Wednesday, March 22, 2023

“We, the People …”

When the authors labored over the Indian Constitution, the vision they had for the nascent Independent India was unambiguously, emphatically and unapologetically stated in the words “Sovereign, Socialist, Secular and Democratic Republic”. The objectives stated by the Preamble are to secure justice, liberty, equality to all citizens and promote fraternity to maintain unity and integrity of the nation. Today as we celebrate the 73 anniversary of the adaptation of the Constitution of India in the form of Republic Day, it is an appropriate time to ponder on how much we have translated the vision and the promise particularly of “Secular and Democratic”. India has to be secular, which necessarily entails democracy as its bedrock, because ours is a multi-racial, multi-cultural and multi-faith society. For such as society to survive and thrive secularism and democracy are vital ~ and it should matter little which race, culture and faith has the largest number. This means that majoritanism should find no place in the Indian Republic but today we know for a fact that in the larger scheme of our political, economic, religious and cultural existence, we are defined by our races, religions and cultures ~ totally negating the spirit and the letter of secularism and democracy, in fact the very ethos of the Preamble to the Constitution of India. In the process, things have come to such a pass that the Indianness of India’s citizens have been completely eclipsed and splintered into the minutest and least inconsequential of our identity markers. Even our geographical locations have become another identity marker, which can be used against us, or for us, in the placing and positioning of our democratic, political and economic rights and secular credentials. Our Constitutional Fathers certainly knew the meanings of these words ~ and the spirit inherent in them ~ therefore they left a written legacy for a country that would always need the uniting force of secularism and democracy to survive ~ not as an empty shell calling itself a country, a nation ~ but a living, breathing and vibrant coming together of numerous peoples charting a common destiny for and in everyone’s interest and welfare. Today, 73 years down the road, we have so conveniently translated the vision of our Constitutional Fathers into mere idealism ~ and alas we have unanimously agreed that idealism is long dead and is not and cannot be a guiding star in nation-building. So yes, today is also the most appropriate time to ponder what nation we are building and in whose welfare and interest. Because over the past 73 years, we have been building a political fortress much supported and guarded by a powerful military-industrial-business moat, as much as questionable narratives in our histories and in numerous fields unsupported by logic, evidence and history. We have also redefined and replaced nation-building with material and infrastructure development and economic muscles. True they are components of nation-building but they are not any definition of nation-building. No nation can be built, much less a secular and democratic one, on a land strewn with divisive seeds and watered with appropriated political might. India may be an emerging economic and military power but Indian bellies are hungry, bones cold, minds and hearts disarrayed and souls tormented. It is perfectly right for everyone to want more but we, as an extension the nation, are defined by the quality of our wants. If our wants are limited to digging little ponds for ourselves ~ on the basis of our similarities and parochialism ~ we negate and insult the letter and spirit of secularism and democracy. We then make a farce of celebrating our Republic Day because it is the people’s day ~ after all, the Preamble to the Constitution begins with: “We, the People …” So yes, we must know why we want what we want and weigh the merit and quality of what our wants. The Republic Day is not the Government’s day ~ it’s ours ~ therefore we cannot not celebrate it but at the same time demand and accrue the vision, the letter and the spirit and the promises the Constitution guarantees to each citizen. Simultaneously, it is also imperative that we do not allow anyone to take away from us the vision, the letter and the spirit and the promises of the Constitution guaranteed to us. Inarguably, nation-building on the letter and spirit and the promise of secularism and democracy begins in and with the enlightened heart and mind.