Category: History

We the people of India, do solemnly resolve to…

In a watershed moment in Indian history. On 15th August 1947, India gained independence from the British Raj. A long and hard battle was finally won. Immediately after we gained independence the work on our constitution began. It took 2 years, 11 months and 18 days to formulate the constitution and in another watershed moment in Indian history, on 26th January, 1950 it was put into force; thereon India was known as a Republic.

The Constitution holds a supreme position. No individual or institution comes above it. Everyone within the borders of India has to abide by it. It provides to us, the people; with protection from oppression and at the same time gives a path for us to follow. It ensures to us, that India will remain true to its spirit of democracy and everyone will be treated equally regardless of their differences. It is because of it, we have survived as a nation, united in wars, crises and numerous other problems throughout the course of our independence. We faced them all, we overcome and emerged from them; victorious every time.

One of the greatest achievements of India and probably the greatest in the world is the protection and upholding of the democratic nature and values of our government. We are one of the miniscule proportion of the nations in the world who have retained their democratic nature since Independence. It is an even greater feat to have held, and continue to do so; free and fair elections from the onset of independence. When the first general elections took place back in 1951. Even the losing candidates and political parties conceded that the elections indeed took place in a free and fair manner. To have sustained this for over a period of 70 years, we the people should be proud.

All these years, the constitution has provided to us, and guaranteed to us various things. One such thing is the fundamental rights. Ever since the Constitution was put into force we have enjoyed our fundamental rights. Today, if anyone felt like criticising the government for some decision they took. They can do so. We can voice our opinions, we can discuss our opinions, and we can try to convince others of our opinion. We can do all of this openly. Even if there occurs a situation where our rights are taken away from us we can have them reinstated under Article 32 (Right to Redressal, a fundamental right), by approaching the Judiciary, specifically the Supreme Court, also called the custodian of the Constitution.

The independence of the judiciary is an intrinsic feature of not just the democratic nature, but the federal status of our country. It certifies that the courts do not come under the control of the government and ensure to us, an opportunity to attain justice if we have been wronged. Judicial Review, is a provision (Article 226-227 for High Courts; Article 13 for Supreme Court) which allows the judiciary to review any decision of the government and check whether it is in alignment with the values of the constitution or not. If not, the court can invalidate it. It has been deemed as a core value, therefore it cannot be overridden by government through legislation. The independence of the judiciary was upheld by the government when the recent crisis in the Supreme Court took place, against the Chief Justice of India. This event highlighted the status of the judiciary in our country. This is something, we the people should be proud of.

In 1991, the disintegration of the Soviet Union led to the rise of many independent nation-states. These nation states tried to formulate their own constitution, but could never do so. Either it was too rigid or too flexible. We the people of India, had achieved this balance between rigidity and flexibility. Our constitution is described as a ‘living document’ i.e. it is able to adapt to changing needs and times. But along with this flexibility comes the rigidity. The core values of the constitution cannot be changed easily. A long and difficult process has to be undertaken to change the core values. This is balance is what lacked in the nation states as aforementioned. This balance is also the beauty of our constitution.

There are numerous other things the constitution has guaranteed to us and we are able to enjoy all of them. However, the credit does not go completely to the constitution itself. Part of it goes to the constitution makers, who so painstakingly discussed and debated over each and every single point in the constitution (Which is the lengthiest in the world). Another part of it goes to the leaders who followed them. Who, no matter what, upheld the values of the constitution. Who did not break its rules under any circumstances. Who passed the baton to the people who were elected after them. In India we see some of the most peaceful transitions of power taking place. Something, most of the countries in the world are yet to experience.

Unfortunately, there are certain sections of our society who question the contributions of the makers of the constitution, who question the democratic nature of our country, who question the constitution itself. It is not their fault that they hold such a perspective. But it is our responsibility to tell them why their perception is incorrect. Not by force or coercion, but by education, by spreading awareness, by eliminating the incorrect, by spreading the correct. It is also the objective of this article, to try and convince those who hold such a view and I do hope that it will achieve it.

On the occasion of our 69th Republic Day, let us come together to vow for stronger unity amongst us. For greater prosperity in our nation. To respect and abide by the constitution and above all; work towards being the greatest nation in the world. Happy Republic Day!

“We are all equal children before our mother; and India asks each one of us, in whatsoever role we play in the complex drama of nation-building, to do our duty with integrity, commitment and unflinching loyalty to the values enshrined in our constitution.” – Pranab Mukherjee, President of India (2012-2017).

-Priyamvad Rai

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Padmavati – The Conflict Review

Rani Padmini is a legendary 13th-14th Century Rajput Indian Queen and was considered to be one of the most beautiful princesses of the Singhal Kingdom (Now Sri Lanka). Ratan Sen was a Rajput ruler in Chittor (Now in Rajasthan) and after proving his bravery to her, won her hand in marriage and brought her back to his Kingdom. However, in 1296 Alauddin Khalji ascended the throne of the Delhi Sultanate and he set out to capture the Indian Sub-continent. He heard of the beauty of Rani Padmini and was enamored by it; he laid siege to the Rajput ruler’s capital of Chittor, eventually the city falls to Khalji’s army. Before Khalji can get to Padmini, she commits Jauhar i.e. she kills herself so that her honor can be maintained. But has her honor really been maintained?

Padmavati is a movie that is based on this story, and was going to be released in early December 2017, it is directed by Sanjay Leela Bhansali who is a notable film maker. Ever since he announced that the movie is in the making, there have been huge widespread protests against the movie, even before the scenes were shot. The sets of Padmavati were vandalized multiple times by the protesters. They claim that the movie is tainting and maligning history of India and that it also glorifies Alauddin Khalji, a barbarian from outside of our borders.

There are a few things we need to understand. The most important fact is, the story of Rani Padmini is a legend (fictional) and that her existence is very much disputed by historians. Therefore if a story is fictional, then there cannot be restrictions on creativity when that story is used for film making. When creative boundaries are placed on film-making, or even any other form of art; the quality deteriorates considerably.
However, it is also not correct to play on people’s sentiments (if there are any), the same story could have been given a different name and the line,’inspired from the story of Rani Padmini’ could have been inserted and there would not have been any issue. What needs to be done is, the makers of the movie and the groups who are protesting against this movie need to sit down and peacefully talk things out among themselves.

Second, it is important to know that even though Alauddin Khalji is considered an outsider, he did considerable things for India; if it were not for him our history and our contemporary society would be completely different.  The most notable contribution of Khalji, apart from his administrative contribution is his success in military conquest. The Mongols invaded India during his reign and he defeated them, not once, not even twice; but five times. This is a considerable feat as no one was able to withstand the power of the Mongols, they had captured Russia in the winters making them the only invading force to successfully invade Russia during the winters. Alauddin Khalji was able to defend against a force like that and we have to give him that credit. We cannot communalise history in such a manner, the circumstances and situations which happened then were completely different to what they are now; a comparison is simply illogical.
Under no circumstances am I glorifying Khalji, I am stating the facts and he should be given credit where its due to him. Shouldn’t this be considered as maligning history if we only think of Khalji as an outsider who wanted to drain India of its wealth and completely ignoring the fact that he possibly saved us from the Mongol force and more?

The ruling party has also been silent on this issue, instead of mediating between the groups and creating a conducive environment for discussions to take place; the ‘fringe elements’ have been allowed to grow beyond control. Bounties being placed on heads of actors is extremely deplorable in a democratic country like India where we so cherish our history of democracy. What democracy do we talk about where people are threatened to have their noses chopped off? It is high time the government intervenes into the issue and begins to do what it was supposed to do all these months ago.

We cannot ignore the fact that there has been a growth in such issues and incidents in the country. Yet we must look at the brighter side that these issues are finally being highlighted and discussed in mainstream media. A considerable improvement, such an issue would not be discussed say 15 years ago. We have grown, but we mustn’t stop, we must continue this growth.

Priyamvad Rai

 

Happy Independence Day!

At the stroke of the midnight hour, when the world sleeps, India will awake to life and freedom.”
-Jawaharlal Nehru

With these words spoken by Jawaharlal Nehru 70 years ago on 15th August 1947; the nation state which we call our homeland, India came into existence. From the tyrannical and despotic two century rule of the British, we finally got a chance to take our own decisions and shape our own future. But do we really cherish this hard-fought freedom?

It is an undeniable fact that over the years 15th August and even other national holidays have become normal holidays for the majority of us to sleep in late at home, and even I am guilty of it. However we need to change this attitude of ours. But the question which comes up is how can this change in mindset be brought about? I have thought long and hard about the answer to this question and finally I have been able to come up with a not-so-perfect, but yet, an answer.

To truly appreciate our country’s independence and achievements we need to have proper knowledge of the history of our country and most importantly, how our independence was achieved, the sacrifices made by our ancestors to achieve it. This can only be done by emphasising on the history of the freedom struggle in our education institutions. Majority of the people do not know what really went down in those years of struggle against the British; and it is the same people who completely dismiss the contributions made by some of the leaders of our national movement.

Pride. Taking pride in the achievements of our country is probably the most important step in truly appreciating and valuing the independence. We have come a long way since 1947, even though most people refuse to believe that. Pride should not be taken to such a height that we completely neglect the shortcomings of the government. It pains me when people belittle our country at every opportunity they get, criticism is an important aspect of democracy, but more than criticism it is constructive criticism which goes a long way in the development of any country, something which we as people of this great nation lack.

Another step which we should take is feeling loyal to our State (By State, I do not mean the federal states like Maharashtra, Gujarat, Bihar etc. By State I mean our country i.e. India). Most people confuse the State with the government and often ridicule those who say that ‘we support the state’ or we ‘we support our country.’ The terms State/Country and government are often used interchangeably. Government is simply the machinery which ensures the State functions smoothly but; the State, at its most fundamental level means the people. We need to develop a sense of loyalty to our people, the same kind of feeling should come in us when we see a fellow Indian in a foreign nation, this feeling should come even when we are inside India, because that is what a country is all about. Feeling pride, loyalty and goodness when we are with our own people who are united by common history and circumstances.

As the years go by, India is moving towards a bright future but this future will only be enjoyable if we develop this sense of pride and patriotism in ourselves, in fact this bright future can be achieved more quickly if we attempt to instil these feelings within us at the earliest. Happy Independence Day to my fellow Indians, lets make this a better year.

Priyamvad Rai