On 71st Constitution Day, Indian Constitution lies mutilated beyond recognition

Democracy in shambles as Parliament runs roughshod & courts abdicate

Politics

November 26, 2020

/ By / New Delhi

On 71st Constitution Day, Indian Constitution lies mutilated beyond recognition

The Constitution written by Dr BR Ambedkar lies in tatters as it is being written over repeatedly by the government (MIG photos/Aman Kanojiya)

There has been a rapid rise in violations of basic freedoms and fundamental rights guaranteed by the Constitution. However, as courts increasingly look the other way, the Indian Constitution has become a paper tiger.

As India marks 71st Constitution Day, Rajratna Ambedkar, President of Buddhist Society of India and great grandnephew Dr B R Ambedkar, the architect of the Constitution, says the document at the foundation of Indian democracy faces an existential challenge as Ambedkar’s teachings have been forgotten by the people and politicians, alike.

“We are Indians firstly and lastly, Ambedkar had declared. However, today, the people of India identify themselves as belonging to a particular religion, a caste or even as a farmer or a student. Hardly anyone says he is Indian,” Rajratna Ambedkar tells Media India Group.

“Unless we all unite as Indians and act to save our Constitution and our democracy, both face an existential challenge as even the TIME magazine has declared about two months back that Narendra Modi has put the world’s largest democracy at risk, so this is the fate that we are marching towards,” he cautions.

Pillars of Indian democracy hijacked

Rajratna Ambedkar goes on to say that one of the most serious challenges for democracy in the country is that the key institutions that were created as a safeguard to protect the Constitution and democracy have all fallen prey to aggressive moves by the current dispensation in New Delhi. “In his speech on November 25, 1949, Ambedkar had raised the fear that we will lose our freedom again if the political parties consider their own ideology above the ideology of the nation, then once again we will lose our hard-earned freedom and democracy. Today, we are moving in that direction where we will lose our freedom. All the four pillars of democracy in India have been hijacked by the RSS and rightwing parties,” he warns.

Recent events do seem to bear out these claims. The Indian Supreme Court has been facing severe criticism from several organisations and political parties as having failed to protect the Indian democracy by bowing to the pressure from the Indian government. Right from not hearing cases on crucial issues like the abrogation of the Article 370 and the subsequent division of Jammu & Kashmir to the top court refusing to intervene in the Bhima Koregaon case where several liberal thinkers and activists have been locked up in jail without trial for over two years on what they say are trumped up charges.

Indeed, the top court did open itself to charges of favouritism and being partial in recent hearings on Article 32. While hearing a bail petition filed by Kerala-based journalist Siddique Kappan, Chief Justice of India S A Bobde said the top court was trying to discourage the use of Article 32, as ‘there was a spate of Article 32 cases’ before the top court and asked his lawyers to approach the high courts. Article 32 allows people to approach the SC to ensure enforcement of their rights.

While Bobde may have been right in saying that there was a spate of cases under Article 32, it is largely due to the failings of India’s top court that has increasingly allowed the government to indulge in mass violations of fundamental rights for the past several years. And the courts have continued the practice of taking up cases of the ‘privileged class’ on a priority as had happened with television anchor Arnab Goswami recently.

Ironically, just days before this ruling, while hearing Goswami’s plea for bail, CJI Bobde had said that the right of a citizen to approach the apex court is a fundamental right under Article 32 of the Constitution. “There is no doubt that if a citizen of India is deterred in any way from moving the court in exercise of his right under Article 32, it would amount to a serious interference in the administration of justice in the country,” the CJI said.

It is not for nothing that the Father of Indian Constitution Dr B R Ambedkar had called Article 32 the soul of the Constitution. The Article allows people to move the top court to enforce a variety of rights such as right to equality, right to freedom, right against discrimination and right to life and personal liberty.

All round attack on rights

It is on these and many more rights that there has been a strong attack by the legislature as well as the government for decades and these attacks have only become more vicious and recurrent over the past six years.

Even though in several judgments, the Supreme Court has held that the bail rather than jail should be the default mode for most cases, except the particularly heinous crimes, the last few years have seen hundreds of people, including poets, professors, journalists and activists being locked up for months, or even years, on flimsy, trumped up charges.

For students of Jamia Millia Islamia University, the threat faced by the Constitution is something that they have experienced firsthand earlier this year when Delhi police officials entered the university and attacked the students without provocation, an attack that left hundreds injured. Several students of Jamia as well as Jawaharlal Nehru University have been arrested by the Delhi police on what they say are trumped up charges and only because they opposed the Bharatiya Janata Party and its attempts to introduce controversial laws like the CAA or NRC which were opposed by thousands all over the nation.

Despite the horrifying experiences, not every student of Jamia is entirely pessimistic over the situation and see some reason for salvation. “In my opinion the Constitution is not yet murdered. It is still alive, yes of course there have been several incidents in the recent past when some fascist forces tried to murder the Constitution of this country. But it is still alive. We need to unite together to protect the Constitution” says Jijo Raj, a law student at the Jamia Millia Islamia University in New Delhi.

Al Ameen who has just graduated from Jamia agrees. “Constitution has never been murdered rather it was misused by political parties for segregating minorities and the underprivileged class. With the rise of extreme rightwing politics beginning from 1980s, they started misinterpreting and spreading communal hatred which hammers the basic principle of secularism in India. Being one of the world’s largest Constitutions and a mix of all major Constitutions in the world, it is duty of every Indian to defend, protect and to preserve the Constitution with necessary reforms and structural changes for a better society where everyone feels that this is where I belong. And this idea of building national identity should be contemplated instead of distorting the Constitution,” he says.

“Whom should we criticise at a time when he who obeys has the kingdom and he who denies has the death penalty? In these bad times, if anything that gives us consolation, it is only the constant hard work being carried out by students’ groups which could guarantee a forthcoming generation of light and hope. Let the brushes move…Let the roses bloom in the protest tents,” says Hima T Sam, a student of history at the Hindu College of New Delhi.

Indeed, the students and the youth may yet unite to step up and save the Indian Constitution and democracy, just as Dr B R Ambedkar had envisaged.

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