Happy Republic Day?
As an Indian citizen, one can’t help feeling slightly patriotic this week, considering our Constitution just celebrated it’s 61st birthday. Similarly, one can’t help but flinch on reading a facebook status that calls this constitution a ‘farce.’ “61 years since the biggest farce of the constitution came into effect. Yay,” to be exact. What a brilliant way to express our patriotism?
To be fair, I don’t think the criticism intended to attack the constitution per se. I like to look at it as more of a reflection of the environment we live in that has essentially begun to endorse this critical towards our country. We don’t like anything associated to politics, because it’s corrupt, the legal system is useless and the media is too sensational. In other words our state apparatus has failed us. Yet, in my mind to criticise the constitution seems unwarranted . Luckily I’m not the only one that shares such views; this was expressed by someone as a comment to the facebook status.
Sadly it wasn’t surprising to see the status; angering maybe, but not surprised. Such flippant statements are made all the time by Indians I know. We can’t engage in a discourse about our country without using the word corrupt. It’s a word we’re famous for throwing around. So why not take a poke at the constitution as well?
As a disclaimer I must mention that the person whose status I referenced to is not one like one of the people I just described above. (my point was that such people do exist nonetheless) It was like I mentioned a manifestation of one’s lack of patriotism or dissatisfaction with certain elements of our state. Either way it ignited a full-blown argument, with back and forth comments on the status. Quite a constructive use of facebook in my opinion!
It wasn’t the usual uninformed ‘everything is corrupt in India’ babble, (though I have to admit there were some uncalled for remarks) but a constructive discussion, that was really pleasant for a change. There were remarks made on the Constitution and other politically and legally connected issues. We know that some of our state institutions aren’t well developed and that there are elements where corruption is rampant, yet the consensus was that the 471 paged document put together by our founding fathers, a defining moment for us, as members of what is today a sovereign, secular, federal, socialist republic, was a mockery.
The fact that the ‘secular’ part was only formally inserted during Indira Gandhi’s rule in 1970, perhaps itself demonstrates the extent of flexibility in the ability to amend the constitution. It also proves a point against those that dismissed the scope of amendments to our constitution. 94 amendments in 61 years were not simple grammar changes. Also one should note that simple word changes can also have a dramatic impact in legal practice; just think of ‘due process’ and the extent over which the insertion of this clause has been debated in our own country.
The history of our constitution has been a journey to say the least. From the numerous amendments,to the ongoing debate over the role of the judiciary and the parliament in upholding constitutional values, these episodes have brought into account some of the legal and political phenomena on which our nation operates. The implementation of the basic structure doctrine preserves the lifelong presence of certain liberties. And some of these are more than we can say for the rest of the South Asian context, many countries of which have not even had a singular constitution that has held together their state since their births. (Nepal has had 6 and Pakistan has had 3)
To say we have a long way to go is fair and largely accurate in my point of view. But to disregard that we’ve made it anywhere at all is unjust and in my view is simply a reflection of the myopic school of thought that sees everything through the lens that it is meaningless and corrupt. There’s more than that which holds a billion people of the worlds largest democracy together and it’s really up to us to realise that if we want to work for the betterment of our country. So here’s to 61 years since the world’s most promising constitution came into effect! Happy Republic Day, India!