The Preamble to the Constitution of India is a brief statement that highlights the values and principles of the Constitution and our Country. How far have we strayed from it though?
Thanks to the very first page of our NCERT Books, we are all familiar with the Preamble. Although the Preamble is a concept borrowed from the American Constitution, it highlights the essence of what came out of the Constituent Assembly debates. The debates concluded in making India, a Nation based on the principles of social justice and democracy.
Indian nationalism had always been inclusive, overcoming conflicting social identities for the overall development of the Nation. The Constitution laid down a strong foundation for a newly independent Nation, following the principles of social justice and inclusivity, and promoting the ideology of social liberalism. Despite this strong foundation, it seems somewhere along the line we all deviated from these principles.
The Preamble starts with the words Sovereign, Socialist, Secular, Democratic, and Republic. While India’s position as a socialist country is open to question, it is no secret that India has deviated from the belief of secularism. What had started way back through identity politics was only heightened during the Babri Masjid demolition and the Gujarat riots. The openly inflammatory speeches, mob-lynching, and the recently passed Citizenship (Amendment) Act are proofs all around us. On paper, India is also the world’s largest democracy. But can a Country, whose Government remains unavailable to questions and criticism on its policies and statements by its citizens, be called democratic?
The first thing the Preamble promises is Justice (social, economic, and political). Social Justice stands for eliminating all forms of exploitation and the presence of socially privileged classes from the society. But, exploitation of women, minorities, and the poor exists all around us- in manual labour, in manual scavenging, and in the very concept of working class. Economic justice stands for equitable distribution of wealth and economic equality, but recent reports say that the richest one per cent of the Country’s population, now holds 73 per cent of the Country’s wealth. Fortunately, the basic rights of universal adult suffrage and equal political participation are still secure.
The next thing the Preamble promises is Liberty (of thought, expression, belief, faith, and worship). The lack of this principle in practice is glaringly obvious. Thought and expression are accepted, only when it conforms to the ideals of the Government. Labels of ‘anti-national’ and ‘urban Naxal’ are quick to be attached to anyone and anything that raises a strong argument against the Government. Unsurprisingly, India’s rank on World Press Freedom Index is 140 out of 180. While the liberty of belief, faith, and worship do exist, believing in different Gods has now become a cause of enmity.
The third thing the Preamble promises is Equality (of status and opportunity). But, there’s discrimination on the basis of class, caste, religion, sex, gender, and colour in our daily lives. There is an outrageous gap between the privileged and the less privileged classes of society. While the Country also guarantees us, Rule of Law, a careful look at just the recent events in the Country speak more than enough. George Orwell’s famous words in his book Animal Farm, “All animals are equal. But some animals are more equal than others,” are intimidatingly accurate in the context of the country. The last thing the Preamble promises is Fraternity (assuring the dignity of the individual and the unity and integrity of the Nation). Fraternity, here, refers to a feeling of ‘brotherhood’, a brotherhood which gets clouded with communalism and casteism too often. Although, seeing the solidarity among the universities across the Nation against violence and police brutality in the university campuses, we hopefully haven’t diverged much from this principle.
Every day, it seems like this Country moves further away from light, and these complex terms- Justice, Equality, and Democracy- lose meaning to become mere ritualistic words. In these testing political times, we must not forget what our Constitution and our Country stand for. In these political times, we must not forget what we stand for.
Image Credits: Aditi Gutgutia for DU Beat