The Constitution: If at all we need to inculcate the fundamental duties, the first should be to appreciate and honour the culture of inclusive nationalism
To mark the 70th Constitution Day, the office of the President and the Governor made a choice to celebrate the otherwise sidelined chapter on ‘fundamental duties’ (Article 51A) inserted by the 42nd amendment (1976) to the Constitution of India. The preamble is the soul of the Constitution, the fundamental rights symbolizes the main edifice, the entire episode on directive principles of state policy represents the social heart and the three together epitomizes the vision for Bharat. To borrow a popularized slogan of Swami Vivekananda, it’s the roadmap for India to ‘awake, arise and stop not till the goal is reached’.
The picking of ‘fundamental duties’ curriculum to influence the nationwide discourse on the Constitution Day cannot be without an agenda. At the national level official program, President Kovind quoted Mahatma Gandhi “The true source of rights is duty”. Almost on the same day Pragya Singh Thakur better known as Sadhavi Pragya, Member of Parliament belonging to the BJP and darling of affiliate organizations such as the RSS referred to the killer of the Mahatma as a true nationalist on the floor of Lok Sabha. Many BJP political leaders and loyal soldiers are known to appreciate this stand as this is the milk which forms their feeding bottle from the earlier formative years with the Sangh. A debate and review on rights and freedoms is natural on a day to commemorate the adoption of the Constitution which resulted in the institutionalization of political, economic and social ideology. But, the ruling Executive opened a different page for obvious reasons.
Any other talk on the Constitution would have drawn flak for the government whose actions along with the policing of the loyal fringe groups has been to threaten freedom of speech, expression and choice. Jail for political opponents is touted as rule which surprisingly is getting the blessings of the courts. The constitutional institution of the Governor has been compromised by the occupants of office. Their prejudiced and partisan functioning stands exposed. The Constitution has been under continuous attack in the recent years and the swing is towards the regressive past. Whether it is the scheme of protective discrimination or the idea of a composite secular republic enshrined in the Constitution, both develop ulcers in leaders and followers of the current ruling dispensation.
Five images storm the mind whilst recollecting the philosophy and ideology that got enshrined in the preamble, the fundamental rights and the directive principles of state policy of the Indian Constitution. The resonating quote “wipe every tear from every eye”, invariably described as the Mahatma Gandhi’s talisman. The inspiring lines of Tagore in his memorable poem “Where the Mind Is without Fear” beseeching the country to awake into that heaven of freedom. The authentic leadership of Pandit Nehru and the midnight Tryst with Destiny speech elucidating what light and freedom means to India. The historic Dandi protest as an act of non-violent civil disobedience. And finally, a heart-broken Gandhi on hunger strike at Noakhali praying for sanity amidst communal frenzy and killings following the Partition.
The Constitution draws from the legacy of the past. History records that India has assimilated and absorbed Hinduism, Islam, Christianity, the teachings of Lord Mahavir, Buddha, Guru Nanak and a long battery of saints preaching humanism beyond religion. History is a testimony of the liberal tradition of the land. The past is a witness to the rise and fall of empires and dynasties. India is a tale of consensus amidst contradictions. The strong currents of nationalism and the unified freedom struggle are also interspersed with equally muscular waves of linguistic regionalism, communalism and caste divide. The people prepared to stand together for political freedom were less equipped to accept economic cum social freedom and equality. Freedom to such groups meant only independence from the British Raj. English education was instrumental to sweep the elite with the tidings of democracy, liberty and justice whereas a sea of humanity stayed drowned in tradition, fatalism and superstition. Pre-independent India sanctioned untouchability and considered education of girls as a cultural crime and religious sin. We come from the times wherein even the shadow of a widow was considered as bad omen. They were the times where the birth determined the occupation and social status.
Fortunately, that was also the age when politics attracted the best in the community. It was the consensus which filtered the best for the People of India following sharp differences, hot debates and clash of opinions. The words of Pandit Nehru says it all “A time comes when we have to rise above party and think of nation, think sometimes of even the world at large of which our nation is a great part”.
The ideology that binds all the provisions of the Constitution is of inclusive nationalism. Knowing that we have over 1650 spoken languages, the approach was towards language pluralism by bringing the subject under the State List and provision of the Eighth Schedule. Religious neutrality of the State and minority rights restored the balance in a nation comprising 82% Hindus and the rest following other faiths. Similarly, the effective assimilation of SC/ST required special provisions including special treatment of OBCs to answer centuries of economic backwardness and social exploitation.
If at all we need to inculcate the fundamental duties, the first should be to appreciate and honor the culture of inclusive nationalism. The allegiance to the nation should be nothing else other than constitutional nationalism. Abstract patriotism without the context of the Constitution is disastrous and mad jingoism. Saluting the National Flag and rising up for the National Anthem, though necessary is at best an exercise in tokenism. Respecting the constitutional framework and adhering to constitutional ethics is positive nationalism.