One of placards held by one of the protesters in the Citizens March organized in the city on 9th January caught my attention. It said, “Will someone return to me the country that I was proud of as a child.” The words somehow resonated with me, stirring in my mind the pictures of that India that I too was proud of. An India- where we never thought of our friends and school mates in terms of their religious background. We grew up in an India where learning the stories of the valour and sacrifice of our freedom fighters like Bhagat Singh, Ashfaqulla Khan and Birsa Munda filled us up with pride and inspiration about our shared heritage. However in the vitiated atmosphere of our present where we are made to look at other communities with suspicion and differentiate the people on the basis of their clothes ; when the shrill cry of shooting down our own students is heard on the streets and is supported by the political leaders, then we are jolted from our reverie that the India that we knew as a child has changed beyond recognition in the last few years.
What we are witnessing is not less than a war of ideas which is being fought on the university campuses by student and faculty members, on street corners by youth and ordinary women and children and by eminent personalities on the panel discussions in our TV studios and the voluminous content of the print media and social media. Whether we like it or not we the common citizens cannot escape being caught in this forced battle line because whatever we had so far assumed as the given and cherished as the democratic values of our Constitution are now being questioned, challenged and are facing a real threat of being snatched away from us, right before our eyes. A different vision of a nation which was rejected at the time of our independence is being projected as a glorified vision of a strong and developed nation with the idea of One Nation, One Culture and dominance of one religion and language. This idea is totally at variance with the Constitution that “We the People of India” gave ourselves- a Constitution that declared India as a Sovereign, Socialist, Secular, Democratic Republic with a commitment to secure all its citizens justice, liberty, equality and fraternity without any discrimination on the basis of religion, caste, color or economic status.
Therefore on this 70th year of our Republic all of us need to take a renewed pledge to guard and protect this Constitution which was bestowed to us as a Sacred Covenant marked by the blood of the martyrs of our freedom struggle. We must commit that we will not allow anyone to fiddle with its basic character and give ourselves totally to rebuild, reconstruct and re-envision our people to the cherished values enshrined in the Preamble to the Constitution. This time we are not facing any external enemy or a foreign rule this time but the attack to the Constitution and the idea of India that we know is from within. Against this onslaught we must reiterate and loudly affirm that unlike other nations in the world India is a nation of multiple nations, with multiple religions and cultures and languages. Our strength lies in the diversity of our people and mutual love and respect for one another and we will not let it be destroyed at any cost. This is the idea of India to live for and to be ready to die for. So help us and prepare us O Lord!