November 26m 2021 is 72nd Constitution Day
(Professor Madabhushi Sridhar)
The Preamble of Indian Constitution has assumed great importance and relevance recently due to the unconstitutional measures of the governments, and people started reciting it as symbol of protest. Since 2020, the public readings of the Preamble besides becoming popular as a form of protest and a reminder to the government to adhere to the principles enshrined in the Constitution. Scores of protests and programmes to resist the CAA have been marked by protesters holding up copies of the Constitution and public readings of the Preamble. That way the Preamble has transformed from text to socially dynamic statement.
The objective behind reading the preamble was to “instill confidence among crores of people across India that our Constitution says the country is secular and a democratic republic”. “The CAA when combined with NRC (National Register of Citizens) becomes a lethal combination as the amendment to it excludes one particular community. It is discriminatory and arbitrary to do so. The Constitution did not allow anyone, including the government, to divide or distinguish its citizens on the basis of religions and hence what is being done is wrong. The new law, which grants Indian citizenship to Hindus, Christians, Sikhs, Buddhists, Parsis and Jain refugees from Pakistan, Afghanistan and Bangladesh who entered India on or before December 31, 2014.
Reclaiming the nationalism
When the agitators who opposed the Citizenship Act Amendments CAA, by reciting the Preamble, the Government slapped various criminal charges including sedition, arrested several protestors and strongly opposed their bail petitions. In that context, Noble winning Musician T M Krishna says: “The most stunning moments in the protests for me was that every day young people were collecting in public places and reading the Preamble and they were reading it in so many languages—in Tamil, Malayalam, Hindi, Urdu, you name it.” “For the first time, I saw the Preamble coming out of a textbook and being embodied in an act of questioning.
It is in fact just a piece of paper with words, but they became an act that gave meaning to the protests. The people are reclaiming the relevance of those words. They are reading Preamble with national anthem. Krishna further says: “When you hear the Preamble back to back with the national anthem, then you read the anthem differently. You realize that our culture and our Constitution embody the same values—of a universality of humanity and empathy for each other. There is nothing here to thump one’s chest about. Nothing aggressive about who we are, just inclusive in a gently assertive way”. Thus, the Preamble itself becomes a social movement. This proved that the ideas can travel from a book into the minds of people, shaping their attitudes and behavior; they can flow into streets and schools and become a social movement. There were demonstrations throughout the nation seeking repeal of CAA and also the withdrawal of three antifarmer laws.
Preamble recitation is a social movement rediscovering for society the democratic values. The youth, lawyers, and politicians are recognized that the Preamble’s message is more relevant than ever before. It became an iconic feature of anti-CAA demonstrations across the country. Throughout the gathering, national flags flew high.
Students have read out the Preamble, especially after the crackdowns on protests in educational institutes including Delhi’s Jamia Millia Islamia, Aligarh Muslim University, Lucknow’s Darul Uloom Nadwatul Ulama, Darul Uloom Deoband, and Hyderabad’s Osmania University and the Maulana Azad National Urdu University. Burqa-wearing students have broken stereotypes and turned out in streets to defend constitutional values.
The Preamble was inscribed into the walls of the dargah of the Sufi mystic Shah Makhdoom Fakih Ali at Mahim in Mumbai. A senior advocate Elizabeth Seshadri, part of a rally of Madras High Court lawyers and law students in January, said: “As lawyers, we fight every day in court on the basis of the Constitution. And when this Constitution, the very fundamentals [sic] of our society, is threatened, we can no longer stay quiet.”
An impromptu gathering of advocates on the Supreme Court lawns on January 7, 2020 saw them read out the Preamble in defence of our constitutional values. On January 20, lawyers at a protest at the Bombay High Court read out the Preamble to underline its message of equality irrespective of religion. At the Delhi High Court, lawyers recited the Preamble on 25 January, the eve of Republic Day.
The people are recalling that the Preamble highlights our fundamental values as citizens, as Indians – not as Hindus or Muslims or others. Its importance is being realised by different sections of our society. In comprehending the constitutional meaning of citizenship, the protesters have understood that the Preamble protects the rights of citizens irrespective of their religious identity.
With this change, the Government also understood the importance of Preamble and gave directives to various departments to erect Preamble Walls in their Ministries, while several state Governments in 2020 made recitation of preamble a must in morning assemblies. However, Corona Virus has affected this program. (Author is Dean, Mahindra Law University, Hyderagad)