Preamble – The Philosophy of our Constitution (Part 2)by Kasturi Sule May 14, 2018
In the last week, we began a journey to the better understanding of the preamble to our constitution. We discussed the powerful words “we the people” and the adjectives used for our country. We put light upon the terms sovereign, socialist, secular and democratic. Let us continue with the term democratic
Sovereign Socialist Secular Democratic Republic….
We thus saw that India became the largest democracy in the world and adopted universal adult suffrage despite having a lot of hurdles in achieving it. Naturally, a hoard of experts believed that it was only a few years until this over ambitious country would fall apart and the global powers could play their game of opportunism and make it their puppet. But its 70 years now and just no coup, no dictator, no civil war but a smooth process of elections! Isn’t that commendable?
I do not say that we are a perfect example of democracy. There are still major issues of caste based discrimination, poverty, gender based violence, patriarchy. There are many other issues such as corruption, election rigging, use of money and muscle. illiteracy, social inequality still being a factor affecting the polity and so on. Problems of Naxalism, terrorism do challenge the functioning of a true democracy. But the journey towards more and better democratic realisation is ongoing. For example with the coming of rural and urban local self-government in 1991 through the 73rd and 74th Constitutional Amendments, India has reached another milestone towards democratisation.
India has been striving to attain higher levels of democracy and is backed by a republican polity. It means that even the highest office of the polity which is that of the President can be taken up by any citizen of India without any bars of lineage, race, caste, religion or sex. There is no place for hereditary monarchy or aristocracy but people’s choice prevails. Again it talks about the power in hands of the common citizen. We have often read about monarchs ruling various parts of India through our history books. But an interesting fact is that India did have small republic kingdoms even during the times of Buddha and Mahavira!
So this was the type of a country that we imagined for ourselves. But what were we going to achieve by assuming such difficult and high valued fundamentals for ourselves? Yes, this kind of a country is just the means to achieve the truly noble ends that we have aspired for. Let us look at these goals.
It is a word that we often use when thinking about a crime or courts. But justice is much more than that. Justice is basically the feeling of receiving all that we are entitled to. Thus it could be a feeling of satisfaction on receiving a treatment or a material gain that we were entitled to. Its corollary means that none should get lesser than what they should have. Justice is thus a term determining fairness.
Our preamble aims to secure justice in three forms – social, economic and political. Social justice is specifically relevant in India owing to the long history of casteism and social stratifications. Indian patriarchy also has denied an equal treatment to women. Also, other vulnerable sections such as the tribes and senior citizens need social assistance. With this wide vision, social justice has been given prime importance. Clearly, it is not enough to give political justice or economic justice only, but as a society, progress can be ensured only when there is a social fairness.
On similar lines, economic justice refers to distributive justice. This ensures that all the strata of society get a fair share of the economic advancement. Political justice is the most commonly known form wherein the law of the land treats all its citizens fairly and ensures that they have equitable political rights.
This brings us to the rights and freedoms of individuals. Liberty was certainly a prized asset for a nation which was a colony for 300 years. But even today it is this liberty that ensures all round development of individuals and society as a whole by giving them security and peace of mind. It is only a free mind living without fear which can try to achieve excellence in life. It is precisely why such a composite culture has been able to thrive in this land even today! However, this liberty should not ruin the social fabric. Liberty does not give us the freedom to harm others and encroach upon their freedoms. Hence the aspect of mutual respect stands at the bedrock of liberty. Every next time that we come across narrow minded hooliganism in the garb of freedom of religion or expression let’s not forget to think about the precondition of mutual respect while analysing it.
The most sought after ideal in the entire mankind is equality. We have seen brutal forms of inequality, be it slavery, casteism, patriarchy, and others. Equality basically teaches us to treat a human like a human. It teaches us to look at fellow beings as our equal and not discriminate based on birth, colour, sex or religion. Equality here goes beyond the term equal but tends to the word equity. It enforces that we are all beings of the same planet born with equal rights on all its resources. This includes even the animals, trees and other beings with whom we share this planet. It calls upon the essential kindness and compassion in humans to share the bounties in a sustainable and responsible manner.
Undoubtedly with compassion comes the feeling of belongingness. This makes fraternity an important ideal to promote unity and integrity between the diverse people of India. It is not unnatural to feel connected with people we may relate to. But to feel empathy for the diverse lot of humans and other species is an ideal which our constitution wishes its people to achieve. It is thus that Punjab cries when an earthquake hits Mizoram! Thus integrity and sovereignty of a nation are not territorial but also psychological.
Indeed this huge responsibility has been put on the citizens of India as we adopted these set of aspirations for ourselves. This document which merely got flipped through the pages of my textbook now seems like an ethical sermon. I am humbled down by understanding the deeper connotations mentioned in it. I hope and am positive that these realisations will definitely make us look at oneself, our family, our society and our nation in a much wider, deeper and ethical perspective.