26 January 2018 marks the fourth Republic Day since Modi occupied the PM office in 2014. Every Republic Day during this Modi era has made us keenly aware of the growing fascist offensive on the very constitutional basis of our secular democratic republic. As the regime now enters the final phase of its tenure, the assault on the constitution, in terms of both its framework and functioning, has only intensified.
The Constitution empowers Indian citizens with a whole range of fundamental democratic rights, but the current regime seeks to redefine the very basis of citizenship and the citizen’s relationship with the state. The Citizenship Amendment Bill has already smuggled in religion as a determining factor in granting citizenship and deciding how refugees are to be treated by the Indian state. The NRC exercise in Assam has created massive uncertainty among large numbers of people who have been residing in Assam for decades and even generations but still find their names missing in the NRC. Demonetization forced citizens to queue up before banks to access their own money and now Aadhaar is threatening to strip citizens of their fundamental right to privacy and rob the poor of their right to food and social security.
It is well known that the RSS wanted Manusmriti as the basis of India’s Constitution. The other day we indeed heard a minister of the Modi government openly declare that the BJP was here to change the Constitution (which he described as Ambedkar Smriti) and say goodbye to secularism. RSS functionaries, especially its chief Mohan Bhagwat and several other leading ideologues, have been repeatedly declaring their intention to transform India into a Hindu Rashtra by 2024 when the Sangh celebrates its centenary. From redefining the standing of the citizen to reorienting the basic structure of the Constitution, the threat posed by the BJP to the constitutional foundation of the republic is real and grave.
The undermining of the spirit of the Constitution has become an insidious process under the Modi regime with the growing subversion of key institutions. The credibility of the Supreme Court has touched an all-time low. The letter written to the Chief Justice by four of his senior-most colleagues and the petition submitted to five senior Supreme Court judges by the Campaign for Judicial Accountability and Reform for an in-house inquiry into grave allegations concerning the CJI himself point to a massive erosion in the integrity and independence of the judiciary.
The role of the Election Commission during the Gujarat elections and now in ordering the disqualification of as many as 20 AAP MLAs in Delhi has raised serious questions about the impartiality of the Commission. The growing complaints of EVM malfunctioning and tampering pose a serious question mark to the very credibility of the election process. And now the clamour for simultaneous holding of Lok Sabha and Assembly elections under the ‘One Nation, One Election’ slogan challenges the basic spirit of federalism and multiparty democracy in India.
And the media, the celebrated fourth pillar or estate of democracy has been subjected to unprecedented regimentation. With journalists being killed and charged with defamation and sedition for doing their job, internet being repeatedly shut down to stop the people from disseminating and accessing information and most TV channels and big newspapers subjecting themselves to self-censorship and behaving as propaganda organs of the powers that be, the media in India today is among the most unfree in the world.
At the time of adoption of the Constitution of India, Dr. Ambedkar had warned us about its underlying contradictions and vulnerabilities. He had pointed to the basic contradiction between the superficial political equality enshrined in the ‘one person one vote’ principle and the massive inequality that governs the social and economic sphere. Under Modi, inequality is growing by leaps and bounds. In the four years of Modi rule, the wealth held by India’s richest 1% has jumped from 49% in 2014 to 73% in 2017! While a handful of billionaires go on accumulating wealth by robbing the people and the natural and financial resources of India, Modi claims credit for making it possible for young India to earn Rs 200 a day by selling pakodas!
Ambedkar had also warned us against the undemocratic Indian soil which was hostile to the ‘top dressing’ of democracy. Under Modi rule, it is this undemocratic soil which is being systematically fertilized with state patronage and impunity. The task of maintaining ‘law and order’ is being increasingly outsourced to various groups of thugs who kill at will in the name of protecting the cow or stopping ‘love jihad’ and threaten to break the nation if a film they do not like is screened for public viewing!
It is high time ‘we, the people of India’ rose again to reclaim the Republic and stop the forces of loot, lies and hate from ravaging India.