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“We, The People…!”

“We, The People…!”

In 1999, when the then BJP Government in Gujarat, tried to survey the minority communities there, Justice M.R. Calla of the Gujarat High Court, in a Common Oral Order dated 16/02/99 of Special Civil Application 1000 of 1999 stated, “In the opinion of this Court gone are the days of laissez-faire when there used to be criminal tribes or the days of regimentation when there used to be law relating to criminal tribes. Once this country has adopted the Constitution, we have to abide by the same, which is the fountain source of law.  No part of the Constitution permits any sort of classification of criminals on any communal basis.  A criminal is a criminal, whether he is a Muslim, a Hindu, a Sikh, or a Christian.  A criminal has no caste or community and, therefore, if any survey or census is to be made or any information is sought to be gathered with regard to the survey or census or the move to seek information may be, as a part of routine exercise, cannot be based on a communal footing. Here the messages clearly show that they have been issued with reference to the communities such as Christians or Muslims.  In any case, such exercise cannot proceed with orientation based on a creed or community. May it be a routine exercise for any purpose including the purpose of collecting information on the items mentioned in the fax messages in question, there cannot be a religion or community wise classification to identify the criminals, from amongst the members of the Indian society.”    The survey was immediately withdrawn.

In reality however, precious little has changed over the years both in Gujarat and since 2014, at the National level. The BJP and their stooges continue their nefarious anti-Constitutional activities with impunity. On 23 November, the ‘Ahmedabad Mirror’ in a front-page exclusive exposed how the Gujarat Government was demanding that through an online form minority students appearing for the Stds. X and XII had first to identify themselves if they were Muslim or not. The hackles of several have been raised in the State, but it is left to be seen if the Gujarat Government will actually withdraw this anti-Constitutional form.

Last October, in the wake of the Supreme Court ruling to allow young women entry into the Sabrimala Temple, the BJP national president Amit Shah not merely questioned the judgement but in fact defended the practice of keeping women out. The UP Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath has gone on a city name-changing spree with clear prejudicial overtones against the Muslims of the country. His comments and those of some others, regarding the Supreme Court’s statement on the Babri Masjid, should warrant immediate arrest.

That the current political dispensation is doing all they can to negate the essence of the Constitution of India is without doubt. BJP ministers and functionaries have gone on record saying that once they have the pre-requisite numbers in Parliament, they will have no qualms of conscience, to abrogate some of the key dimensions very particularly those relating to secularism and to equal rights  for all. There have been lofty proclamations of the establishment of a ‘Hindu State’ by 2020; the annihilation of the minorities particularly the Muslims and Christians. There is talk of a ‘Common Civil Code’; that the rights of the minorities have to be abolished. The words ‘secular’ and ‘socialist’ have to be deleted from the Preamble.

The Judiciary has the responsibility to safeguard the Constitution. There have certainly been some landmark judgements. However, last January four senior most judges of the Supreme Court (including Justice Ranjan Gogoi, currently the Chief Justice of India) held an unprecedented Press Conference asserting that unless things are set in order and that the Government stops interfering in the judiciary, “democracy will not survive in the country!” The way the Government procrastinated on the appointment of Justice K. M. Joseph to the Supreme Court, (because he did not give a favourable judgement to the BJP as the Chief Justice of the Uttarakhand High Court), is a textbook example.

The Government has not only tried to interfere in the Judiciary, but spares no effort to destroy the independence of other Constitutional and statutory bodies. The Election Commission of India is today very different from what it once was. Hate speeches by the BJP candidates and fraudulent voting practices are just ignored. The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) has become a ‘caged parrot’ because of the inclination of the CBI Director to open investigations into the dubious Rafale fighter jet deal and the apparent corruption by the Ambanis. The Reserve Banking of India (RBI) is browbeaten to bend backwards to cater to the whims and fancies of a Government that has sent the country into an economic spiral downwards!

Media the fourth pillar of democracy is made impotent. Only a handful of those in the electronic and print media will dare take on the Government today. Other important bodies, like the Information Commission, have been made toothless and filled only with their pliable henchmen!

The visionary Dr B.R. Ambedkar, the father of our Constituent Assembly was perhaps prophetic when he said, Will history repeat itself? It is this thought, which fills me with anxiety. This anxiety is deepened by the realisation of the fact that in addition to our old enemies in the form of castes and creeds, we are going to have many political parties with diverse and opposing political creeds. Will Indians place the country above their creed or above their country? I do not know, but this much is certain that if the parties place creed above country, our independence will be put in jeopardy a second time and probably be lost forever. This eventuality we all must resolutely guard against. We must be determined to defend our independence with the last drop of our blood!”

On 26 November, the country will observe yet another ‘Constitution Day’, the day on which in 1949 the Constituent Assembly adopted and gave to the people of India a landmark Constitution. In keeping with the opening words of the Preamble “ We, the People of India”, the people of India must now rise as one and in the ensuing elections of 2019, show the door to the anti-Constitutional elements of the country!

* ( Fr Cedric Prakash SJ is a human rights activist. Contact: cedricprakash@gmail.com)              

(Published on 26th November 2018, Volume XXX, Issue 48)