A constitution which guarantees: “The State shall not discriminate against any citizen” – The Sovereign Republic of India

Sardar Patel signing the Constitution
Photo: The Better India >>
Bhimrao Ramji Ambedkar (1891-1956) was independent India’s first Minister of Law and Justice, and the chief architect of the Constitution of India. – Wikipedia

“The Indian constitution had to empower the state to enter into the realm of Indian society and transform it by eradicating deeply embedded economic, political and social hierarchies.” – Read “The Foreign and the Indigenous in the Indian Constitution: Constitution Day talk” by Arun Thiruvengadam (Centre for Law and Policy Research, Bangalore, 2 December 2015)

“The constitution would outlaw all forms of discrimination, abolish untouchability and guarantee the right to freedom of religion. It also included a system of reservations or affirmative action for Dalits and India’s indigenous peoples, the Adivasis.” – Listen to “How an ‘untouchable’ inspired a force of resistance against inequality in India” on CBC Radio Ideas (6 October 2020) | Guests in this episode:
Ananya Vajpeyi is a scholar and a writer at New Delhi’s Center for the Study of Developing Societies. She is the author of The Righteous Republic: The Political Foundations of Modern India.
Anupama Rao is a historical anthropologist at Barnard College. She is the author of The Caste Question: Dalits and the Politics of Modern India.
Ramachandra Guha is a historian based in southern India, and author and editor of many books including Gandhi: The Years that Changed the World, 1914-1948 and Makers of Modern India.
Suraj Yengde is a postdoctoral fellow at Harvard’s Kennedy School as well as a fellow with Harvard University’s Department of African and African-American Studies. He is the author of Caste Matters and co-editor of The Radical in Ambedkar: Critical Reflections. 

Did the Constitution of India borrow ideas and many of its stand out features from the constitutions of other countries?

Yes, after intense scrutiny, it turns out that our founding fathers liberally chose what features to embed into our Constitution and in many cases remoulded them to suit diverse local realities.

“There is nothing to be ashamed of in borrowing. It involves no plagiarism. Nobody holds any patent rights in the fundamental ideas of a Constitution,” said Dr BR Ambedkar, the Chairman of the Drafting Committee,

So, what did our founding fathers borrow from the rest of the world? >>

Source: “Republic Day 2019: 9 Constitutions That Inspired The Ideals That Define Modern India”
URL: https://www.thebetterindia.com/170247/india-constitution-inspiration-acts-rights-ambedkar-republic-day/
30 October 2021

Ambedkar had been the champion of freedom, free thinking and liberty whose words are important to be remembered. […]

B. R. Ambedkar
Wikipedia >>

The caste system has recognised slavery in inverse order of status and maintained inequality in every sphere of human activity social, political, economic, legal, religious etc.
This insightful quote provides the depth of caste where liberty and equality are antagonistic to the very notion of caste. On another occasion while discussing the reality of being a free human Ambedkar said,
he who is not a slave of circumstances and is always ready and striving to change them in his favour, I call him free. One who is not a slave of usage, customs, of meaningless rituals and ceremonies, of superstitions and traditions; whose flame of reason has not been extinguished, I call him a free man. He who has not surrendered his free will and abdicated his intelligence and independent thinking, who does not blindly act on the teachings of others, who does not blindly accept anything without critically analysing and examining its veracity and usefulness, who is always prepared to protect his rights, who is not afraid of ridicule and unjust public criticism, who has a sound conscience and self-respect so as not become a tool in the hands of others, I call him a free man. He who does not lead his life under the direction of others, who sets his own goal of life according to his own reasoning and decides for himself as to how and in what way life should be lead, is a free man.’

Source: Ambedkar’s Insights quoted in “Contested Freedom” (Editorial), Journal of People’s Studies, Volume 1, Issue 4 June 2016, Page iii
URL: https://www.academia.edu/28587897/JOURNAL_OF_PEOPLE_S_STUDIES_-_Volume_1_Issue_4
Date visited: 7 June 2020

“[A] common perception of conversion, prevalent in India, is that all conversions take place only among deprived lower caste or tribal groups, which are considered more susceptible to allurement or coercion. The reality of upper caste conversions is ignored in this climate of cynicism.”– Ivy Imogene Hansdak in “Pandita Ramabai Saraswati: the convert as ‘heretic’”

The Aryans describe their enemies as dark in complexion, noseless or flat-nosed, of harsh speech, not honouring the Aryan gods, not observing the Aryan religious ritual, but rich in material possessions and living in fortified cities. They are named Dāsas, Asuras, Panis and Kīkatas. The Aryan invaders finally triumphed over the non-Aryans, many of whom were killed, enslaved or driven further inland. In this land, which the Aryans conquered from their enemies, were founded the early Aryan settlements.

B.G. Gokhale in Ancient India (Bombay, 1959 ed.), p. 22
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Gandhiji at Prayer Time, Parnakuti, Poona (1944) by Chittaprosad, the great advocate of the rights of workers and revolutionary artists. | Learn more in “Gandhi, Secularism, and Cultural Democracy” by Vinay Lal >>
Gandhian social movement | Constitution >>

“Air is free to all but if it is polluted it harms our health… Next comes water… From now on we must take up the effort to secure water. Councillors are servants of the people and we have a right to question them.” – Mohandas K. Gandhi, Ahmedabad address on 1 January 1918; quoted by his grandson, Gopalkrishna Gandhi, in “On another New Year’s Day: Mahatma Gandhi’s ‘khorak’ a 100 years ago” (The Hindu, 1 January 2018)

All subjects will thus be equal in the eyes of the law. But every single individual will be free to pursue his own religion without hindrance, so long as it does not transgress the common law. The question of the ‘protection of minorities’ is not good for me; it rests upon the recognition of religious groupings between citizens of the same state. What I wish India to do is to assure liberty of religious profession to every single individual. Then only India can be great, for it was perhaps the one nation in the ancient world which had recognized cultural democracy, whereby it is held that the roads to God are many, but the goal is one, because God is one and the same. In fact the roads are as many as there are individuals in the world.

Source: Vinay Lal blog “Gandhi, Secularism, and Cultural Democracy” (2 October 2020)
URL: https://vinaylal.wordpress.com/2020/10/02/gandhi-secularism-and-cultural-democracy/
Date visited: 4 October 2020

The defence that the government is not responsible for the present crisis has consequences for India’s democracy […]

The scenes that are being witnessed in India now are apocalyptic in tone. When a citizen attacks hospital personnel because a life was lost due to the absence of medical care, or a citizen struggles to breathe with an oxygen cylinder on the pavement, it is a crisis at multiple levels.

But what is concerning, more than the “collapse of the system” or the failure of the state, is the shocking discourse among the supporters of the government that it is not responsible for the present crisis, arguably, India’s gravest hour. This defence has consequences for India’s democracy. […]

When ordinary people, without access to expert advice, are asked to own up to their mistakes, powerful actors such as the Election Commission of India holding an eight-phase election in Bengal, the Uttarakhand Chief Minister justifying the Kumbh mela and the Prime Minister exulting about the size of an election rally crowd in West Bengal on a day when over 2,00,000 Indians were newly infected by the novel coronavirus, are all unassailable actions of the state. […]

In the last seven years, the Indian state has acquired distinct tendencies of what sociologist Max Weber has called patrimonialism in which the ruler exercises a traditional form of authority which rests on the “sanctity of immemorial traditions”, in contrast to a rule based on a rational-legal bureaucracy or impersonal rules. But unlike in ideal typical patrimonialism, this highly personalised and centralised form of rule is not based on heredity, kinship ties or personal allegiances, rather on the ideology of religious majoritarianism as well as nationalism, and legitimised by election wins. […]

Unless people become citizens and not subjects under a patrimonial rule, the calamitous clouds of the pandemic portend a bleak future for Indian democracy as well.

Source: “Social murder and the missing state” by Nissim Mannathukkaren (Chair, International Development Studies, Dalhousie University, Canada), The Hindu, 7 May 2021
URL: https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/lead/social-murder-and-the-missing-state/article34502018.ece
Date visited: 7 May 2021

“If we wish to maintain democracy not merely in form but also in fact … we must observe the caution which John Stuart Mill has given all those who are interested in the maintenance of democracy: namely, not to lay the liberties at the feet of even a great man, or to trust him with powers which enable him to subvert their institutions.
Hero-worship is a sure road to degradation and to eventual dictatorship.” *
The Sovereign Republic of India was formally proclaimed on January 26, 1950, governed by a constitution which guaranteed
The State shall not deny to any person equality before the law
The State shall not discriminate against any citizen on grounds of religion, race, caste, sex
‘Untouchability’ is abolished and its practice in any form is forbidden.

Source: Gita Mehta (*quoting Dr Ambedkar) in Snakes and Ladders: A View of Modern India (Minerva 1997 ed.) – pp. 92-93

India, a union of states, is a Sovereign, Secular, Democratic Republic with a Parliamentary system of Government | Learn more >>

To an administrator, the term ‘tribe’ means a group of citizens who are the special responsibility of the President of India | Learn more >>

Their greatest work: How Indians made Constitution a success

Parliament sessions usually begin with remembrances of recently departed eminent personalities. But this Winter session of parliament, beginning November 26, did something refreshingly different. It remembered BR Ambedkar  | To read the full article, click here >>
We could use the preamble to the Constitution to measure how we have done as a sovereign nation. The preamble sets out objectives of securing to all citizens social, economic and political justice; liberty of thought, expression, belief, faith and worship; equality of status and of opportunity, and aims to promote fraternity and ensure the unity and integrity of the Nation.
Proving western sceptics wrong, democracy has survived and thrived in India. The success of the Indian Constitution lies in the fact that the institutions it created — Parliament, Supreme Court, Election Commission or the Comptroller and Auditor General of India — have broadly functioned well. True, the entire electoral system is crying out for reforms and unfortunately, it’s coming from the Supreme Court and not the political class.

Source: Their greatest work: How Indians made Constitution a success, Column by Chanakya | Hindustan Times, 29 November 2015
Address: https://www.hindustantimes.com/columns/the-constitution-of-india-on-the-front-shelf-of-the-nation-s-library/story-ze7NGQQurWIZhy6fttG23K.html
Date Visited: Fri Sep 16 2016 18:43:02 GMT+0200 (CEST)

Historian Romila Thapar on academic freedom, nationalism, sedition, and free speech.

A widely respected public intellectual, Romila Thapar has groomed generations of students in Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU), and earlier in Delhi University. Frank in her views, she insists that in the given climate where people’s nationalism is questioned merely on the basis of a slogan or two, as in the case of JNU, the primary identity of every “citizen of India, over and above all other identities of religion, caste, language, race and suchlike,” is that of an Indian. […]

A society whose ambience is suffused with fear ceases to nurture creativity and its life is reduced to a routine banality. […]

There seems to be a growing attempt to dismantle institutions where creativity in thought is encouraged. In most cases, new appointments to positions of authority have been made of people who were chosen because they are not associated with the kinds of ideas that explore new avenues of thought and work, or that encourage the questioning of existing ideas, and because they are likely to carry out instructions from the ministries. So far at least, this has been the pattern. […]

Attempts to silence free speech are, of course, always characteristic of governments that lack confidence and are uncomfortable with an independent citizenry. […]

Hindus, Muslims, Christians, Dalits and Adivasis are all equal citizens. All citizens have the right to debate and discuss their duties towards the state and also the obligations of the state to ensure that the claims to human rights of all citizens are met by the state to an equal degree.

Source: “‘Nationalism does not allow the Hindu in India to claim primacy” by Ziya Us Salam, The Hindu, 2 March 2016
Address: https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/op-ed/historian-romila-thapar-says-nationalism-does-not-allow-the-hindu-in-india-to-claim-primacy/article8300752.ece
Date Visited: 15 April 2021

[Bold typeface added above for emphasis]


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