The first ‘fundamental duty’ of the Indian Constitution states: To abide by the Constitution and respect its ideals and institutions, the National Flag and the National Anthem. Even though the fundamental duties are non-justiciable, the burning of the Indian constitution could be called as ‘anti-national’*, because it’s the Constitution which formally legitimises India as a country, not the ‘Manusmriti’.
In the last four years, no single institution or document has been spared from attack by the present government. We are witnessing the changes in the present, for them, the underlying motive is to alter the society, constitution, and democratic institutions which would lead to favourable conditions to create Hindu Rashtra. The basic democratic ethos of the country has become questionable in this ruling government. The more the citizens of India ask for their democratic rights —the more they are in trouble. Expose after expose about the crimes, frauds, loot, rape, killings, lynchings, violence have emerged, yet the criminals are protected by the present government. This history will never be forgotten. In this context, I will refer to only one case related to the burning of the Indian Constitution and the Dalit protest against it.
It was a national shame when the Constitution of India was burnt by an anti-constitutionalist Manuwadi gang, who proclaimed that they believe in Manu-dharma Shastra, and not in the Constitution of India. For Dr. Ambedkar, when he burnt Manusmriti, it was an act of endorsement of equality, freedom, and justice for everybody in order to smash inequality, un-freedom, and injustice which are entrenched in the Manusmriti. This was the objective behind the burning of the Manusmriti. It is imperative to ask a question in this context —as to why was the Indian Constitution burnt by the Manuwadi gang? What was the purpose behind burning the Constitution of India? Does it make India a Hindu nation? Does it make India a Manu-State? Or is it their wish to demolish the Constitution in order to eliminate affirmative action, reservation policy and provision for the protection of Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes? The slogans raised by the gang answer the above questions. It is clear that it is an outrage of upper caste Brahminical impunity against democracy and the Constitution.
It is not the first time that people who are against the Constitution and affirmative action policy publicly expressed themselves–there is a long history that we see after the Poona Pact in 1932, during the Constituent Assembly debates of 1948-49; and there have been several such incidents in post-Independence India. One of the famous incidents which happened was when Mandal commission was introduced in the 1990s and the students of premier institutions immolated themselves in public. In 2000, the ruling BJP government tried to change the Constitution of India. After 2014, Dalits have been publicly beaten, killed, lynched. Rohith Vemula’s institutional murder in the University of Hyderabad; in Una, Dalits were beaten by cow vigilantes; in Saharanpur, members of Bhim Army were arrested and criminalised by BJP ruling government; Chandra Sekhar Azad ‘Raavan’ was charged under the National Security Act. Similar acts happened during Bhima Koregoan, FIRs were registered against Dalits in the police stations. BJP tried to dilute SC/ST (PoA) Act, 1989; there have also been statements by RSS/BJP functionaries to change constitution and reservation policy. Now in the national capital Delhi, a gang of Manuwadis burnt the Indian Constitution. Yet, no action has been taken so far, neither has the issue been politicised nor any political leader has made any political statement on it.
Why was the Constitution of India burnt by a gang in the capital of this country? How did they even muster the courage to burn it in the public? Till now the issue has not been politicised by any political parties —neither has it been given any national public attention. However, it was widely circulated when the gang uploaded the video on the social media (Facebook). Strangely, no national media took the issue seriously or were interested to talk about it on the television shows. The slogans shouted by the gang were —Ambedkar’s constitution murdabad, manuwad zindabad, reservation murdabad, SC/ST Act murdabad, sambidhan jalao desh bachao (burn Indian constitution and save the country).
Burning the Constitution of India has no interest for politicians, media persons, political parties and civil society. What does it indicate? Is it a false news? Or does this news not have content, therefore the news does not get publicity. It is difficult to understand the answers to the above questions about the attitude of media and civil society in India! In contrast, there have been protests in several states by the Dalits. Recently, Bhim Army had organised a huge protest gathering at Jantar Mantar demanding punishment for those who burnt the Constitution. Protests were witnessed in Odisha, Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh and other parts of the country. The slogans raised by Dalits were, Those who burnt Indian constitution, punish them; Those who burnt Indian constitution are anti-national, and Save constitution, Save the country. The slogans by Dalits and the Manuwadi slogans are inherently contradictory and opposite to each other. Why are such slogans and public activities possible in this present regime? How can Hindutva and Manuwadis freely outrage against the Constitution, reservations and SC/ST (PoA) Act 1989? The answer lies in the nature and functioning of the current government, on the kind of activities it allows to happen. It is very blunt and explicit that people who speak for Hindutva, Manusmriti, against Dalits and minorities are free to talk of a Hindu nation, thus helping the ruling government.
Therefore, it is important to ask —why are only Dalits fighting against such gangs or ideology which preserve Manusmriti? Have Dalits taken the contract to save the Indian constitution? It has been proved in the last seventy years of Indian democracy that Dalits have strongly upheld the Indian Constitution, as a doctrine of guiding principles for the whole nation. There is nothing in Indian society which can provide protection and employment to Dalits. The provision of reservations and SC/ST (PoA) Act, 1989 have ensured their fundamental rights in a meaningful way. Law and Constitution become the only source and destination for them. In fact, it is the Indian Constitution which makes India a democratic state and grants citizenship rights such as — the right to equality, freedom, and life, which are otherwise unavailable in Indian society in a true sense.
The question is: why is burning the Indian Constitution not declared as a National Shame and anti-national! Why does the common citizen of this country not protest against such anti-national and anti-constitutional activities? A citizen of this country who burns its Constitution by shouting, Burn the constitution and save the nation, is called a patriot, whereas in Kashmir, when Indian Flags are burnt, the same gang will seek action against such acts! There is also a case in Tamil Nadu where a young boy burnt the Indian Flag and was arrested and gruesomely attacked by the police. In the present government, protecting cows is a patriotic act. In other words, those who burnt Indian Constitution will be valourised, but if somebody kills a cow he would get arrested —that means the cow is respected better than the Indian Constitution.
The sad part is—how speaking against the Constitution, reservations, Ambedkar and SC/ST (PoA) Act, 1989 has been normalised, and does not get public attention in the present government. Similarly, the killing of Dalits and Muslims is normalised, yet the anti-constitutionalists and criminals are moving around freely. Bharat that is India is not for Hindutva or Manuwadis. India is for every citizen of this country who abides by the Constitution. This government, and such gangs which indulge in acts like burning of the Constitution, are killers of democracy.
Jadumani Mahanand is a Ph.D research scholar in JNU.