CONSTITUTION WORKSHOP – Holding up constitutional values

The values thus engaged with were Justice/ Nyay, Equality/Samanata, democratic republic/loktantratmak gantantra, freedom/swatantrata, fraternity/ bandhutva, Socialist/ samajvad, Sovereignty/ Sampoorna Prabhutva Sampann and Secularism/ Panthanirpeksha/Dharmanirpeksha.

Every year, as the nation’s Republic Day comes around in cold and wintery January, the need to revisit and recommit to the Constitution of India seems more significant than before.

For one such exercise, youth and faclitators gathered in Araria from the 24th to the 26th of January, 2021. They began by examining the question of the importance of the Constitution in our lives as citizens. With an understanding of the spirit of the Constitution as a guide to how we govern ourselves as a nation, the workshop went on to dwell on the aspect of how this living document is one that we the people of India have given unto ourselves, via the drafting committee that was headed by Dr. B.R. Ambedkar, in 1950. 

The principle of self-governance was reflected on further with a discussion on the rules that are formulated by, and applied to all those who are in the workshop. Games in the open field were played with the similar reflection of how rules help in avoiding chaos, and how that linked back to the significance of the Constitution.

The later part of the first day of the workshop was spent in knowing more about the content of the Constitution, with emphasis on a self-assessment among the participants on how well they knew the elements that comprised the document, and the values and beliefs that animated the Constitution. Relevant reading material from Hum Bharat Ke Log was circulated to the participants and excerpts from movies on events in the lives of Dr. Ambedkar, Shaheed Bhagat Singh and Mahatma Gandhi that impacted the course of the country’s movement towards independence were also shown.

After having examined the values embedded in the Preamble to the Constitution through a group exercise, the tone was set for the next day with participant groups selecting the values they had examined to perform skits and songs around, for a deeper engagement and a clearer understanding of the values in the Preamble.

The values thus engaged with were Justice/ Nyay, Equality/Samanata, democratic republic/loktantratmak gantantra, freedom/swatantrata, fraternity/ bandhutva, Socialist/ samajvad, Sovereignty/ Sampoorna Prabhutva Sampann and Secularism/ Panthanirpeksha/Dharmanirpeksha. Group 1 showed the value of justice and democratic republic through the journey of a dalit man who sought resolution to being assaulted by a so-called upper caste landlord by approaching the institutions of the panchayat and the local police station, only to be turned away at each step. Group 2 engaged with the value of equality and socialism, by showing the devastation experienced by local villagers vis-à-vis their livelihoods with the taking over of their land by a big corporation, using the power vested in it through resources at its disposal, including policy that may not reflect the value of equality. Group 3’s presentation extended the discussion to the value of Sovereignty by pointing out that one country could not dictate the internal policy decisions of another country. Another skit showcasing the rights of citizens to choose their own partners regardless of their religion engaged with the value of Secularism. The current trends of politicizing such decisions under the garb of ‘love-jihad’ reflects the violation of the value of Secularism. Group 4 argued that the right to protest and to dissent, through the coming together of diverse members of a union fighting for work and payment within the NREGA, was reflective of the value of Freedom and also Fraternity/ Bandhutva, the way that the members from different backgrounds came together. The facilitator helped make the distinction between swatantrata, which was to do with freedom that came with responsibility and accountability, and swachhandata, that didnot have these associations. The Constitution as a guiding framework enshrines both the rights and the responsibilities of the citizen and the State.

Events unfolding the present across the country became the matter that the groups engaged with in the next session. These events were the rape of a dalit girl in Hathras, followed by the actions of the U P police as part of its investigations, including the arrest of a Muslim journalist from Kerala who had come to report on the event. The mob lynching of Pehlu Khan was another event brought in for discussion. The arrest and incarceration of Munnawar Farooqui, a comedic performer for allegedly disrespecting Hindu sentiments, was also reflected on, as was the speedy hearing extended to Arnab Goswami by the Supreme Court, while so many petitions from Kashmir after the abrogation of Article 370 or the undertrials arrested in the aftermath of the anti CAA-NRC protests continue to languish.

In this context, the idea of Fundamental Rights as enshrined in the Constitution was introduced to the participants. Together they were able to identify the violation to fundamental rights in each of the events that had been unfolding on the nation’s stage in the recent past. The participants dwelt on whether the rights guaranteed to us within the Constitution affected the situation on the ground for us as citizens of the country today.

With this the workshop came to an end with each of the interns committing to taking these discussions on the Constitution to their villages. 

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