Monday, January 25, 2010

Beginning with Dadu….

Half a century has passed since Indian Constitution is in operation. It has some very attractive characteristics of focus to be adopted by all the segments of Indian Society. The Constitutions’ resolve to construct India as Sovereign Socialist Secular Democratic Republic is very essence in a way it then unfolds though 395 articles, Twelve Schedules. In theory all these is meant to provide justice – social, economic and political; Liberty of thought, expression, belief, faith and worship; Equality of status and opportunity; promotion of Fraternity assuring the dignity of the individual and the unity and integrity of the nation.

No doubt that this is one of the most amazing experiments in democracy in the World that has continued ever since adoption of Constitution on 26th November 1949. Various dynamics of caste, class and religions has unfolded themselves in this complex matrix over the past half century. This amazing nature of transformation of various categories has been jostling with each other for something very powerful – expression and liberation of its people. Number of movements has gripped this country- movements are as varied and diverse from Telangana movement soon after Independence in 1940s to demand for separate Telangana State that has reached its boiling point in 2010. Peasants expressed loudly. People suppressed with aid of institutional violence of caste too have articulated remarkably. In fact Dr.Ambedkar who chaired the Constitutional Assembly that drafted the Constitution of Indian was dedicated advocate of liberation of suppressed castes. His dedicated efforts for the liberation of suppressed castes that came to be referred as Dalit, led to his sharp and sustained differences with Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi.

The efforts and energy that went into the drafting and accepting the Constitution to India are huge and well known from the records available in constitutional debates. The next stage has been the working of the Constitution of India for the past over 60 years. Constitution of India by itself is huge step towards liberation of People of India in relative sense. Considering the complexity of the nation it has never been easy for constitution to come alive on its own without organized efforts from various sources; sometimes State agencies, sometimes public spirited organizations, and sometimes courageous individuals determined to put the words in the constitution in practice. The State as an agency bound by the Constitution of India often tended to transgress and indulge in violations of the Constitutional mandates including the Fundamental Rights and Directive Principles of State Policy. The legal enforcements of Fundamental Rights has been left to judiciary particularly at higher levels that do not too often is accessible to the poor and the common people unless they are organized for political action for the purpose.

Power relations in society very often generate very strong currents that are counter to the spirit of the Constitution. There are several power relations that work simultaneously to thwart the spirit of the Constitution. Some of these worth listing:

Elite dominated Judiciary: there could not be any greater danger to the Constitution of India than from the elite dominated judiciary in India. Judiciary though very often has played very important role in society. However on very often when it tested on crucial points it has faltered to defend the spirit of Constitution. Indian Supreme Court’s decision to uphold curtailment of Article 21 (Right to life) by the Indian government of Indira Gandhi during emergency shall forever remain darkest moment in Indian democracy. The judgment was dissented on the sole judge Justice Khanna who refused to compromise the spirit of the Constitution and get bullied by the Indian Government under emergency. Another occasion wherein the judiciary has made travesty of justice is in when supreme court ruling couple of years ago deciding on British multinational corporate – Vedanta’s – mining interests on Niyamgiri hills that are life source for the adivasi people of the locality. Supreme Court bench not only let Vedanta carry on the mining in Niyamgiri Forests in Orissa but also urged Dongria adivasis to take share of profits from the mining company. Justice Chabaria even went on praising the mining company and declared in the open court that he owns the shares of the company! Compromises in judiciary in upholding the spirit of constitution is biggest threat to the Indian democracy facing today. Judges tend to toe the line of commercial interests and ruling governments. The problem is aggravated due to intolerance of criticism from any quarters. Power of contempt is invoked on anyone venturing to protest against the judicial verdicts and judges. Arundhati Roy was charged with contempt when she critiqued Judiciary’s view point of tribals and was forced to imprisonment for few days. This is a very unfortunate trend for India. Ruthless criticism of Indian judiciary is the need of the hour to further expand the liberative horizons. One can’t refrain from expressing deep appreciation for the Judiciary in Pakistan when the dictator General Parvez Musharaf tried to put his cronies as judges replacing unflinching Justice Iftikar Chowdury in the highest court in Pakistan. The agitation by Pakistan lawyers led by its Chief justice is one of the rarest and inspiring instances in recent South Asian history that successfully overthrow the dictator. Indian judiciary has so much to learn from its Pakistani counterpart. People of India must indulge in relentless criticism of its Judiciary and simultaneously be prepared to spend time in jail when charged with contempt. These levels of efforts are a need of the hour in the present juncture of our times. At deep and subtle level question arises: can Indian Judiciary remain free from Caste and Class alignments of power relations?

Disorganized citizenry: It is not enough that India has one of the best Constitutions in the World in place. Large part of the county is still disorganized and it is very important that citizens self-organise themselves to get the constitution unfolding itself in practice. The price of democracy is eternal vigilance of its citizens. It is in this context the publisher of Prajasattak continually for the last half decade – Dadu Mandrekar – deserves special recognition for all his hard work to create annual atmosphere of constitutional awareness. Dadu is like bright burning candlelight in all gloomy night that continuously burns itself to uphold the theory and practice of Constitution of India. He is certainly doing his level best as per the capacities gifted on him by nature. He is also an inspiration for others groping in dark to believe that it is better to light a candle than to curse darkness. The lesson one needs to draw out from Dadu Mandrekar is that it means swimming against the tide to defend and uphold the constitution of India. These are exactly the kind and magnitude of efforts required on the part of citizens to make Indian Constitution work and rooted amongst the people at large. Unfailingly he publishes one annual issue of Prajasattak. It is just not about publication, it is more than that. It about continues debate that he carries on with large number of people focusing attention on the document called ‘Constitution of India’, the verbal thoughts and vibes that he transmits then gets gradually chrysalises into thoughts and ultimately flows through written word in several languages in this annual issue – Konkani, Marathi, Hindi, and English. I am happy to be involved in this venture of Dadu since the beginning. The consistency of efforts and perseverance in the face of worst of odds is what has taken Dadu to continue these efforts with remarkable breakthroughs. Worst of odds includes painstaking and repeated follow up with contributors like me, and shortage of finance for to pay the printer to get the publication on time in the face of reluctance of the agencies to be liberal in granting of advertisements. The reluctance is mostly due to two factors: firstly, low level of awareness on the importance of Constitution of India. Secondly, the play of cast politics; had Dadu been a Saraswat Brahmin he would have no shortage of flow of funds for he would have tremendous connections to pull strings at the snap of his fingers. Dadu is a dalit. He takes you to Goa full of exploitation and oppression. Which business funders or State agencies would like to politically and financially align with him? Dadu’s ways has often been to take loan on the small quantity of jewelry that his wife posses and then over a period of time to pay back the loan and recover the jewelry. In some was as a commitment to uphold constitution of India ‘We the People’ has to align ourselves with Dadu and support his efforts and respond to his calls to finance support. It is ‘We the People’ who are in need this Constitution of India rather than ‘We the Corporate’ dominated by the very forces that carried on the exploitation in feudal form for past centuries denying humanity to women and pushing majority section of humanity into outcast and untouchables creating lame social system for steady supply of free labour generating surplus in the hands of few that considered themselves privileged through religious sanctions to rule and be component of the State. Dadu is individual. Dadu is a symbol of determination. Dadu is a metaphor of this reality.

Corporate rampage: Mainstream Indian development model particularly since past two decades has been aggressive assault on the Article 38 of the constitution –“ State to secure a social order for the promotion of welfare of the people – (1) The State shall strive to promote the welfare of the people by securing and protecting as effectively as it may a social order in which justice, social, economic and political, shall inform all the institutions of the national life. (2) The State shall, in particular, strive to minimize the inequalities in income, and endeavor to eliminate inequalities in status, facilities and opportunities, not only amongst the individuals but also amongst groups of people residing in different areas or engaged in different vocations.” State in India today has completely let loose the corporate rampage. Ruling and opposition parties in the India are providing tacit support to this corporate aggression. In fact they are active colluders as corporate funding has been stable funding for the function of political parties in India. The ruling congress party opened out Indian economy in 1991. The opposition BJP then in order to divert protest against the economic policies indulged in breaking up of Babri Masjid in Ayodhya thereby by paying way for riots and channelizing debate towards communal question in India and providing safe entry for economic bullies to set up their bases in the country. However after the luster of Ayodhya demolition faded away reality began to strike point blank – one after the other – Indian political establishment began active colluder with the global economic giants seeking to plunder India in wide and diverse manner. Land grabs began to be legitimized legally through SEZ Act. Vast tracks of land were parceled out for Special Economic Zones (SEZ) though out the country. Wherever there was there was some form of political organization of People. In other places it has been open unchallenged loot of cooperates. Mining companies has been provided with red carpet welcome in India. State has created civil wars in order to clear the land for the corporate. Tribal people known also as adivasis are found to be direct enemy of corporate and correspondingly the direct enemy of the State to be plotted against and drawn into the war known as ‘Salwa Julum’ in Chatisgarh, and then consent to be established through various discourses in the media – Indian media has transformed itself into great factory of manufacturing consent. Indian Home Minister P. Chidambaram came alive on NDTV a month ago and declared ‘It is a matter of worldview whether one believes that tribals must live in isolation or they must be helped to integrate in the national mainstream”. According to this logic the war and fight for mineral in the Country has been a helping hand to integrate tribals into the mainstream India! What a cleaver way to camouflage the blunt State-Corporate combine aggression to usurp land through dispossession! This is a reality today across India, across Konkan, and across Goa. Societies are getting polarized into two and middle class is sandwiched between the two – not knowing which side to align with. Disposes tribals, disposes peasants, disposes farmers, disposes fishermen, and disposes urban poor. For Forest are up for sale, Sea and rivers are up for sale, Water is up for sale, land is up for sale, minerals are up for sale! Its sale all the way if you have money to buy. If not, then it is plundering my love, right through! And what does one does in the face of plunder?

Determined and organized efforts are needed to defend the constitution of India. I join forces with Dadu and invite you too, for time to organise has dawned! We need to organize to resist plunder, we need to organize to straighten up our difference within oppressed sections. We need to organize for power – Social, Cultural, Political, Spiritual and Economic. We need to organize to retain our dignity. We need to organize to run marathon in struggle. Long term perspective in organizing is very essential. Impulsive reactions with deficiency in planning will not lead to any kind of effect on those plundering us. Similarly single issue struggle will not make any effective dent in these efforts either. In fact this does not posses any kind of possibilities to halt plunder. Number of single issue lobbyist must build alliances amongst themselves and get into long term project of planning together and collective critique of the system in place. Plundering goes on unheeded precisely because of unorganized nature of resistance with no proper understanding of motives and direction of struggle. Too many groups involved in resistance are getting pushed into isolation and they lack mechanism to connect and break their isolations. Besides there is need for critical assessments of various changes taking place worldwide in the face of climate crisis and evolving worldwide planetary efforts to face the crisis and how some countries are making business opportunity out of this serious crisis. What are the implications for the Constitution of India in the face of Climate crisis? How one does seriously and urgently halts trends of overconsumption that is prompting corporate war on people of India and People of planet Earth? There is need for intellectuals to soil themselves in the mundane tasks of organizing. There is need for the activist to get into rigors of study, reflection and disciplined expressions. It is tough for both. Yet this needs to be done. Theories cannot be dished out from academic ivory towers. It needs sweat and hard work of involvement on the part of intellectuals in various academic institutions. They need to soil their hands and hearts in struggle and then express out loud. Activists too very urgently need to take re-look at the way their time is invested and streamline their commitments. Balance of study and action is what is needed without getting sucked up into the logic of the system: “If you are not with us then you are against us”. We need to fight our ways out of this logic and stride towards massive breakthroughs consistently. The beginning has to be made. It may be very small. I am beginning with Dadu…

Sebastian Rodrigues

Written for Prajasatak 2010 issue edited and published by Dadu Mandrekar on the occasion of Republic Day, 26th January 2010 in Panjim.

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