Tuesday, January 26, 2016

The Republic Day, January 26

India became a Republic on January 26, 1950 on promulgation of the Constitution of India. The day is celebrated as the Republic Day, a national holiday. I take this opportunity to congratulate my fellow citizens and wish them a Happy Republic Day.

January 26, Republic Day, is an important day in the journey of
Republic Day Parade at Rajpath at New Dehi
contemporary India. We have come a long way in this journey. It is a matter of great satisfaction, to my mind, that in spite of many problems pertaining to religious and cultural diversity and caste ridden society and also illiteracy and poverty, the constitution could withstand and face the challenges and succeeded in guiding us in our “tryst with destiny”.  It is a tribute to our founding fathers, particularly to Babasaheb Ambedkar, father of the Indian constitution. In commemoration of the constitution, Government of PM Narendra Modi rightly decided to observe November 26 as the Constitution Day. “We the people of India” enacted, adopted and gave ourselves the constitution in the Constituent Assembly on November 26, 1949. Some of the speeches and interventions made by the MPs both in the Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha were worth listening to rededicate ourselves to the lofty ideals and philosophy enshrined in the constitution.

Of late, some of the issues of importance and concern which
Flag hoisting at Siver Residency at Jalandhar
engaged the attention of the governments, the political parties and the civil society really require in depth debate and decision to meet the challenges in the journey of the Indian Republic. Let us try to find and identify these issues. Two such issues emanate from the preamble of the constitution – the words secular and socialist. In their own wisdom, and I think rightly so, the constitution makers did not include these two contentious words in the preamble. They justified their conscious thinking, particularly by Dr. B.R. Ambedkar who piloted the constitution and replied to the debates, on the subject. There was no problem. The provisions of the constitution amply made the Indian Republic secular and socialist in spirit without the mention of these words. Subsequently, the Government of PM Indira Gandhi inserted these words in the preamble by an amendment in 1974 recommended by the Swaran Singh Committee. It was a shortsighted decision, according to many constitutional experts and political scientists and practicing politicians and administrators. Till date, these two words i.e. secular and socialist remain symbols of contention generating avoidable heat and strife in the polity and society. Let us admit and accept that India is a secular and socialist state and should remain so. We are a pluralistic society of social, religious and cultural diversity. There is no other way but to remain secular and socialist with a sense of “unity in diversity”.  The principles of state policy stipulated in the constitution are equally important as fundamental rights. Implementation of these principles will help in establishing the socialist and egalitarian spirit of the constitution. The goals of justice, equality, liberty and fraternity so thoughtfully visualized could only be achieved if the society comes out of the manuwadi mindset and endeavors to bring about a casteless society on one hand and fair treatment of the minorities and other marginalized segments of the society. There is no need to invoke the majoritarian point of view. There has been a long debate on intolerance recently. We shall mend our thinking and allow a sense of accommodation and understanding to prevail. No more Rohith Vemulas should be compelled to commit suicide. There is no place for narrow nationalism and re-writing of history. The question of reservations for the socially and educationally neglected sections of the society, particularly dalits should be addressed with compassion and understanding. We must understand these suppressed people have suffered social and political tyranny for centuries. It will take some time to bring them at par with the rest of the society. The claim to merit sounds very good but let us first provide a level playing field and equal opportunity and also equal economic leverage to these marginalized people and then talk of merit. They are no more ready to keep bearing the burden of manuwadi system of graded inequality. On the political front, we are a democratic country and that too the largest democracy of the world. But the political parties and the politicians, it seems, could not stand up to the expectations and requirements of a sound and pragmatic edifice which is needed to sustain the system. Our political outfits could not evolve and bring about polarization of political forces on the basis of ideology and programme. There is no difference among the parties like SP, JDU, RJD, NCP, TMC, BSP, among others. Only names are different. All of these have a limited and narrow agenda with self centered people at the helm. The regional parties like DMK, AIDMK, Akali Dal, BJD, Shiv Sena, National Conference, LJP etc. tend to generate and support divisive fissiparous tendencies which go against the underlying current of unity. Is it not possible to contain these political outfits to their respective regions? I don’t know how it could be done. But I think that these regional parties may not be permitted to contest Lok Sabha elections. It will bring in much needed stability and cohesion at the centre. In any case the views and representation of the states is assured in the Rajya Sabha. Last but not the least, it will be in order, if some guiding rules and directions to stage and demonstrate democratic public protest, are made. Right from the tehsil level to districts and the state capitals and also the national capital at New Delhi, some places and venues may be identified and fixed for such protests. There is no harm in regulating these erratic activities which put the common man to unnecessary inconvenience and damage to public property and peace. Babasaheb Ambedkar rightly warned that there was no place for unconstitutional methods to express democratic protest and disagreement. He termed it as “Grammar of Anarchy”. The same regulations may also be applicable to religious shoba yatras and processions. These tend to generate unnecessary social heat leading to tension and avoidable violence. These are some of the stray thoughts which could be considered to make our Republic glorious and a happy place to live.

With this let me close by quoting the worries of Dr. B.R. Ambedkar which he expressed on November 26, 1949 in his last speech in the Constituent Assembly. He said, “On the 26th January, 1950, India would be a democratic country in the sense that India from that day would have a government of the people, by the people and for the people. The same thought comes to my mind. What would happen to her democratic constitution?  Will she be able to maintain it or will she lose it again? This is the second thought that comes to my mind and makes me as anxious as the first.” Let us put at rest the anxieties expressed by our forefathers by adhering to the constitution and constitutional methods to safeguard and ensure further progress and prosperity of our country.



On Republic Day, the Tricolour will be unfurled by our President in the national capital, by Governors in the state capitals, by Collectors in their district headquarters. The national anthem will be played or sung to salutes given and taken. “Jai Hind” will resound across the country in varying tones of patriotic self-persuasion.

But what should drown all these sounds and sights is “Jai Bheem”, the two-word salutation with which Rohith signs off his ‘letter’.

Does it invoke Babasaheb Bhimrao Ambedkar? Of course it does. Does it castigate our times? Of course it does. Does it speak for Dalit India? But of course!


Extract from an article from The Tribune of January 26, 2016 written by Gopal Krishan Gandhi, Professor of History at Ashoka University

Friday, January 22, 2016

Suicide of Rohith Vemula

The suicide of Rohith Vemula, a dalit PhD. student at Hyderabad
Central University is currently engaging the entire country and rightly so. It is a shameful tragedy which requires universal condemnation and immediate introspection both by the society and the government. But it seems that many of the stake-holders are merely doing a lip service to safe-guard their vested interests. They are not interested in addressing the root cause of the problem and the causes which led Rohith to take this extreme step. It is certain that the death of Rohith will haunt the society and the establishment in the years to come and polarize the society further which would not be good for the country and its polity.

The BJP government, BJP and its affiliates and masters in ABVP and RSS respectively are trying their best to control the damage caused by defending the alleged culprits belonging to the Hindutva forces and the university authorities. The opposition political outfits are interested in exploiting the situation to corner the government for political and electoral gains. The media and intelligentsia are equally divided and have not displayed any objective criteria to address the issues involved to ward off such unfortunate incidents in the future. The society at large, particularly the upper castes, is not, it seems, perturbed at all endorsing the saying “only the wearer knows where the shoe is pinching”. Dalits all over India seem to be extremely agitated with the happenings in Hyderabad and the protests are gaining pan-India involvement. It seems to me that the death of Rohith Vemula is potent enough to trigger the avoidable sequence of untoward happenings which could be detrimental to the unity of the country and integration of the society. The dalits are increasingly getting charged and perturbed with the changing ground realities. They are no more ready to sit and suffer humiliation and indignities heaped on them by the manuwadi society. Perhaps, this newly gained status and mindset by the suffering masses is not finding acceptance with the oppressors. They find it difficult to accept and associate them as equals. This conflict of interests is all set to gain further strength which may result in all out confrontation. Let us do something concrete to address the issues before it is too late to ward off the warning of the leader of the Congress Malik Arjun Khadge when he spoke of “bloodshed” in the recent debate in the Lok Sabha.

The pain of the dalit intelligentsia is writ large in the suicide note and other communications of Rohith Vemula. It is good and fortunate that Babasaheb Ambedkar, by upbringing, education and conviction, believed in the Buddhist philosophy of peace and harmony. He advised his followers and the suffering humanity and also the country to follow the constitutional means to make our democratic setup to work. Dr. Ambedkar warned that if the political democracy is not transformed into social and economic democracy, the people who are suffering from these inequalities and living life of drudgery will tear off the system and throw it out. A casteless society is the first step towards that end. But unfortunately, the Indian society is not ready to accept this. The upper castes want to have the cake and eat it too. It is no more tenable. The ensuing conflict and strife can lead to a situation which would put our country into further difficulties. We must consider and realize this, the sooner the better.

मेरे  आँसू देख कर हंसा करो;
यह वह आंसू हैं जिस से तख्ते  सुल्तानी बदलती है !


 The last message of Rohith Vemula to his associates in Ambedkar Students Association (ASA) –

To ASA family, sorry for disappointing all of you. You loved me very much. I wish all the very best for the future. For one last time, Jai Bheem