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'.

1 comment:

Debater said...

I would like to add something from recent experience. In Bangalore, it is becoming increasingly difficult to enter your own home without knowing Hindi. All the security guards are from North India and requests to provide at least one security guard who knows the local language has fallen on deaf ears. When I entered another apartment to meet a relative, I was asked to answer in Hindi by the security guard, or otherwise I would not be let in.

Now the idea of having a single Indian language other than English, namely Hindi, to unite the different linguistic groups is a very good idea, an idea which is noble and patriotic. But it cannot mean that I have to learn this language to enter my own home, have access to water, for when I want to ask the security guard to switch on the pump, he turns a deaf ear unless I tell him in hindi.

Indians who prefer to stay put in their own provinces cannot be forced to learn a foreign language to have access to drinking water and enter their own homes. This is going a bit too far. Though he should learn the language when leaving his province and meeting other Indians.

Also the speakers whose language has become the national language should learn the local language and this includes the security guards, street vendors and business people as well. They cannot ask the locals to learn their language while transacting with them.

The argument advanced by North Indians for making Hindi the national language is that they fought and defended India while the rest of India did nothing. This is totally untrue. In fact the Punjabis and Sindhis sacrificed the most and so by that logic Punjabi should be the National Language. In fact, L.K. Advani was a Sindhi and he did more for securing the Hindus of North India from Islamic hordes more than any body else in modern times. Also it were the Marathis who freed the North Indians from Mogul Rule !

And in modern times, General Kariappa and General Thimayya from Karnataka played a part in protecting North India, but the North Indians themselves goofed up the victory presented to them on a platter by the Kannadigas/Coorgis by taking the matter to the United Nations.

Another argument repeatedly presented is "we North Indians are developing your state". But what actually happens? In which ever state the North Indians go, the land prices shoot up making it impossible for the natives to purchase the land. Real Estate previously affordable to middle classes is no longer affordable and this also happens to other commodities. Plus they bribe the local politicians who steal the land of the farmers and give it to the big businesses. So really what is the development this jerk talks about? Exploitation and inflating the local economy is development? It is development only for the north indian business men and local political chamchas!

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