The Constitution of India should be seen as a work-in-progress – not because it has been amended ever so often by different governments but because it has been taken over by ‘we, the people’, repeatedly, especially since the 1990s. The ‘authorized’ interpreters of the Constitution and Law are no longer its sole interpreters. The continuous battles over its interpretation in the courts of law are only one way in which meaning is contested. But from the dalits reclaiming it as “Babasaheb’s Constitution” to the pathalgadi movement of the Jharkhand adivasis and finally as the banner of citizenship movement today, its meaning has been contested time and again in the streets and in villages.
It is customary, in most secular-nationalist and left-wing circles, to invoke the “great values of the national movement”, which is seen as synonymous with the “freedom struggle”, which in turn is reduced to the “anticolonial struggle”. On 15 August 1947, India attained Independence from colonial rule and on 26 January 1950, “we, the people of India” gave to ourselves the Constitution of India. The anticolonial struggle came to an end in August 1947 but that did not mean that all the currents that comprised the larger “freedom struggle” – the jang-e-azadi – got their freedom. We perhaps need to make a distinction today between the “freedom struggle” (that is still ongoing) and the “anticolonial nationalist” movement.
We need to state emphatically that the “freedom struggle” of different social groups is not – and never was – reducible to the “anticolonial struggle”. There were many different strands and currents that either functioned at a distance from mainstream nationalism , or even worked in opposition to it.
Continue reading The Constitution as the ‘Social Contract’ of Modern India
Guest Post by New Socialist Initiative
New Socialist Initiative Condemns Hindutva Engineered and Inspired Atrocities on Dalits
Hardly a day passes without headline news of some or another atrocity on Dalits. On 24 May, a Dalit man in the Ahmedabad district was beaten and his house attacked by a gang of socalled ‘upper’ caste men after he had attached Sinh to his name on his facebook post. On 21 May a dalit ragpicker was beaten to death in a Rajkot factory. Atrocities on Dalits are occurring in the midst of a public ideological environment against them. On 26 May news came of a private school in Delhi asking 8th class students to write a note on how reservations help undeserving and unqualified people for their summer vacation homework. According to National Crime Record Bureau reports for recent years, between 10 to 15 thousand cases of crimes are reported under the Prevention of Atrocities act every year; an average of 35 crimes per day. Many times more crimes actually go unreported. In 2016 Indian courts had over 45 thousand cases under this act. Out of the 4048 cases decided, conviction occurred in 659 cases only. That is, five out of six cases of atrocity against Dalits did not result in any punishment. The number of attacks against one of the weakest and the poorest sections of the society, and the abysmal rate of conviction would put any civilized society to shame, but India chugs along. Continue reading Statement on Atrocities on Dalits : New Socialist Initiative
In the midst of all the cacophony and shrill pseudo-nationalist rhetoric that is destroying the fabric of a plural India, often in the name of the Armed Forces, 114 veterans of the Indian Armed Forces have spoken out. They have spoken out in no uncertain terms against targeted attacks on Muslims and Dalits and against the attempts to destroy the Constitution – upon which arose the new, independent India.
An Open Letter from Veterans of the Armed Forces
To: the Prime Minister of India, Chief Ministers of the States, and Lieutenant-Governors of the Union Territories.
30 July, 2017
We are a group of Veterans of the Indian Armed Forces who have spent our careers working for the security of our country. Collectively, our group holds no affiliation with any single political party, our only common commitment being to the Constitution of India.
It saddens us to write this letter, but current events in India have compelled us to register our dismay at the divisiveness that is gripping our country. We stand with the ‘Not in My Name’ campaign that mobilised thousands of citizens across the country to protest against the current climate of fear, intimidation, hate and suspicion.
The Armed Forces stand for “Unity in Diversity”. Differences in religion, language, caste, culture or any other marker of belonging have not mattered to the cohesion of the Armed Forces, and servicemen of different backgrounds have fought shoulder to shoulder in the defence of our nation, as they continue to do today. Throughout our service, a sense of openness, justice and fair play guided our actions. We are one family. Our heritage is like the multi-coloured quilt that is India, and we cherish this vibrant diversity. Continue reading Armed Forces Veterans Speak Out – ‘Act Now to Uphold the Constitution’
..Everybody would agree that it is a challenging task to encapsulate a great wo/man’s vision in a few words- who as a public figure has impacted not only her/his generation but future generations, initiated or channelised debates in the society, led struggles, mobilised people, wrote thousands of pages and left a legacy for all of us to carry forward. …
To save time one can focus more on the last decade of his life – the most tumultuous period in his as well as the newly independent nation’s life – to know the important concerns which bothered his mind and how he envisioned the future trajectory of the movement he led and how he tried to chart a roadmap for the nascent nation with due support/cooperation and at times resistance from leading stalwarts of his time… Continue reading For A New Rendezvous With Dr Ambedkar – Focus on Last Decade of his Life
Mujadpur, a village in Haryana’s Hisar district, which has been in the news recently for what the government lexicon calls ‘dalit atrocities’, involving murders and ‘suicides’.
Recently, it was hit by another such incident, albeit of a less fatal nature: Members of the Jat community thrashed a dalit man called Ramdhari and his family members and stuffed cow dung in his mouth. Reportedly, Ramdhari installed a statue of BR Ambedkar in his house and that provoked the upper caste Jats.
The irony of this cannot be emphasised enough.
One does not know whether in an area dominated by the Jats, Ramdhari’s perpetrators have been arrested under provisions of the Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe Prevention of Atrocities Act (1989) or not.
Or has the incident been explained away in the light of some vague personal animosity, which is what happened when two children in Sunped were recently killed by throwing of inflammable material in their house by dominant castes.
As the nation begins another series of grand celebrations, this time to celebrate the contributions of BR Ambedkar, the plight of a dalit family for merely installing his statue stares at us in our eyes. It is symptomatic of the gap between the principles and values on which the Constitution is based and the situation on the ground.
Read the full text of the article here.
Without getting into questions of what should and should not be unlawful speech, this guest post by PRANESH PRAKASH chooses to take a look at how Indian law promotes arbitrary removal and blocking of websites, website content, and online services, and how it makes it much easier than getting offline printed speech removed.
Banning E-Books is Trivially Easy
E-Books Are Easier To Ban Than Books, And Safer
Contrary to what Mr. Sibal’s recent hand-wringing at objectionable online material might suggest, under Indian laws currently in force it is far easier to remove material from the Web, by many degrees of magnitude, than it is to ever get them removed from a bookstore or an art gallery. To get something from a bookstore or an art gallery one needs to collect a mob, organize collective outrage and threats of violence, and finally convince either the government or a magistrate that the material is illegal, thereby allowing the police to seize the books or stop the painting from being displayed. The fact of removal of the material will be noted in various records, whether in government records, court records, police records or in newspapers of record.
By contrast, to remove something from the Web, one needs to send an e-mail complaining about it to any of the string of ‘intermediaries’ that handle the content: the site itself, the web host for the site, the telecom companies that deliver the site to your computer/mobile, the web address (domain name) provider, the service used to share the link, etc. Under the ‘Intermediary Guidelines Rules’ that have been in operation since 11th April 2011, all such companies are required to ‘disable access’ to the complained-about content within thirty-six hours of the complaint. It is really that simple.
Continue reading How India Makes E-books Easier to Ban than Books (And How We Can Change That): Pranesh Prakash