Thousands of Villages Across India Pledge to Safeguard Constitutional Rights
Over 12,000 villages participated in an all-India community-level campaign aimed at instilling faith and responsibility towards the constitution.
Mumbai: Early November, Suman, a young activist associated with the Dalit Shoshit Samaj Sangharsh Samiti, more popularly known as DS4, began travelling across villages of Varanasi district. She met village heads and social activists in these villages, and spoke to them about the importance of the constitution of India. By the end of the month, the Preamble was read out loud in over a hundred villages in the district with the villagers pledging to follow the constitution.
“Constitutional safeguards are for every citizen. But seldom do we see common people speaking about safeguarding the constitution. Through this village-to-village campaign, we tried to instil in people both the faith and responsibility towards the Indian constitution,” Suman says.
Suman’s work is a part of an all-India campaign undertaken by the Gujarat-based Navsarjan Trust and Dalit Foundation – both grassroots level organisations which work on human rights issues – on the occasion of Constitution Day, which is celebrated on November 26.
Like the villages of Varanasi, over 12,000 other villages across different parts of the country participated in the campaign. Of them, over 1,300 villages are from Uttar Pradesh alone. In Gujarat, when Navsarjan Trust is based, over 6,000 villages participated. In all, 17 states had participated by the end of November 26.
The Dalit community naturally feels indebted towards the constitution, says Suman. “That isn’t only because Dr. B R Ambedkar, also from the (Dalit) community, chaired the drafting committee. It’s because the constitution guaranteed the community an equal status and a life of dignity,” she says.
Travelling across the state, Suman says, she came across many community leaders who subscribed to the right-wing agenda and indulged in anti-Dalit activities. Yet, they were willing to speak about Ambedkar. “The right wing has appropriated Ambedkar over the past few years. And their supporters claim that they are all the believers of his principles. Either way, we see some hope in this kind of openness. At least a dialogue is possible.”
Such was not the case in Tamil Nadu. Kandasamy, a resident of Villupuram and a fellow at the Navsarjan organisation who organised similar events across Tamil Nadu, says the Constitution Day celebration remained “ghettoised”.
“Most of our celebrations were restricted to just cheris (Dalit settlements),” he shares. Kandasamy, who runs a district-level organisation ‘Social Education and Cultural Foundation’ says that his organisation had anticipated “problems” in the southern districts of the state.
“Here any kind of assertion from the Dalit community is looked at as a problem. This region has witnessed several violent attacks and such attacks are still common,” he told The Wire.
Along with taking a pledge, the events also involved the lighting of diyas at administrative buildings in both village and district levels. In some states, like in Maharashtra, many schools too participated in the event. Pradip More of the Navsarjan Trust says this was a complete community-level initiative. “We have been trying to take Ambedkar beyond the Dalit community,” he told The Wire.
Courtesy :The Wire
Note: This news piece was originally published in thewire.com and used purely for non-profit/non-commercial purposes exclusively for Human Rights objectives.