THE Constitution of India has been in existence for nearly seventy years now. When Narendra Modi credits his government for doing things that no previous regime could do in 70 years, he is certainly right in one respect. The Constitution of India has not been sought to be subverted so desperately ever in the past. True, it has been amended more than a hundred times, its provisions have been invoked to suspend constitutional rights under periods of external and internal emergencies, its spirit has been violated to topple several elected state governments, but never before have we seen such sustained assault on the Constitution by the government of the day.
The Citizenship Amendment Bill, if not reversed, will compromise the very basis of our citizenship and nature of our Republic by incorporating discrimination on the basis of religion. The introduction of reservation on economic basis (and that too for people with sizeable annual income and substantial land-holding), passed on the same day along with the Citizenship Amendment Bill, strikes at the root of the idea of reservation as affirmative action against institutionalised social oppression and injustice. And accompanying and reinforcing this attack on the basic nature and direction of our Republic is an ever increasing denial of democratic rights of citizens, whether singly as individuals or jointly as groups.
Barely a few weeks ahead of the crucial 2019 elections, Delhi Police has now filed a chargesheet against JNU students under the colonial era sedition law for allegedly raising some controversial slogans three years ago. Noted Assamese writer Hiren Gohain and activist Akhil Gogoi have been charged with sedition for opposing the Citizenship Amendment Bill. From lawyers Surendra Gadling and Sudha Bharadwaj to writers Gautam Navlakha and now Anand Teltumbde, dissenters are being sent to jail under the draconian UAPA. Manipur journalist Kishorechandra Wankhem is behind bars under the notorious NSA. And then there is the power of crony capitalism slapping defamation suits on all and sundry to prevent scams from being exposed even as the arbitrary insistence on Aadhaar for virtually every benefit and service has negated the fundamental right to privacy while resulting in large-scale exclusion.
Today while the fascist forces are seeking to consolidate their power by subverting the Constitution, democratic forces are fighting back by rallying around the Constitution. In a state like Uttar Pradesh where the Yogi government has shelved the Constitution to unleash an unmitigated encounter raj and demonstrate a practical model of ‘Hindu Rashtra’, the people are crying for restoration of governance based on the rule of law. Indeed, the slogan ‘Save Constitution, Save India’ has emerged as the common battle-cry in every fight for justice, rights and harmony. The Constitution with its vision of liberty, equality and fraternity must be the basic manifesto for the people in the 2019 elections.
The uninterrupted pursuit of the policies of liberalisation, privatisation and globalisation since the 1990s has played havoc on the economic front. Modinomics has added fuel to the fire with hugely disruptive measures like demonetisation, the rolling out of a complicated and multi-layered GST and unbridled promotion of corporate interests. As a result, the common people are reeling under chronic agrarian crisis, soaring prices and burgeoning unemployment even as we witness an obnoxious growth of crony capitalism and staggering inequality. The economy is in such bad shape and survival has become such a pressing concern for so many people that the Sangh brigade is finding it difficult to continue to deflect public attention from the economy. The by-polls and Assembly elections held in the recent past have all reflected this basic reality.
The 2019 Lok Sabha polls will be the most challenging electoral battle in the history of independent India. It is going to be even more decisive than 1977 for the simple reason that in 1977 the Emergency had already been withdrawn while in 2019 the elections will be held right in the shadow of the undeclared Emergency unleashed by the Modi-Shah duo. This election is all about upholding the Constitution and defending democracy. This does not just mean ending the disaster unleashed by the Modi government but also taking decisive steps towards rebuilding Indian democracy on a firmer footing.
The ongoing struggles of different sections of the people must find a powerful echo in the discourse of the 2019 elections. The demands raised in the 29-30 November Parliament March of farmers’ organisations from across the country, the 8-9 January all-India strike of the working people as well as the forthcoming February 7 Young India Adhikar March must be treated as basic points of the 2019 poll manifesto of the people. The Citizenship Act must not be amended and governments must not play with the hard won right to reservation for the socially and educationally deprived sections of the people. The draconian laws which are used to suppress dissent must also be abolished along with the tyrannical regime and democracy in India must be allowed to grow on the core constitutional basis of liberty, equality and fraternity.