Short Takes by Dr Mohammad Manzoor Alam
The President of India, His Excellency Shri Ram Nath Kovind, is a man of great qualities of head and heart, a man truly worthy of the august position he holds today. His vision for the future of India as a just, equitable, united and technologically advanced nation is similar to the vision of his illustrious predecessors about the future India, particularly to that of President APJ Abdul Kalam.
The President’s ceremonial address on this Republic Day was some kind of a sage advice from the family elder of a vast family called India. He rightly pointed out that the Republic had to live by the ideals of the Father of the Nation, Mahatma Gandhi, whose 150th birthday falls on October 2 this year. Mahatma Gandhi’s “teachings are still the touchstone to measure our policies and initiatives,” he asserted.
That the President is a man of high ideals is clear to anybody who has seen him from close quarters. At a seminar in Gaya a couple of years ago, I had the opportunity to share the dais with him and listen to his wise address that seemed to encompass much of our educational aspirations, our social and political life.
This Republic Day he dwelt on the grand Constitution of India, one of the best in the world (but often poorly implemented in our public life). He also talked about the greatness of Dr BR Ambedkar, the chairman of the Constitution Drafting Committee, but he somehow chose not to refer to the apprehension of Dr Ambedkar that India may not finally implement it in right earnest. He thought (and rightly so) that a Constitution is only as good as its implementation.
Dr. Ambedkar’s fears were regarding the unequal society of India, ridden with graded inequality of caste for several thousand years. Such a society and its state may not wholeheartedly implement it and thus kill its spirit. Even at the time of its promulgation RSS chief Guruji MS Golwalkar rejected it disdainfully, saying the best Constitution for India and, in fact, the world, was Manusmirti, the book that supports and justifies caste inequality and systemic oppression of Dalits (literally, the crushed) and other weaker sections.
Coming from a Dalit background, the President could have spoken a word or two about Dr Ambedkar’s apprehensions and the breach of the Constitution in our daily public life.
The President talked about all the good and great things about us and our Republic. However, amid all that goody-goody, sugary-syrupy talk there was a glaring omission that was not expected of the head of our Indian family, the honourable President of India. A man who talks about Mahatma Gandhi’s principles by which we have committed ourselves to live and about the Constitution of India, which we have taken as our guide in public life, should have taken note of the daily dose of lynchings, rapes and mass communal violence against the weak as the state stands aside.
Today, Hindustan is also known as Lynchistan, for quite obvious reasons. As the family elder, the President is not supposed to just encourage and appreciate, but also to admonish if the strong in the family are raping and murdering the weak in the family. Who will be convinced if we say we have a great Constitution and we have Mahatma Gandhi’s ideals if they see the week lynched and raped on a daily basis?
By not showing his displeasure on such darkness in our lives, the President has fallen short of his responsibility. If he cannot utter a word of disapproval about such barbarity in our lives, how can he be expected to call in the Prime Minister and make his disapproval felt. His predecessor, President Pranab Mukherji, repeatedly showed his displeasure at the lynchings. He made his feelings known even at RSS headquarters. Such courage of conviction is required from the head of state. President KR Naraynan also came from a Dalit background, but he did express his displeasure at Gujarat anti-Muslim killings of 2002. He told the Brahmin Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee to do something to stop the pogrom. A President has to have the courage of conviction and tell the government not to destroy the Constitution and Gandhian principles through mass murder and rapine. The first President, Dr Rajendra Prasad, strongly opposed Pandit Nehru if he did not agree with him.