat of the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP), who has several cases of corruption against him, and with a commitment by the Maharashtra CM, to put in jail! (strangely, in just about 24 hours, the State’s Anti-Corruption Bureau “closes” the corruption cases against him.)
The Maharashtra case came up in the Supreme Court on Monday, and on expected lines, the highest Court of the land does not think that, it is in their own interest and impartiality, they should at least have restrained the ‘impostor’ CM from functioning, until one or the other combines proves its majority on the floor of the house.
So, if the President, the Governor and even the judiciary, are not serious about Constitutional basics, to whom do “we the people” go to? It is not that one did not see or read the writing on the wall. It has been coming slowly but surely.
There are several instances when the spirit and letter of the Constitution has not been adhered too. But this most recent out of Maharashtra is, on several counts, the proverbial “last straw”. The moot question we need to ask ourselves at this juncture is, do we have the courage to stop the fascists, who are not merely tearing the Constitution to shreds, but are doing all they can to destroy the very idea of India and its pluralistic fabric.
The National Register of Citizens (NRC), as announced by the Union Home Minister, is again blatantly violative of the Constitution. NRC, together with the Citizenship Amendment Bill, assuring citizenship to all undocumented persons, except those of the Muslim faith, risks tearing the country apart, reopening the wounds of Partition, and ultimately destroying the secular and democratic tenets of the Constitution. The country today stands at the brink of catastrophic human suffering and injustice, if the government as it plans to do, begins implementing it nation-wide.
Many subtle and direct efforts are being made to tamper with the Constitution, to negate its essence and even to delete core dimensions like the words ‘secular’ and ‘socialism’ which are deeply interwoven into the pluralistic fabric of Indian society. The current BJP/RSS combine, including some of their ministers and leading functionaries, have often gone on record saying that once they have the pre-requisite numbers in Parliament, they will have no qualms of conscience to change fundamentals of the Constitution like that of ‘secularism’ and equal rights for all.
There are consistent proclamations for the establishment of a ‘Hindu State’ by 2020; the annihilation of the minorities, particularly the Muslims and Christians; ‘lynching’ of minorities is the ‘new normal’. There is talk of a Common Civil Code, of a national anti-conversion law and of abrogating the rights of minorities.
In October 2018, in the wake of the Supreme Court ruling to allow young women entry into the Sabrimala Temple, BJP national president Amit Shah not merely questioned the judgement but in fact defended the practice of keeping women out. The ‘spirit’ of what Amit Shah said is practiced in toto: Even in this year’s pilgrimage his writ ran large and no women below a certain age were being allowed. The Supreme Court judgement on Ayodhya is certainly skewed pandering to the sentiments of the Hindutva regime.
Dr BR Ambedkar
Writing on the recent developments in Kashmir, Bharat Bhushan says:
“The revocation of the special status of Jammu and Kashmir, dividing it into two centrally governed provinces and the military clamp down have tipped the balance against the Modi regime. The world can see that the asymmetric federalism which was the basis of the Indian Union’s strength has been junked for a unitary vision. The government’s and pliant media’s celebration of “normalcy” in Kashmir Valley is nothing but self-deluding propaganda. The fact is that the international community is perturbed with the developments in Kashmir, especially the communication restrictions and the continued incarceration of the state’s political leadership”.
In several key cases, the judiciary, seems to be abdicating its fundamental responsibility of safeguarding the Constitution. There have been some landmark judgements. In January 2018, four seniors most judges of the Supreme Court (including Justice Ranjan Gogoi, the recently retired Chief Justice of India) held an unprecedented Press Conference asserting that unless things are set in order and that the Government stops interfering in the judiciary, “democracy will not survive in the country!”
That the Government has been interfering in the working of the judiciary is without doubt. Bhushan adds:
“The rule of law and impartial judiciary that India prided itself on have also come under question. In a stinging indictment, 'The Washington Post' in a recent report remarked that 'BJP partisans increasingly dominate the courts'. This has been evident to Indians for quite some time. One only has to glance at the global media headlines on the Supreme Court’s Ayodhya verdict to fathom how the Indian judiciary is being viewed”.
The regime has spared no efforts to destroy the independence and the autonomous functioning of several Constitutional and statutory bodies. The Election Commission of India is today obviously a pawn. The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) and the Enforcement Directorate (ED) have become ‘caged parrots'.
The Reserve Banking of India (RBI) is browbeaten to bend backwards to cater to the whims and fancies of a Government that has sent the country into an economic spiral downwards! Media, the fourth pillar of a vibrant democracy, has been made impotent. Only a handful of those in the electronic and print media will dare take on the Government today. Other important bodies, like the Information Commission, have been made toothless and filled with their pliable henchmen!
Seventy years ago, when giving us the Constitution Dr BR Ambedkar, the father of our Constituent Assembly, said:
“Will history repeat itself? It is this thought, which fills me with anxiety. This anxiety is deepened by the realisation of the fact that in addition to our old enemies in the form of castes and creeds, we are going to have many political parties with diverse and opposing political creeds. Will Indians place the country above their creed or above their country? I do not know, but this much is certain that if the parties place creed above country, our independence will be put in jeopardy a second time and probably be lost forever. This eventuality we all must resolutely guard against. We must be determined to defend our independence with the last drop of our blood!”
And he went on to conclude:
“If we wish to preserve the Constitution in which we have sought to enshrine the principle of Government of the people, for the people and by the people, let us resolve not to be tardy in the recognition of the evils that lie across our path and which induce people to prefer Government for the people to Government by the people, nor to be weak in our initiative to remove them. That is the only way to serve the country. I know of no better”.
Words of wisdom and very prophetic indeed! Today, on the Constitution Day, as we remember our freedom fighters and the founding fathers of our nation, we need to resolve that we will do all we can to fight the fascist and fundamental forces that are today destroying the sanctity of our Constitution. In a show of hollowness and hypocrisy, they will attempt to clothe their vile acts with empty platitudes, in farcical ceremonies today.
However, for us, “we the people of India”, enough is enough! We will stop taking things lying down; the Constitution is sacred to us and in the words of Ambedkar “we are determined to defend it with the last drop of our blood!
---
*Human rights & peace activist/writer. Contact: cedricprakash@gmail.com

Comments

TRENDING

Mystery around Gujarat PSU 'transfer' of Rs 250 crore to Canadian firm Karnalyte

By AK Luke, IAS (Retd)*
While returning from a Board meeting of the Oil India Limited (OIL) in Ahmedabad some time in 2012, two officers of the Gujarat State Fertilizers and Chemicals Ltd (GSFC), Nanavaty and Patel,  saw me off at the airport. They said they were proceeding to Canada in connection with a project GSFC had entered into with a company there. As we were running late, I hastily wished them the best.

Savarkar in Ahmedabad 'declared' two-nation theory in 1937, Jinnah followed 3 years later

By Our Representative
One of the top freedom fighters whom BJP and Prime Minister Narendra Modi revere the most, Vinayak Damodar Savarkar, was also a great supporter of the two nation theory for India, one for Hindus another for Muslims, claims a new expose on the man who is also known to be the original proponent of the concept of Hindutva.

J&K continues to be haunted, as parts of India 'degenerate' into quasi-Kashmir situation

By Rajendran Narayanan*, Sandeep Pandey**
“Jab har saans mein bandook dikhe toh baccha kaise bekhauf rahe?” (How can a child be fearless when she sees a gun in every breath?) remarked Anwar, a gardener from Srinagar, when asked about the situation in Kashmir. On November 30, 2019, a walk through an iron gate in a quiet neighbourhood of Srinagar took us inside a public school. It was 11 am when typically every school is abuzz with activity. Not here though.

Indians have made 119 nations their ‘karma bhumi’: US-based Hindu NGO tells Rupani

Counterview Desk
In a stinging letter to Gujarat chief minister Vijay Rupani, the US-based Hindus for Human Rights (HfHR), referring to the report citing his justification for the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) – that “while Muslims can choose any one of the 150 Islamic countries in the world (for residence), India is the only country for Hindus" – has said, he should remember, Hindus have made several countries, including USA, their home.

What about religious persecution of Dalits, Adivasis, asks anti-CAA meet off Ahmedabad

By Rajiv Shah
A well-attended Dalit rights meet under the banner “14 Pe Charcha” (discussion on Article 14 of the Indian Constitution), alluding to Prime Minister Narendra Modi well-known campaign phrase of the 2014 Parliamentary elections, “chai pe charcha” (discussion over cup of tea), organized off Ahmedabad, has resolved on Wednesday to hold a 14 kilometres-long rally on April 14 to oppose the controversial Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA), enacted on December 10-11.

Tata Mundra's possible closure? Power ministry's 'pressure tactic' on consumer states

By Bharat Patel*
Tata power has announced to the Union Ministry of Power that Tata Power may be forced to stop operating  its imported coal-based Mundra Ultra-Mega Power Project (UMPP) after February, 2020. It is not only unfortunate but also criminal that irreversible damage has been caused to the fragile ecosystem of Mundra coast for a project that will have a running life of only seven years.

Upendra Baxi on foolish excellence, Indian judges and Consitutional cockroaches

By Rajiv Shah
In a controversial assertion, top legal expert Upendra Baxi has sought to question India's Constitution makers for neglecting human rights and social justice. Addressing an elite audience in Ahmedabad, Prof Baxi said, the constitutional idea of India enunciated by the Constituent Assembly tried to resolve four key conflicting concepts: governance, development, rights and justice.

Population control? 10% Indian couples want to delay next pregnancy, but fail

Counterview Desk
Shireen Jejeebhoy, director at Aksha Centre for Equity and Wellbeing, previously senior associate at the Population Council, India, argues that the debate on the country's population was fuelled by Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Independence Day address to the nation, where he drew attention to “concern” about the challenges posed by this ‘exploding’ population growth, needs to centre around the promotion of rights and education, instead of the language of explosion and the threat of coercion that this term implies.

Kerala governor turned History Congress into political arena, 'insulted' Prof Irfan Habib

Counterview Desk
In a signed statement, office bearers of the Aligarh Society of History and Archaeology (ASHA), Prof Syed Ali Nadeem Rezavi (president), Prof Jabir Raza (vice-president), Prof Manvendra Kumar Pundhir (secretary) and Prof Farhat Hasan (joint secretary), have said that Kerala governor Arif Mohammad Khan had sought to insult veteran historian Prof Irfan Habib, 88, at the 80th session of the Indian History Congress, even as turning it into his “political arena”.