In my school days, the immediate days preceding the ‘Republic Day’ every year, used to be the time full of excitement, joy and nervousness. All of us, the students of the school, had to rehearse for the parade, the songs, the dances and the other cultural programs to be performed on January 26. I am sure, all children in their student’s lives, must have gone through the similar experiences.
For me, those were the days of quarrelling with my mother to give me ₹2 to purchase two flags, the ‘Tirangas’, to embellish both my hands on the occasion of ‘Republic Day’. She used to attempt to persuade me that one may suffice but ultimately leading her to succumb to my condescending attitude. I must honestly admit that barely I used to understand then, the difference between the Independence Day and the Republic Day. For me, both symbolized the freedom of the country from a foreign power.
Still, I notice the pattern that in schools or at other places of Republic Day celebrations, the speakers talk more about the freedom struggle and the freedom fighters and less about the Indian Constitution that this day stands as a symbol of. In some cases, they don’t discuss the Constitution at all, and that pains me a lot. There is nothing indeed inappropriate about discussing the importance of freedom struggle and the sacrifices of the countless brave-hearts of the country on Republic Day. After all, it’s the long freedom struggle and the sacrifices of the innumerable indomitable spirits that consigned us the opportunity to make our own Constitution. But what baffles me the most is the fact that the discussion on the Constitution has to take a back-seat or in some cases no-seat, at the Republic Day celebrations, in India today.
Republic Day symbolizes India’s great Constitution coming into effect, and therefore, on this historic day the Constitution should be celebrated primarily and not secondarily. This is a day to celebrate and communicate the core Constitutional values that stand as a monolithic pillar upon which this great edifice of our Constitutional Democratic Republic rests. This needs to be discussed, saved and celebrated.
I have always argued that the Constitution needs to be communicated. It needs to be continuously communicated to the very people it is a reflection of, or whose dreams it mirrors and whose will it manifests. The reason I am advocating this is that a great proportion of Indians is still unaware of its existence, importance and the way in which it has shaped their past, is shaping their present and shall shape their future.
These people don’t know that there is something called the Constitution that drives the nation’s conscience, that runs this huge, diverse and complex country called India, that has made them citizens from the subjects. The day our core Constitutional values get communicated to the people, they shall start understanding the real meaning of being a citizen of India, and the day the people of this country understand the real meaning of being an Indian citizen, the most of the diseases that plague India currently shall start diminishing exponentially. This is what I have been doing in my limited capacity and reach. I have been communicating the Constitution, conveying the ideal it propagates, to a limited audience but the future of India.
Last year, I had been selected for the ‘S.B.I Youth for India Fellowship’ program just after I had completed my five years integrated B.A.LL.B course. This has provided me with an opportunity to submit myself in the service of the people residing in what Mahatma Gandhi had once termed the soul of India, its villages. In fact, I too consider that the real India lies in rural India. This fellowship has given me an opportunity to work in rural India for 13 long months. The fellowship has been designed to run in collaboration with some of the highly reputed and well-established grass-root NGOs such as Gram Vikas, Barefoot, Seva Mandir, BAIF etc.
This fellowship gives you a great independence to choose what you want to work upon based upon your area of interests, from a range of twelve thematic program areas that it prescribes. I have preferred education as my thematic program area and have been currently working in ‘Gram Vikas’ an internationally recognized Odisha based grass-root NGO. Since my area of interest is education, I have been working with ‘Gram Vikas Residential School, Kankia’, one of the four Schools that this NGO runs.
Before deciding my specific area of academic engagement with the students of this school, I thought to confabulate with the very prime stakeholders in the process, the students. During my first interaction with students in class 9, I placed before them a simple question. I asked, who do you think in our country is the most powerful? Some said, Prime Minister, some said, the President. Nobody said “the Constitution”. This prompted me to design a course for them titled ‘Socio-Legal Learning and Functional Literacy’.
Under this course-plan, I teach the students of class 7-9 about the social awareness, the politics, the basic legal understanding, some important laws and its practical application. I also show them the famous ‘Samvidhaan’ episodes, by Shyam Benegal, and they all watch it with great enthusiasm and attention. Now, whenever, I enter the classrooms and ask, “who do you think is the most powerful in our country?” they unanimously respond, “The Constitution”.
This makes me feel victorious. I am doing what I can do in my limited capacity to propagate the Constitution and its ideals, but the nation in its entirety has a moral obligation to communicate the Constitution and convey its ideals to the people it stands for, and in my opinion that can only be the true celebration of a Republic.