[A Blueprint For Fulfilling Your Constitutional Duties]
How does our government have the arrogance to pass Farmers Laws that affects 60 percent of India’s population, without any need for consultation and more surprisingly, without any voting in the Parliament, in violation of all set conventions, on the basis of sheer brute force?
Well, because we let it do so. We suffer in silence, while the government gets haughtier by the day. Our excuses, genuine as they may be — to the tune of — ‘but there’s too much information out there for me to keep on top of things, isn’t that what the government is for’; or ‘it is a democracy, I have casted my vote, shouldn’t we just respect and trust the government now’, and ‘oh I didn’t know this was so serious, the media doesn’t show it afterall’ are all conversations that tire the hell out of me, because of their repetitive nature and my own inability to answer creatively or with patience each time.
So I asked a friend — “How is that you, who’s not that into news, was devouring the social media for every piece of news and latest development in the Sushant Singh case, while having no clue of the Farmers’ Protest, even when 20 farmers have died in the past 20 days of the protest and when thousands of farmers, including old person, women and children, have literally made roads their new homes.” “How is it that it doesn’t bother you?”, I asked. And her simple and honest answer was “Well, perhaps because I am not able to relate as much to their issue.” What she was saying was that Sushant Singh Rajput, while being the celebrity he was, seemed closer home, the farmers’ don’t necessarily do so. It somehow seems that they are protesting for ‘their’ issue, which has little relevance to ‘my’ issue. What my friend couldn’t see perhaps is how Sushant Singh Rajput was as distant as the farmers’ are, and ironically as close home as they can be, but it is the role of the media that makes the vast difference.
While I avoided the temptation of explaining as P. Sainath wonderfully does, how the current Farmers’ Laws are not just against the farmers’ interest but how they affect every single individual citizen, as the laws take away ‘everyone’s’ right to approach the Courts for any matter/issue arising from the laws, in essence taking away the right to approach courts and judicial review, which remains a basic feature of our Constitution.
But really, we need to ask ourselves, what is it in ‘us’ that allows so much arrogance to our government, even though we have given it a majority vote in the Parliament — whereby with 303 seats with BJP alone and 353 seats with BJP-led National Democratic Alliance, it is able to pass any law with ease. Isn’t there a moral responsibility and a certain constitutional answerability that our Government owes us?
The Indian Constitution outlaws arrogance and arbitrariness on part of all the three fundamental organs viz. the Legislature, the Executive and the Judiciary by providing a system of ‘checks and balances’ and ‘separation of powers.’
i) Of the Legislature — as any law it passes has to stand the constitutional scrutiny by the Judiciary; ii) of the Executive — as its loses its power if it loses confidence in the Legislature and the Judiciary can strike down any of its actions as violative of the Constitution or other statutory laws and iii) of the ‘Judiciary’ as it still has to rely on the Executive for implementing its Orders and does not command any purse on its own.
This implies that while the Constitution of India adopts a Parliamentary form of democracy, which is based on Majority Rule, it also ensures that no one organ, person or institution can exercise arbitrary powers in violation of the Rule of Law. And yet, the seeming arrogance of the current ruling party has only been possible because of its systematic attempts to crush all avenues of dissent and by taking over every single constitutional institution by eroding their independence, from the Finance Commission to the Election Commission to the Indian Judicary. So what has resulted in the Government’s Arrogance and what is the panacea for it?
The answer lies in ‘us’ — we, the people — our silence and inability to call out the Government is resulting in this display of unchecked arrogance on part of the Government. Reminds me of the famous folklore ‘The Emperor’s New Clothes’ by Danish author Hans Christian Andersen, first published on 7th April, 1837 as part of the third and final installment for ‘Fairy Tales Told For Children’. The story published in over 100 languages has the following plot.
Two swindlers visit a king who’s known for spending lavishly on his own clothes at the expense of state. They promise to make a garment for him which is magnificent and visible only to those who are really smart. They promise that all those who are incompetent and stupid in the kingdom will not be able to see the garment. The king is excited and the swindlers posing as weavers start their work in right earnest. When the king’s officials visit the weavers, they see no loom but they choose to keep quiet at the expense of looking stupid. Then the king visits to see the progress in the garments and sees nothing himself but says nothing at all. Finally at the appointed day, the weavers ‘dress up’ the king in the ready garment and the king sets off for procession to show off his dress to the entire city. Naked as the king was, not one person could say that the emperor had no clothes, until a child blurted out so! It is then that everyone realises that they had been fooled, yet the king walks more proudly than ever before.
Our government is pretending to be like the emperor, proud and arrogant but we too are to blame for our inability to speak up what we see and say the truth. This ‘yes person ship’ is the greatest danger to any democracy, so here is a broad outline of what each one of us can do to discharge our constitutional and moral duty to democracy. Here’s what we need to do :
1) Read Up — It’s An Investment Worth It.
We are living in times where the ‘national’ news and issues change at lightening speed and to be able to fulfill our duty to the country, we need to keep up-to-date. This means asking the 5 why’s — to every proposititon that is put forth before us. Asking ‘five’ why’s will help us get to the bottom of any issue. Do not settle for easy answers or be satisfied by easy media narratives. We need to be ready to dig, to search, to ask questions, to be comfortable with the unease of opposing views and above all to ‘care’ enough about national issue and politics, without settling for the comfortable and convenient tag of ‘apolitical’. In a nation, where what our government does affects us all, sooner or later, ‘apolitical’ is not a smart choice. It was the Muslims’s yesterday protesting against the CAA-NRC, the Dalits protesting against Rohit Vermula’s death, women protesting against bar to entry to Sabrimala temple, farmers’ protesting against the Farmers’ law today, but it can be you tomorrow. So those who ask — why does Yogendra Yadav participate in every protest, the answer is — why shouldn’t he and why shouldn’t you. For we are all tied with each other in an inter-dependent web where the butterfly effect is a fact not fiction.
2) Do Not Sell Your Commitment Cheap.
There is enough scientific research to show that human brain is wired in a way that we reject the information which tends to contradict the set patterns in our head. In other words — we are all victims of ‘confirmation bias’. This means that if are broadly in appreciation of one political party or leader, we do not tend to question anything that may show the less perfect image of that person or party.
Irrespective of which political camp you belong to, criticising someone or something only because of a dominant image in your head is not only unjust, it’s dumb because it prevents us from seeing the truth, which does not always follow black and white. Just as Congress followers do not want to criticise anything of their own leaders while decrying everything the BJP does, the BJP followers do not even want to entertain an argument or discussion about how the truth is not what meets the eye and the devil lies in the detail. For every person in a Democracy, it should be our nation first and not a political party first, therefore what we need are people who are committed to truth and its search — not those who will serve blind allegiance to any party or person. And above all, who will not shy away from questioning.
3) Remind Yourself Everyday That ‘You’ Matter.
You may be an engineer, a fashion designer, an interior decorator — who may think that your thoughts do not matter in the large scheme of things. You may think that while you have an opinion, you are only a student who is yet to grasp the full picture. You may think that your own occupation is to take care of your partner and children. But no, ‘you’ matter and what you say, think and do does even more. We the people, includes each one of us — not just those who have seemingly more power, more money or more visibility. So if a thousand people are fighting on the streets, your being one person will make a difference if you join. The more hands to fight, the stronger will be the fight and the less sacrifice will those who are on ground zero will have to make. We are in this together, and the sooner we realise it the better.
4) Check Your Sources.
I hope you know that social media and internet algorithms are wired in a way that you see what you most see. In other words, if Youtube and/or Google is showing you more of some sources, or links that is because their algorithms are trained to know what is that you are most likely to read. This is pertinent because you are being ‘fed’ a particular type of opinion from a large seemingly ‘neutral’ media world. So you need to consciously check the ‘sources’ of your mind and check what is it that you are ‘feeding’ yourself. Looking for alternative media sources — yes those media and digitial platforms you never see — is important and keeping the ‘why’ question at the back of your mind will be helpful in sorting the wheat from the chaff. Also everything on the internet is not true so do check forums like Altnews to check the veracity of the information you see.
5) Make A Difference Whereever You Are.
The smallest of actions is better than the boldest of intentions. Whereever you are and whatever you can do — do it. No action is too small. If you can speak to people around you to start a conversation, do it. If you can get on ground zero to support others who are protesting or facilitate them in any manner — do it. If you can read up on something and explain it in easy format in your own language — do it. If you can paint, write a song or poetry about an issue that is close to your heart — do it. If you can organise a book reading session — do it. No action is too small or waste for it is the intent that matters and slowly grows over time. You don’t have to be a full time activist to show that you care and fulfill your duty as a citizen.
6) Say Something Nice, When You See Something Right — This Small Slogan Will Change The World
Do you have a friend, a colleague who’s doing something right — fighting for a cause? Why not support him/her? Movements are formed not by one person alone but when one person provides the leadership that others are willing to support and join. Supporting others in the right causes, including watching, commenting, sharing, the message is also important in today’s digital world. To have a community of people who care — is the greatest assurance for someone who is sacrificing everything to keep the good fight on. The least everyone can do is to spare some time and support in whatever way possible. A word of appreciation, a kind message is sometimes enough to get a person’s spirits high again, when the victory seems tough and far off.
7) Do Not Consider Any Topic/Issue Beyond Limits : Understand The Law
You may not be a lawyer but that shouldn’t prevent you from trying to understand the basic ways in which laws and legal system operates. Law by its very nature affects everything. Whatever you need to understand in order to fully grasp what’s happening in the country- be that pertaining to laws, or judiciary or science or climate change — you need to make an effort to understand it, connect with people who can explain it instead of being satisfied with shallow dips into your own particular professional domain and keeping your intellectual curiosities tamed. Be wild in your search for truth and stop no-where. Intellectual pursuits is not the domain of the elites — it is for everyone. Also how we define intellectuals is key — for a woman selling flowers and being the bread-winner for her family has no less intellect than a person writing about nation’s economic status.
8) Remember, The Past Is Dead And The Future Is Yet To Be Born. Today Is What Matters.
The fight for India’s soul is not dependent on who conquered India when, but where do we want to take the nation. Do we believe in India’s constitution that promises a safe haven to everyone who is in India, along with a right to practice any religion, and to enjoy individual liberties without any discrimination? If yes, then we need to remind ourselves, time and again that while politicians will always try to take us into past, we need to be determined about the future by making the right decisions today.
Arrogance amongst our leaders is possible when they think that the people are not watching. If we take our constitutional duties seriously and our own role in a democracy seriously, then and then alone can we effectively watch over the unchecked arrogance and keep the powers with ‘we, the people’.
To check out what fundamental duties does the Indian Constitution cast on its citizens, watch my video here :
Hamara Kanoon : Fundamental Duties of Indian Citizens (भारतीय नागरिकों के मौलिक कर्तव्य)