Reaffirm faith in the Constitution
The Constitution has served India well. Use its strength to navigate an uncertain world and commit to a better future for all citizens
At 11am on December 9, 1946, 207 people selected carefully from across the country met in the central hall of Parliament to determine the Constitution of a nation that had yet not been born. Over the next three years, as India underwent tremendous tumult, a wrenching Partition and the joyous achievement of freedom, the Constituent Assembly put together a detailed vision document for the Republic — one that adopted from frameworks across the world but shaped them to local concerns.
When the Constitution was formally adopted on January 26, 1950, it represented a fundamental rupture in the social, economic and political history of the country. Never before in the world had there been such a daring and expansive experiment with universal franchise, nor such a radical prescription for equality enacted by the abolition of untouchability and the enactment of affirmative action for marginalised castes and tribespeople. A nation bruised by colonialism and then communal violence decided to accord an extraordinary charter of rights to all its citizens, held that equality before law and among people was to be its binding principle, and refused to let either the wrongs of history or the animus of the present sully the promise of its future.
The Constitution has served India well. The Republic has endured, the democratic spirit, deepened in society and independent judicial thought, blossomed. Yet, concerns abound. A particularly strong executive weighs heavily on the other two branches of government, partisan interests fan social tensions, and majoritarian tendencies threaten to undo the delicate balance of rights and duties on which the Republic rests. A particularly challenging year — which has seen a virus ravage the country, exacerbate inequality and gut education, a hostile neighbour repeatedly challenge India’s territorial sovereignty and economic uncertainty worsen caste and faith cleavages — has deepened these fault lines.
It is now time for the country, its citizens and lawmakers, to go back to India’s founding text and use its extraordinary strength to reaffirm their commitment to civil liberties, the undoing of sectarian tensions, and freedom of thought and independence for institutions. Only then can the country be confident of thriving in an increasingly uncertain world, and commit to a better future for all its citizens — the way it has done for the last 72 years as a free, sovereign and just Republic.