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Ideas of a Republic

Political grandstanding, parades, rallies, and yatras might be par for the political course of action.

Ideas of a Republic
Visual from the 74th Republic Day celebrations held in Chennai.

NEW DELHI: In the backdrop of India’s 74th Republic Day celebrations, it seems timely to examine how India has stuck to the ideals enshrined in the Constitution of India, drafted by a committee headed by Dr Bhimrao Ambedkar, a Dalit scholar more than seven decades ago.

Among the flurry of inspirational messages that flood social media on observances such as these, one of the forwards included a digitally altered version of the Preamble to the Constitution.

The changes to the document, which begins with the iconic line, ‘We, the People’, are only cosmetic.

However, its highlights – which guarantee social, economic and political justice to all citizens, as well as liberty of thought, expression, belief, faith and worship have come under fire from all quarters over the past few years.

Last week, we witnessed yet another episode of inhumanity perpetrated against individuals hailing from socio-economically underserved communities.

In Budaun district, Uttar Pradesh, a 10-year-old Dalit boy was allegedly murdered by a group of upper caste Hindu men over a property dispute. The child’s lifeless body was hung from a tree in plain sight.

Similarly, in August 2022, a nine year old schoolboy in Rajasthan was thrashed to death by a school teacher.

The student’s crime was to have drunk water from a pot reserved for upper-caste teachers.

The indignation heaped on members of the Harijan community shows no signs of abating.

A month after the Rajasthan incident, two teenage Dalit sisters, who lived in Lakhimpur-Kheri, UP were raped and murdered, and their bodies hung from treetops.

While there were six arrests made in this case, the probability that such crimes of caste discrimination won’t recur is next to zero.

Even here in Tamil Nadu, in September 2022, a shopkeeper and a village head were arrested on account of the former refusing to sell his snacks and candies to Dalit children.

That such incidents are part of our daily social narrative 75 years after independence is shameful.

The pillar upholding social justice is already crumbling, while the foundation of our reputation as a nation that champions freedom of thought, expression and speech seems weak beyond repair.

During the past few weeks, news media have been summing up the implications of the release of a documentary that showcases the PM in an unflattering light.

The Centre has employed the collective might of its political arsenal to snuff out the ‘offensive’ work of reportage from every possible channel.

Simultaneously, a war is being waged against the purveyors of democracy across India.

Journalists and fact checkers are being arbitrarily imprisoned on trumped up charges levelled by the so-called guardians of the nation, who view every contrarian perspective as anti-Indian.

Artistes are being trolled for their outpourings. A new mandate pertaining to the take-down of articles ‘fact-checked’ by the Press Information Bureau and deemed as misinformation is the new headache to assault traditional news media.

Political grandstanding, parades, rallies, and yatras might be par for the political course of action.

One might even argue that the appointment of India’s first tribal woman President is a sign of change. But such tokenisms aside, it is imperative that those in charge of running the country recognise there is more to nation-building than vacuous exhibitions of jingoism and inclusivity disguised as patriotism and representation. It’s essential that we attempt to put the public at the centre of the Republic.

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