Have We Failed the Constitution After 75 Years of India’s Independence?

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For representation purposes only. Pic courtesy: Wikipedia Commons

By M N Khan

NEW DELHI—The nation celebrated November 26, 2022, as Constitution Day to commemorate the adoption of the Constitution of India.

On November 26, 1949, the Constituent Assembly of India adopted the Constitution that came into effect on January 26, 1950. However, November 26 was declared as Constitution Day by the Narendra Modi government in 2015. Since then, the nation has celebrated November 26 every year as Constitution Day.

But the question is: Have we as a nation lived the expectation and spirit of the Constitution? Or have we failed the Constitution?

A detailed analysis of the issue is essential because we are celebrating the 75th year of India’s Independence with great pomp and show. But do we go beyond rituals, celebrations, and symbolism while celebrating Constitution Day?

Have we ever introspected to what extent we have followed our Constitution since its inception? Do we respect the spirit of the Constitution? What do we do as individuals, groups, society, institutions, and above all, as governments while implementing the law of the land? Will the messages of Constitution Day this time find any resonance in our political corridor or pass off as usual?

Mujibur Rehman, an assistant professor at the Centre for the Study of Social Exclusion and Inclusive Policy at Jamia Millia Islamia university, “The fact that a majoritarian ideology governs India is in itself a testimony to the vulnerability and limited accomplishments of the Indian Constitution.

“It is a document often referred to in discussions but is barely read or understood, let alone practiced by its vast citizenry. I think the ignorance of this beautiful document – its contents – has been the curse for modern Indian democracy.”

There is no doubt that the Constitution is the voice of the marginalized people and hope and solace for the people in general. However, it is also true that India cannot descend into chaos as long as the Apex Court remains the Custodian of the Constitution and people abide by the tenets of the Constitution. Suppose the Constitution is there to guide us in moments of crisis and uncertainty. In that case, the Apex Court is there to pull us all out of any constitutional or institutional crisis. The challenges, therefore, before the Supreme Court are many as we move from here onwards, given the kind of atmosphere we are in.”

“On this day in 1949, our Constitution was adopted by the Congress party, which fought for independence. India pledged to adopt and implement the Constitution to provide: Equality of status and equality of opportunity; Justice: social, economic, and political; Liberty of thought, expression of belief, faith, and worship; Fraternity, assuring the dignity of the individual,” said Professor MM Ansari, former interlocuter to Jammu and Kashmir and Central Information Commissioner.

He added, “Sadly, all these rights are threatened today, and the ruling establishment has openly threatened to have a ‘Congress free’ country; the political party which drafted and adopted the Constitution.

All the weaker sections, mainly Dalits and Minorities, are marginalized. And Muslims are politically disempowered due to the divisive politics of the ruling party as there is not a single Muslim member in over 500 Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha members and about 1300 MLAs in 28 states. In Government jobs, Muslims are only 2 per cent against 15 per cent of their share in the total population.”

“Where is equality of opportunity? Dalits and minorities continue to be deprived of political and economic opportunities due to discriminatory practices resulting in mob lynching. Where is social justice? The Constitution of India needs to be implemented in letter and spirit as mandated and expected by our forefathers,” said Professor Ansari.

During an interview with this scribe, K T S Tulsi, noted constitutional lawyer and former Additional Solicitor General of India, said, “We have failed the Constitution. I think my generation has failed the country because, in absolute numbers, the poor are more and the responsibility for this failure rest squarely on the shoulder of the educated class. Although we have the best brain in medicine, our medical services are in shambles. Although we have the best engineers, our infrastructure is in shambles. We need to test new models so that we can remove poverty effectively. We have not thought about controlling the population and many more issues hampering the country’s growth and the people.”

Human rights defender John Dayal, speaking about the issue, remarked, “India’s largest and most influential socio-political non-government organization, the Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh, does not believe in this document we call the Constitution of India. Its founders said so directly, as they proposed their own documenting and imaging a new India they called not Bharat but Hindu Rashtra, indicating they wanted a theocratic state much like the Nepal of those times, nearly a hundred years ago, and certain Christian kingdoms in Europe, or perhaps the many Islamic nations of the West Asian region where religion, nation, ethnicity, and citizenship were inseparable from each other.

In this Hindu Rashtra, there will be no place for Christians and Muslims unless they give up their franchise rights, equality under the law, and equity. The Hindu Rashtra demanded they live as second-class citizens, if not vassals.”

He added, “The RSS created the Jana Sangh, now known as the Bharatiya Janata Party. The BJP now rules India. Its current leader, Mr. Narendra Modi, has taken oath on the Constitution of India several times as chief minister of Gujarat and, since 2014, as Prime Minister of India. Yet, at no time, neither Mr. Modi nor any other leader denounced the RSS for disowning the Constitution and the national flag for so many decades after the founding of the Republic.”

“Even now, even as Mr Modi rules in New Delhi and Mr Mohan Bhagwat runs the RSS from Nagpur, various government functionaries, party leaders, and Hindu religious leaders continue to dream of a Constitution of a Hindu Rashtra which will have no place for religious minorities. So they have held private “Sansads” (parliaments) to publicly declare their loyalty to the Hindu Rashtra of their own concept,” Dayal pointed out.

 “And finally, while the BJP pays lip service to the Constitution by demanding enactment into law of some of the intents of the Constitution, such as a Uniform Civil Code, a ban on cow slaughter, and a place of superiority for Hindi, they have like previous governments done nothing to strengthen the preamble of the Constitution. Economic equality remains a dream. Fraternity is shattered. Islamophobia poisons the general environment of the country. Their economic policies widen the disparities and push the people further into poverty. While Dalits, tribals, landless labourers, and the unorganized sector suffer routinely, religious minorities such as Muslims and Christians are the worst victims of this assault on the connotational guarantees,” he opined.

Supreme Court lawyer Fuzail Ayuubi remarked, “I have been of the firm belief that one of the most important facets in the fundamental duties contained in our Constitution is the duty cast on every citizen to develop scientific temper, humanism, and the spirit of inquiry and reform. If Indians properly imbibe this scientific temper and spirit of inquiry and reform, it may solve many of our times’ problems.”

He pointed out that apart from that, another facet of our Constitution is equally essential. Equally, a duty for the citizens to imbibe the value within themselves is – Fraternity.

“Enshrined in the preamble as one of the four pillars of our Constitution, the other three being justice, liberty and equality, Fraternity is a value that each person must develop as the essential core of their thinking and cannot be so easily enforced by the State. This Fraternity was the guiding light for our ancestors who, coming from different backgrounds and having vast differences in opinions, not only fought for independence hand in hand but also, having achieved that dearest independence, sat together to give ourselves this Constitution,” Ayuubi said.

Thus, fraternal thought must not only be developed but in the present times, it should be vigorously advocated by all who love the nation and its people.

Ehtesham Hashmi, Advocate Supreme Court of India, shared his views by saying, “As we all know that the Constitution of India is a living document ensuring the dignified life to every citizen of India, and it is the duty of Executive, Legislature and Judiciary to follow the Constitutional mandate to secure Justice along with socio-political development. Therefore, it is the primary duty of every person holding the Constitutional post to abide by the Constitution and protect it by all means.”

The idea of social justice is also an important factor. With the realization of social justice and working on it honestly to ensure it at the grassroots level, the purpose of framing our Constitution will be fulfilled. The very idea of India will cease to be a mere slogan without any substance.

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