68… A standalone number holds no significance. But when put into context, it gives some mathematical credibility to whatever fact it is trying to support.
68 years of constitutional equality. 68 years of being a Republic. 68 years of discord and diversity.
I love India. Being an Indian has given me a heritage I cherish with the depth of my being. The food, the festivals, the languages, the literature, the depth of our civilization– I am proud of all these things. When I make Biryani, Kaali Daal, and Gajar Halva for my friends in the US, a part of me feels proud to see them devour everything down to the last grain. When I choose saaris and salwar suits for my non-Indian friends, I feel gratified to be sharing something about my culture with them. And when I invite them to come visit my country, I take them to the Taj Mahal, the Qutub Minar, the Chittorgarh Fort, the Chandni Chowk market, and as many famous chaat waalas as I can. My entire Netflix list is cluttered with Bollywood movies. And I make sure all my friends know that if they ever insult King Khan in front of me, I will not take it lying down.
But I also share with them the things that frustrate me. There are reasons why I hesitate before wishing anyone a ‘Happy Republic Day’ on Social Media. Because while the Indian Constitution is almost a sacred document to me, it is not so to many of my countrymen.
This is the preamble to the Constitution:-
WE, THE PEOPLE OF INDIA, having solemnly resolved to constitute India into a SOVEREIGN SOCIALIST SECULAR DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC and to secure to all its citizens:
JUSTICE, social, economic and political;
LIBERTY of thought, expression, belief, faith and worship;
EQUALITY of status and of opportunity; and to promote among them all
FRATERNITY assuring the dignity of the individual and the unity and integrity of the Nation;
IN OUR CONSTITUENT ASSEMBLY this 26th day of November, 1949, do HEREBY ADOPT, ENACT AND GIVE TO OURSELVES THIS CONSTITUTION.
Justice. Liberty. Equality. Fraternity. These are ideals I live by, cherish, and would die for. But to me, the most important phrase in this preamble is ‘We, The People of India’.
Not Hindus of India. Not Brahmins of India. Not the wealthy of India. Not the heterosexuals of India. Not the men of India– Only The People of India– who include the above and more. But sometimes, I do wonder if the phrase ‘People of India’ has been hijacked and desecrated by elements which want to paint the entire country in one color– a color that does not include everyone who calls India their home. And that hurts me.
I hurt when Dalit women are raped and tortured and murdered by upper-caste village headmen. I hurt when Muslim cow herders are mobbed and lynched over suspicions of eating or selling beef. I hurt when a toddler is raped by her uncle or teacher or a school peon. I hurt when a gay friend is cat-called and harassed in the metro. I hurt when daughters are murdered in the womb. I hurt when daughters-in-law are burnt for dowry. I hurt when a girl returning from school is attacked with acid. I hurt when textbooks reinforce gender stereotypes, justify anti-Muslim bias, and teach a distorted version of history where facts are ignored in the favor of right-wing propaganda. I hurt when millions of people go to bed hungry at night. I hurt when a child is married off at the age of 12 so that she can be a mother at 13. I hurt when cars and buses and people are burnt in the streets by mobs. I hurt when tribal women are detained under POTA and TADA and subjected to torture. I hurt for Kashmir, Chhattisgarh, Assam, Punjab, Rajasthan, Mizoram, Jharkhand, and Manipur. I hurt for Asifa, Jyoti Singh, Soni Sori, Tapasi Malik, Akhlaq, Bilqis, Najeeb, Ishrat, Thangjam, Irom, and Bant Singh. I hurt for them and for millions of others.
Sometimes, I want to stop engaging with my country. I want to shut down my social media, cancel my newspaper subscriptions, disconnect my cable, and hide under my bed.
But I will not. Because we fought very long and very hard to get this country. I love India. I weep for it. And I will not see it destroyed.
Happy Republic Day.