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.