Monday, May 14, 2018

Pathalgadi is Nothing But Constitutional Messianism So Why is the BJP Afraid Of It?

Across the country, the engagement of citizens with the Constitution appears to be in direct proportion to the administration’s abandonment of it. That is why the government is trying to criminalise the belief that it will deliver anything more than it is doing already.

(Jharkhand): On the freshly tarred road from Ranchi to Ulihatu, where Birsa Munda lived and which is now a prominent CRPF camp, several villages sport newly painted green stone slabs at the entrance, covered with constitutional provisions carved in white lettering. Protected by bamboo enclosures, these stones – symbols of the Pathalgadi movement – are anywhere between 8 and 15 feet high. In the past year and a half, this movement has spread rapidly across Jharkhand and the continguous areas of Chhattisgarh and Odisha. And the state governments concerned are not pleased.

The preamble to the Indian constitution asserts that “We The People of India.. Adopt, Enact and Give to Ourselves This Constitution.” If the people gave rise to the constitution, it stands to reason that they also gave themselves the right to interpret, analyse and propagate its contents in any form they want to so long as this is done peacefully.

Nothing stops citizens from asserting their fundamental rights by way of speeches or written pamphlets, or in stone pillars outside our homes. There are thousands of statues across the country of Ambedkar holding the constitution which serve not just as a reminder of his role in drafting it, but as a symbolic assertion of the document itself – that it is meaningful in people’s lives and it is they who give meaning to it.

Yet the Pathalgadi movement’s deep engagement with the constitution has state governments panicked, perhaps because it raises questions that they are finding hard to answer.

Monday, April 16, 2018

From Kathua and Unnao to Chintagufa

Prime Minister Narendra Modi recently provided the media with another photo-op by helping an Adivasi woman in Bijapur wear her new slippers. But like much else in his government, the gesture is tokenistic – only one person per family of tendu leaf collectors gets the grand gift of slippers. In the meantime, not one person has been compensated for their houses and all their belongings – including slippers –  being burnt during the time of the Salwa Judum.
Saying ‘Jai Bhim’ in Chhattisgarh counts for little if one cannot implement Babasaheb’s vision in practice. Would Ambedkar have been happy to see the constitution subverted by a government that cannot protect its young daughters, a party whose MLAs are accused of rape and whose ministers support rapists? The day the adivasis of Bastar who have been gangraped, whose relatives have been killed and whose houses have been burnt get justice is the day the government’s demand that the Maoists lay down arms will have some chance of being heard.

This is a story from exactly a year ago, April 2017, when security forces in Chintagufa village of Sukma district allegedly raped a minor girl. On April 2, at around 4 am, the girl and her mother were sleeping in the courtyard of their house when CRPF personnel came looking for her elder brother, who was supposedly a sangham member, or a village-level Maoist sympathiser. Her brother wasn’t there. Three men dragged her to a distance, and two of them took turns raping her, she said later. The other police/CRPF personnel stayed back, beat her mother and pushed her younger sisters inside the house and locked it. The victim was injured on the neck during the rape as photos taken at the time reveal. Due to the darkness, she could not identify the men who raped her.
The matter was first reported by a villager on April 3 last year and published in Nai Duniya on April 4 morning. That same article quoted the DIG, P. Sunder Raj, saying the allegations were false, mala fide and intended by ‘white-collar Naxals’ to tarnish the image of the police. All this before any police investigation, even though at first reporting, the reported rape clearly came under the Protection of Children from Sexual Offcences (POCSO) Act.. Instead, the journalist who reported the matter was questioned.

Saturday, January 27, 2018

The Constitution as a Living Document

The Republic has never felt more endangered than it does at 69. When Union Minister Hegde let slip the public secret that the BJP/RSS government is here to change the Constitution, the problem is not that the Constitution cannot and should not be changed, but what direction that change will take, and whether it will destroy the very basis of the Republic or strengthen it.

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Why I will not be celebrating Diwali this year

As a child, the two most important events in my calendar were my birthday and Diwali.

Weeks before Diwali my mother would go to the Blind School fair and buy candles. My sister and I would both get new clothes for each of our birthdays and for Diwali. I recall how we hovered over our mother as she mapped out the cloth on a newspaper, cut and stitched it on her Singer machine.

Thursday, July 6, 2017

The Burning Forest and DU's Academic Council my first meeting of the Faculty of Social Sciences at Delhi University, some colleagues objected to a heading in our Sociology of India introductory course, ‘India as an object of study’. “India cannot be an object”, they said, “she is our motherland”. Subsequent meetings of the Academic Council only confirmed my belief that there is something deeply wrong with this procedure especially the higher up the academic food chain it goes– at best it offers an opportunity for non-social-scientists to show off, for how could any one from sociology dare to comment on a mathematics course and be taken seriously? At worst, in an illiberal regime it acts as a form of censorship.

Saturday, May 27, 2017

Quint interview with Indira Basu