60 Years of the Indian Republic:
Constitutional Charter of Rights Being Crushed Underfoot
Every year, Republic Day presents an occasion for the Indian State to showcase the country’s economic progress and military prowess. The 60th Republic Day this year additionally comes in the midst of Operation Greenhunt, when the military might of the State is being deployed against its poorest people in the most backward regions – in the defence of corporate capital.
As the troops march in the R-Day Parade, as the military hardware is proudly displayed, as the official tableaus of culture roll out, citizens of the country however will remember the other legacy that Republic Day commemorates. On January 26 1950, the Indian Constitution was adopted which codified a charter of principles of citizens’ rights. And the official celebrations cannot mask the grim reality that seems to mock those founding principles of the Indian Republic today.
Skyrocketing prices and unemployment continue to make the daily survival of most Indians a bitter struggle. In the bitter winter cold this January, hundreds of homeless have already lost their lives. The Rathore case reminds us of how men in uniform flout the law and how our justice system fails to deliver. The crisis of credibility of the state’s institutions, including the judiciary, is exemplified by the impeachment move initiated by the Rajya Sabha against the Karnataka Chief Justice P.D. Dinakaran who had even been nominated to the Supreme Court until allegations of corruption forced the nomination to be withdrawn. The crisis of credibility is compounded by the efforts of the Supreme Court to keep the judiciary out of the ambit of the RTI law.
Worst of all is the way in which the fine principles of justice and liberties enshrined in the Constitution are being mercilessly trampled upon – with impunity – by police and armed forces. The case of Ruchika has justifiably sparked off outraged questions nationally about the complicity of institutions in protecting powerful criminals. On the frontlines of the state’s war on the people, there are many more Ruchikas – in Shopian, Manipur, Bastar – where rapes and murder by men in uniform go unpunished and the entire might of the state and its institutions including judiciary, CBI and the like, collude to suppress the truth and silence the demands for justice.
Those who blow the whistle on the collusion of politicians and policemen in corruption and corporate loot are often killed – and the killers routinely evade justice. The CBI has recently filed its chargesheet in the murder of CPI(ML) MLA Mahendra Singh. The chargesheet is testimony to the CBI’s refusal to investigate a powerful police officer - Deepak Varma who was SP of Giridih district at the time of the murder - and then BJP MLA Ravindra Ray. Comrade Mahendra Singh was engaged in exposing their nexus with coal mafia and their role in several fake encounters and murder of advocate Prashant Sahai.
There are also innumerable cases of police officers who specialise in fake ‘encounters.’ Despite repeated indications that such officers are in fact hand-in-glove with criminals (witness the recent party hosted by a mafia don and attended by Mumbai top cops, and the exposure of the role of Gujarat ‘encounter specialist’ Pradeep Sharma in a land scam in Bhuj following the 2002 earthquake), such ‘encounters’ are more often than not justified as part of the ‘war’ on terror and organized crime.
The true spirit of Republic Day cannot be represented by ritual flexing of military muscle: we can do it justice only be challenging the impunity enjoyed by those in uniform who crush the Constitutional rights underfoot, and demanding thoroughgoing democracy and an end to state terror.