They, the people...

When they began the Preamble to the Constitution of India with the words 'We, the people of India', did they mean what we think they did, or what we have been taught they did? Simply put, did we, Kannadigas and other South Indians, give ourselves a Constitution? One which gives us the status of second-class citizens because of the languages we speak? Highly unlikely, isn't it?

Imagine the scene. In those days, India had just broken free from the colonial yoke, and was anxious to establish itself as an independent entity in the comity of nations. The leaders of India had to let the world, and not so much the people of India, know that the new Indian nation had arrived. Contrary to popular belief, therefore, the intended audience of the Preamble of the Constitution of India were not so much the people of India, but the leaders of the numerous nations of the world at that time. This is, of course, true of all constitutions.

When they wrote 'We, the people of India...give to ourselves this Constitution', therefore, they only meant that it was not the people of Britain, or any external entity, giving India a Constitution, but Indians themselves. Recall that that was the top concern at that moment: who decides for India? Indians or foreigners?

Now, this may appear like stating the obvious, and therefore unimportant, but it is not. The sentence 'We, the people of India...give ourselves this Constitution' has two important meanings with a world of difference between them. They are: (a) the people of India, represented equally and fairly in some sense by the Constituent Assembly, give themselves this Constitution, and (b) the people of India as different from the people of Britain, give themselves this Constitution.

We think, and we are taught, that the Constitution of India is based on the former understanding, but that is wrong. It is based on the latter understanding in which equal or fair representation of Indians of all descriptions is neither necessary nor implicit. Even if the framers of the Constitution are a handful of people from some corner of India, culturally alien to most of India, they can still get away with describing themselves as 'We, the people of India'. One only has to ensure that they are not foreigners, say Britishers.

And that is what we have today. The Constitution of India is a document authored, in the ultimate analysis, by a handful of people from North India who claimed to represent all of India, while in fact they hardly represented North India itself. It draws a line between an Indian and a non-Indian, considering the peoples of India as one in all respects by virtue of their newly imposed Indian identity. As far as drawing lines within India is concerned, the Constitution considers it to be a necessary evil at best.

But that does not render the Constitution culturally unbiased as one might expect, and as the world has been led to believe. There is such a degree of northern bias in the Constitution, including the open partiality towards Hindi and its speakers, and the consequent atrophy to which languages like Kannada have been pushed, that Kannadigas and other South Indians might as well read the Preamble to the Constitution of India as 'They, the people of North India....give to us all this Constitution'.

What's a Delhi rape got that a B'luru rape ain't got?

The recent anti-rape protests in New Delhi illustrate an important fact. I don't mean to talk about male domination or anything universal of that sort, but what one might call as the appropriation of all discourse on morality by people living to the north of the Vindhyas, a.k.a. North Indians. Let me explain.

You will agree that neither the quantity nor the quality of what a girl loses in rape depends on her location in India. But notice that it took a rape in North India to ignite the so-called national media, the law and order system, and the political system. Everybody got their act together in no time, and even a Verma (who else, a Gowda?) materialized out of nowhere to submit a report in a snap, which he apparently did with all the morality that adorns North Indians of his ilk.

Now, the Singhs, Gandhis, Advanis, and other Northern lords of India are going to take an action, make a law, or whatever, which is going to apply to all of India - including that unfortunate half that lies to the south of the Vindhyas. And then again, there are going to be widespread discussions on the right and wrong of those actions, those laws, or whatever - again everything limited to the North. The actors of the South, of course, have their role to play in this: they will get their airtime as (a) mimicry artists repeating what has been handed down to them from the North, and (b) mute spectators watching television news channels run by North Indians or reading newspapers owned by them.

Countless rapes in South India have not had what it takes to create an India-wide stir. Are South Indians happy with women getting raped all around them? Are they barbaric, while only the people of North India sense something wrong in a rape, and are exclusively non-barbaric? One could easily come to such conclusions based on who hogs the limelight every time questions of universal importance demand answers in India. At least, one will have nothing to say against the claim, if any, of the greater morality of the Northerners compared to the Southerners, because it is the former who always take the centrestage whether it comes to discourse or action associated with morality or the control of immorality.

But why do they take the centrestage while we do not? Why don't we see such wonderful and widespread demonstrations of concern for humanity epicentered in, say, Bengaluru or Chennai, and then spreading all over India? Nobody asks this, because nothing is expected to be centered in these places. At least, nothing moral is. You could have a porn-in-the-assembly revolution in Bengaluru, or you could have a violent anti-brahmin revolution in Chennai, but you certainly cannot have anything moral and of national importance start in these places - these places which are close to the abode of Ravana, places where he is even worshiped. The 'victory of right over wrong' is, after all, a yearly celebration staged in Ramlila Maidan, New Delhi - not anywhere in Bengaluru or Chennai.

The answer to the question is that South Indians have been denied their right over any discourse on morality; North Indians have appropriated that right for themselves. They are the ones who steal the limelight when the question is of anything bordering on morality or universality; and, of course, they are the law makers and the law enforcers, not us; we are only their puppets, the mute recipients of alms handed out at their whim. They have achieved this status by simply writing it explicitly and implicitly in the Constitution of India - again, all by themselves. The national apparatus is fueled by both the word and the spirit of the constitution, and therefore, the loudest cries on the topic of morality from the South fail to get noticed, while the softest whispers from the North are amplified and broadcasted all over India.

The hard fact is, our 'democratically elected' imperial rulers from the North, and those who benefit from them, don't give a damn when we Southerners speak. Actually, how much better it would have been for them if we were actually apes without language, just like we were portrayed in the Ramayana! There are thousands of cries of morality emanating from the North, and that's where morality is expected to emanate from. We are expected to be immoral, barbaric, and unoriginal when it comes to the discourse on morality. There is certainly not much history of us having made demonstrations on morality, civilization, and originality anyway - in a history which has, from the ages, been engineered to be dominated by the North.

This perception, together with the idea of India based on it, is clearly fatal for India's unity and integrity. It is, of course, not a Southern one but a Northern one. We South Indians are not voiceless on the issue of rape, or impotent when it comes to other questions of morality, but our voice and our potential have been crushed under the imperial yoke of North India. There is no option but for India to change in such a way as to make our voices heard and our actions matter. And the earlier it undergoes that transformation, the better.