Yesterday, Chandrashekar Azad aka Ravan, the charismatic leader of the Bhim Army was released on bail, after 26 days in custody. The bail had conditions, he was not to stay in Delhi, hold rallies, take part in protests, or in general upset the Delhi election apple cart. He would be escorted back to Saharanpur, Uttar Pradesh, where he would stay and report back to the local cop station every week. Chandrashekar Azad was arrested for holding a massive rally in Jama Masjid in Delhi with a copy of the Constitution in his hand.
The previous day the additional sessions judge Kamini Lau had given the Delhi Police grief for his arrest, telling them that the right to protest was inalienable, and everyone could protest peacefully without having the fear of the heavy hand of the police, grasping a lathi, landing on their skull. The fact that it was a Constitutional right was underlined.
The protests across India may have begun as anti-CAA but it has now become an umbrella protest against the government. And, while the BJP accuses the Opposition of fomenting trouble, the fact remains if the Opposition could manage this kind of turnout, it would have individually and collectively done well in the elections 8 months ago. It is almost as though the protestors have bypassed the politicians to defend the Republic.
But it isn’t just judges, and protestors and Chandra Shekar Azad who have been mouthing the Constitution. The new Army Chief, General
Mukund Naravane, in his first press conference reiterated the fact that every member of the Armed forces gives allegiance to the Constitution.
More than anything else in the ongoing protests against the government, it is the Constitution that is upfront and centre along with the National Flag. It is almost as though Indian citizens, 70 years after we became a Republic, discovered the beauty and joy in both. And, it is the nature of protest – reading the Preamble, while holding the flag that has become the broad visual emanating from the spots of the protests. That, and cries of Jai Hind.
Another homegrown movement
It is a similar
modus operandi to the strategy adopted by the 'India Against Corruption' movement – that draped itself in the flag, paid respect to Bharat Mata, and managed to get broad-based support, simply because it was seen as a homegrown “Indian’ movement that draped itself in the symbols of Indianness.
The act of students and the public at large is reading out the preamble and reaffirming our pledge, as citizens, to the Republic of India is going viral. People are reading out from the Preamble everywhere. The awareness of the Constitution and what it means to us is underlined on a daily basis. These words of the preamble, most of which was written over 70 years ago, have transcended from being mere words to an affirmation. A sacred pledge. And, as people are taking the oath, it is almost like they understand the meaning of the ‘idea of India’ – as an inclusive, diverse space where all will be accepted.
Dr BR Ambedkar said, “Constitutional Morality is not a natural sentiment. It has to be cultivated." In the second decade of the new millennium, the idea of Constitutional Morality is spreading. That we the people of India want a space that is equal, and we will stand up to make sure that what is ours is preserved. It is no longer about the CAA. It has now become a protest that looks at protecting what the Constitution means to us – and the freedoms that it guarantees. When they chant “humme chahiye azaadi, Ambedkar waali azaadi’ that freedom to be can only be delivered – and guaranteed by the Constitution.
Harini Calamur writes on politics, gender and her areas of interest are the intersection of technology, media, and audiences. Read Harini Calamur's columns