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If Govt want to change constitution, keep these changes available in all regional languages for a year for feedback.
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If Govt want to change constitution, keep these changes available in all regional languages for a year for feedback.

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Karthik Navayan

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(This is the little refined version of my speech delivered in public meeting organised by Jana Chaithanya Mandali on the eve of #70_Years_Constitution in Kakinada, Andhra Pradesh on 26/11/2019)

My sincere thanks and Jai Bhim to the Jana Chaitanya Mandali and its founder Pavan Prasad Garu for having me here before you to speak on this occasion on 70 years of the constitution of India, I am excited to be among you all.

 The constitution of India, with all its lacunas, loopholes, hurdles non-implementation and misinterpretations, has achieved whatever little development in the lives of the marginalised communities, particularly the socio-economic changes among the ex untouchable communities, that is scheduled caste communities. 

One such change that the constitution has brought also affected me so that I have changed my name from Battula Kanthaiah to Dr Karthik Navayan, Advocate, High court of Telangana. I am from a remote village in old Adilabad district. Until 2007, my name was Battula Kanthaiah. I have changed my name through official gazette to B. Karthik Navayan. This changing of names among Scheduled Castes has become a common phenomenon in today’s context. Reasons are known to us that, our names were kept after our ancestors and such old names will reveal our caste identity or socioeconomic locations. Some of us were also ridiculed because our names sound not modern.

 So that some of us who are in their socioeconomic upward mobility have moving towards changing their names. For example, Roshaiah becomes Roshan, Pochaiah becomes Prashanth, Chandraiah becomes Chetan etc, and I became Karthik from Kanthaiah. This is a simple fact before us today is a result of the effects that have brought by the constitution of India through its welfare initiatives.

 The constitution of India in its directive Principles of State Policy, enshrined in Part IV of the Indian Constitution reflects that India is a welfare state. Seats are reserved for scheduled castes and scheduled tribes in government jobs, educational institutions, Lok Sabha and Vidhan Sabha. Apart from that, the welfare measure initiated by the state has resulted in providing free education, food and accommodation through social welfare hostels.

 Many of the educated and employed sections among the scheduled castes today are the products of such social welfare hostels. Without such social welfare hostels and free education, we would not have seen the present generation of employed class among the Scheduled castes. Such welfare initiatives became possible only because of the welfare state policy adopted by the state because it enshrined in the constitution of India. I am one of such educated person who benefited by the constitution and its welfare measures and changed my socioeconomic position towards upward mobility through the support of welfare initiatives of the state. 

I have studied all my education from 1st class to PhD in government institutions at free of cost. Without these welfare initiatives of the state, I would have remained as an auto-rickshaw driver, lorry driver or agriculture labour and remained in my own village. Therefore, I am standing here before you in Kakinada as Dr B Karthik Navayan, Advocate and speaking here because, there was a constitution and its welfare policy, which made this possible. 

70 Years Constitution Kakinada Photo

Whatever, lacunas, loopholes, the constitution has its own impact in these 70 years. Some activists and intellectuals say that the constitution of India has achieved the socioeconomic changes in the country – that was brought in China through the Cultural Revolution – the positive social changes. Some of the activists and intellectuals also opine that the constitution, with its welfare and balanced approach in a society of caste-imbalance social structure, has prevented a civil war in this country. Some activists also accuse the constitution that it is preventing a kind of civil war due to its welfare nature. 

This year marks 70 years of adoption of the constitution of India by the Constituent Assembly on 26 November 1949. However, this day of adoption of the constitution was never celebrated by anyone before 2015. The Bharathiya Janata Party Government declared 26 November as Constitution Day on 19 November 2015 by a gazette notification. The Prime Minister of India Narendra Modi made the declaration on 11 October 2015 while laying the foundation stone of the B. R. Ambedkar’s Statue of Equality memorial in Mumbai. Until then the constitution day was not declared or celebrated by the government or any other organization. 

The celebration of constitution day on November 26 is becoming popular from 2015 particularly among the Scheduled Caste community in India. The reasons for such celebration is that the scheduled caste community revere the father of Constitution of India, Babasaheb Dr B R Ambedkar as messiah, who fought for the human rights of the marginalised communities, particularly the human rights of the ex untouchable communities, who were now called as Scheduled Castes and popularly identified as Dalits. 

The marginalised communities believe that, since the constitution was drafted by Dr B. R Ambedkar, whatever development achieved today in their lives is because of the struggles of Dr Ambedkar attempts to incorporate the progressive provisions into the constitution. Remember, those communities are not revered Dr Ambedkar because he belongs to the same caste. They revere him because of his idea of human rights and equality – by advocating equality among the humans, Dr Ambedkar stands tall among the social philosophers with the timely and practical interventions of his time, which benefited to larger people in this country and contributed to the humanity. 

This declaration of constitution day by the Modi government is widely accepted and celebrated by state and non-state organisations including in the Ambedkarite circles and in the Scheduled castes circles. However, many of the people who are celebrating this constitution day declared by the Modi government may not share the politics of Modi and BJP for sure. 

The question comes here, why the Congress party government that ruled country more than half-century did not declare the constitution day. That too the scheduled caste community appears that it is more supportive towards Congress than BJP. Still, Congress did not declare constitution day to recognize the contribution of Dr B. Ambedkar that pleases the scheduled caste community. Other side BJP attempted and accused of attempting bringing in negative changes in the constitution against the interests of the marginalised community but still, it declared and recognised constitution day. Think carefully. It may also a strategy by the BJP party that it wants to show that it respects the constitution and respects the aspirations of the marginalised communities. Then all of sudden it may also bring in the negative changes against the marginalised communities in the constitution of India and this declaration and celebration of the constitution can be also like feeding biryani before hanging. 

Everyone should be careful about the amendments to the constitution that are being proposed by the BJP Government that has been a long-cherished dream of the RSS, which is the ideological mentor of the BJP. If you hear that there are changes proposed to the constitution, you should pay full attention to it and ask for the copy of the proposed changes in all regional languages for every citizen to read and understand and protest the changes that are against to the interest of the marginalised communities. If one wants to change the doors of his home, he should first buy the new doors and then only he will remove the existing door, but not to remove the existing doors before he brought new doors. 

Earlier in 2002 when BJP was in a ruling, it attempted to change the constitution, that time Bahujan Samaj Party resisted such attempts. Manyasri Kanshiram given a slogan, “Samvidhan Ke Samman Me – BSP Maidan Me” and led a nationwide protest to save constitution. 

ON IMPLEMENTATION AND INTERPRETATIONS 

Dr B R Ambedkar’s real constitution was “States and Minorities”, which he published in 1945. He submitted it to the Sub-Committee on Fundamental Rights of the Constituent Assembly of India in 1947. Dr Ambedkar wrote States and Minorities on request and behalf of the Scheduled Caste Federation – an organization that he himself founded in the early 1940s. In his “States and Minorities” Dr B R Ambedkar used the term “United States of India” and he proposed that the Scheduled Castes be treated as “Minorities” apart from the several other progressive measures. However, he was made to backtrack on his proposal. So the constitution that is now being implemented not fully reflects the proposed ideas of Dr B R Ambedkar, that’s why he mentioned on one occasion that he will be the first one to burn the constitution. 

However, the fundamental principles of the constitution are pro-justice, democratic, liberty, equality and fraternity and that nature of the constitution has brought the minimum positive changes that we see today. It is also important to note that the constitution has not brought the big changes that required to change this casteist society into an egalitarian society, so whatever changes should be aimed to make the constitution more realistic and more effective in its aimed goals, to be examined and approved. However, the citizens should resist and prevent to bring in negative changes that are to meet the hidden agenda of Hindutva Brahmanical forces. 

I think, for the cultivation of constitutional culture in the society and for the proper implementation of the constitutional provisions, every government/ public office should have the portrait of Dr B R Ambedkar, the father of the constitution and the copy of the constitution in the regional language should be available, which is absent now. We will find Hindu gods and goddesses every government/ public office and there is no protocol to keep them. 

The portrait of Dr B R Ambedkar itself is a message of constitutional spirit and social justice and it will create positive vibrations, I believe. Therefore, it is important for every public office to have the portrait of Dr B R Ambedkar so that it will remind the functionaries of such public office of their constitutional duties and obligations. Therefore, you being a citizen attempt and ensure the installation of Dr B. R Ambedkar portraits in all Government offices like Tahsildar office, Police station, Bus stand, Grampanchayat office, School, Bank, Post office and many other government offices in your locality. 

I did one of my PhD chapters exclusively on the and sweepers and manhole workers of Greater Hyderabad Municipal Corporation (GHMC). It is a fact that all the sweepers, manhole workers of GHMC are from Scheduled Caste communities. If the GHMC, being a government institution follow and implement the principles and provisions of the constitution in its true spirit, the sweeping and manhole work should not be the sole duty of the scheduled caste community. 

Further, I being a lawyer go to High Court and see that there is no Scheduled Caste judge as all judges belong to non- scheduled caste communities. Here you see that there is no representation of Scheduled castes in the Higher Judiciary and in the sweeping and manhole work, there is no representation of non-scheduled castes. 

This scenario is a gross violation of the constitutional obligation of political bosses, policymakers and administrators who have an obligation to uphold the core principle of the constitution to maintain the social diversity in every public office. Constitution provides representation to the marginalised communities in all spheres of life and it was deliberately suppressed in these 70 years of implementation of constitutional spirit. 

There are two reasons for the non-implementation of the constitutional provisions in their true spirit, reason 1 is that the people who are holding the office of constitution obligations and duties are not really believed in the constitution as they are majority from Brahmin Savarna individuals with self, political and other interests. 

Reason 2 is that those Brahmin Savarnas give misinterpretation to the constitution and constitutional provisions to evade the benefits that marginalised communities are entitled. 

There was a live example of how Brahmin Savarnas will not tolerate any articulation to give interpretations to the constitutional provisions by the marginalised individuals. The incident is that the great lawyer and great Ambedkarite, Bojja Tharakam, once said that when he was arguing a case and trying to give interpretation to the constitution, the judge who was hearing the case get irritated and said: “IS IT, I DON’T KNOW THIS”. It doesn’t mean that he doesn’t know but it is the way if ridiculing a scheduled caste lawyer who was standing before him and giving interpretation to the constitution and the judge thinks that scheduled castes lawyer not capable to give interpretation to the constitution as some of the Brahmin Savarnas thinks that only they are capable of giving interpretations. It is like Śaṅkhaṁ lō pōstē ne tīrthaṁ (Putting it in a cone is a must) 

It is in this kind of social atmosphere, there were rumors saying that Dr B R Ambedkar did not draft the constitution or he copied it from other constitutions and Dr Ambedkar was false god etc. By these examples, you can understand the hatred and intolerance towards the marginalised communities in judiciary, administration and politics of this country is unending and growing in new ways. 

Finally, this needs to say that the constitution has given the right to practice and propagate religion and that is why the religious groups are publishing and distributing their religious text, like Bhagavad Gita, Bible, Quran etc freely in the market. However, the copies of the constitution, which provided such rights, are not available freely in the market. I propose those religious groups to publish the constitution and distribute it along with their religious texts so that they can protect their right to religions enshrined in the constitution. The constitution should be made available in all regional languages free of cost to all citizens. Namo Buddhai! Jai Bhim, Jai Phule, Jai Komuram Bhim!

 

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Dr B. Karthik Navayan is a Human Rights Activist and an Advocate at Telangana High Court.

 

 

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