Unfolding Debate about Secularising Education
( To be published in ‘Indian Journal of Secularism)
“There is in every village a torch – the teacher; and an extinguisher – the priest.”
“Keep the words God, Jesus and the devil out of the classroom.”
A school teacher’s message on the first day of the school for first-grade students had caused tremendous consternation among a section of the parents.
She had a simple rationale to present her proposal. With their being a public school with children coming from different religions and beliefs joining it, she did not “[w]ant to upset a child/parent because of these words being used,” In her letter she had also advised them to talk to the children when they go to the church/temple/synagogue – whatever might be the case – or discuss the issue at home at an appropriate time and place of talking about it.” (https://www.indystar.com/story/news/education/2017/08/30/teacher-tells-first-graders-dont-talk-god-classroom/612118001/)
Well, instead of the discussion getting fixed on the slow imposition of the concept of God or closing of child’s minds it turned into a debate on students’ free speech rights. It did not take much time for the management of the school to rescind this proposal.
There is nothing new about this dilemma faced by a teacher who has welfare of students at the center of her/his concerns. Continue reading God in the Classroom!
The following petition initiated by Prasenjit Bose appeals to the Supreme Court to reconsider the verdict in the case regarding Judge Loya’s death. Since the launch of the petition, over 527 persons have already signed it. A list of 40 prominent signatories is provided below. A hard copy of the petition along with the total list of signatories will be sent to the Supreme Court judges once we collect thousand plus signatures. The petition can be signed here.
The Hon’ble Chief Justice
& His Companion Justices,
The Supreme Court of India
Most Respectfully Sheweth:
We the undersigned citizens of India are deeply anguished by the order passed by a three judge bench of the Supreme Court that there is no merit in the writ petitions seeking an Inquiry into the death of Justice Brijgopal Harkishan Loya on December 1, 2014 at Nagpur.
The three judge bench has concluded that the documentary material on the record indicates that the death of Judge Loya was due to natural causes and that there is no ground for reasonable suspicion about the cause or circumstances of death which would merit a further inquiry. Continue reading Petition to Supreme Court Urging Verdict in Judge Loya Case
Guest Post by MOIZ TUNDAWALA
“ … . however good a Constitution may be, it is sure to turn out bad because those who are called to work it, happen to be a bad lot. However bad a Constitution may be, it may turn out to be good if those who are called to work it, happen to be a good lot. The working of a Constitution does not depend wholly upon the nature of the Constitution. The Constitution can provide only the organs of State such as the Legislature, the Executive and the Judiciary. The factors on which the working of those organs of the State depend are the people and the political parties they will set up as their instruments to carry out their wishes and their politics.”
[Dr. Bhimrao Amdedkar]
These observations of Babasaheb Ambedkar, made on the 25th of November, 1949, one day before the Constitution was finally adopted after three years worth of labour, should suffice for anyone who dismisses Modi skeptics as excessive scare mongers. As a second year law student in 2006-07, I couldn’t quite understand why our revered constitutional law teacher Prof. M.P. Singh would keep reiterating these sentiments in class, something which I thought was so axiomatic it did not need emphases. With only a few days left for the outcome of what is being called an election for the soul of India, I now realize the wisdom underlying those constant reminders, especially in a law school converted by the culture and priorities of its students into a factory churning out smart but unreflective products for the corporate sector. I think those of us who find Modi problematic, but would still vote him in for the lure of the promised economic miracle, while at the same time consoling ourselves with the talk of sufficiently robust political institutions capable of surviving any onslaught, must listen to Ambedkar carefully. The Constitution is an artefact, a human creation, constantly needing ‘good people’ at the helm to work it out. If nothing else, resistance to Modi’s rise to power is at least resistance against the enthronement of ‘bad people’, who deep down have only harboured contempt for the Constitution as a foreign document.
Continue reading Some Reflections on the neutrality of political institutions and the project of making Modi more palatable: Moiz Tundawala
Dear fellow citizens
Sixty seven years ago, independent India adopted a democratic constitution that created a platform for equality and justice by ensuring the participation of all. Our constitution-makers were concerned to maintain a secular society free from any divisions of caste, sect and religion.
What has become of that vision? A large part of the population lives in extreme poverty. Millions of Indians are denied their fundamental rights. There are strong linkages amongst powerful capitalists, biased officials and unscrupulous political representatives. The political system is in danger of being taken over and run for the benefit of the rich, rather than for the vast bulk of the Indian people. Communal forces of all colours thrive in our society. Their growth has been evident since the Delhi carnage of 1984. Biased behavior has appeared in the media, police, bureaucracy and executive. We are witnessing the criminalisation of the state. One example of this is the operation of private armies all over the country.
The Sixteenth Lok Sabha elections are an opportunity for us to preserve democracy. The RSS has emerged as a direct participant, discarding its ‘cultural’ mask. Continue reading Appeal to all Voters to Protect Democracy – People’s Alliance for Democracy and Secularism
Guest post by APURV MISHRA
The Roman legalist Julius Paulus once said that, “One who contravenes the intention of a statute without disobeying its actual words, commits a fraud on it.” With the model code of conduct declared on Wednesday, the country was spared the possibility of a fresh round of ordinances that would have amounted to yet another fraud on the constitution by the UPA government. Believers in constitutionalism, for whom a constitutional impropriety is as disturbing as a blatantly unconstitutional act, can now breathe a temporary sigh of relief.
The phrase “fraud on the constitution” is not of my own making. It was used by the Supreme Court in a case that at once represents the best and worst of Indian polity. Between 1967 and 1981, the governor of Bihar promulgated an astonishing 256 ordinances which were kept alive for up to 14 years, including a fateful day on which 50 ordinances were passed at one go. The state assembly meanwhile, passed only 189 Acts in the same period. This was a brazen disregard for the basic structure of our constitution of which “separation of power” is an essential component- a simple and intuitive scheme where the legislature makes laws after careful deliberations and the executive branch of the government implements them.
It required two extraordinary individuals to put an end to this “complete nonsense”- Dr D C Wadhwa, who meticulously collected data on the systematic abuse of power by the Bihar government at grave personal cost and then-Chief Justice of India P N Bhagwati, who delivered an outstanding judgment (on the PIL filed by Dr Wadhwa ) which stated in no uncertain terms that the power to promulgate an ordinance is essentially an emergency power to be used to meet an extraordinary situation and “it cannot be allowed to be perverted to serve political ends.” Continue reading A Temporary Respite from Ordinance Raj: Apurv Mishra
Call given by VARIOUS CITIZENS GROUPS
As we commemorate another Republic Day, We The People proclaim that the parade of the powerful at Rajpath does not represent us. We The People, Reclaim our Republic.
As members of the LGBT community, women, workers, sex workers, students, teachers, activists, persons with disabilities, health rights activists, Dalits, indigenous people, farmers, those affected by unconstitutional military rule, we are united not as “minorities” or “others,” but as the people. We invoke the promises of the Constitution of India in our name. Our struggle will continue until all arms of the state are unwavering in their constitutional promises towards the marginalized in our society, rather than only representing the powerful.
Continue reading We The People, Reclaim the Republic: Various Citizens Groups
The notification of the Information Technology (Intermediaries Guidelines) Rules 2011 in April 2011 has resulted in the creation of a mechanism whereby intermediaries (such as Google, Facebook, Yahoo, etc) receive protection from legal liability in return for trading away the freedom of expression and privacy of users.
The Rules demand that intermediaries, on receiving a complaint that any content posted online is considered grossly harmful, harassing, blasphemous, defamatory, obscene, pornographic, paedophilic, libelous, invasive of another’s privacy, hateful, or racially, ethnically objectionable, disparaging, relating or encouraging money laundering or gambling, or otherwise unlawful in any manner, have to disable the content within 36 hours of receipt of complaint. The rules also require the intermediaries to provide the Government agencies information of users without any safeguards.
Continue reading Press Release Against IT 2011 Rules