Of constitution and freedom: Where do I stand as a woman?

It was in 1930 that Purna Swaraj (complete self-rule) was proclaimed by Indian National Congress on this day. After a bloody partition in 1947, India and Pakistan were created. As a new nation-state, the first breaths of India were supported by skeletons of the inherited rules of governance. In the meantime, they drew up a constitution which finally came in place on this day, in 1950.

Today, it has been 64 years since the day that India decided to call itself a republic. So today, I take time to ponder how far India has drifted away from people who live in its boundaries. That as a nation-state, the rule of law today has come to preserve of India while taking away from what rightfully belongs to the people it ought to protect, to represent, to be an embodiment of.

India has become a might in itself, being blown in its ego every morning reading headlines from over the world about its elephant-sized economy, of democracy that is justified year after year through millions going out to vote, in the remotest parts, in the most restraining conditions. Yet, it takes only a day to overturn a judicial ruling that for some time gave legal identity to the LGBT community in India.

The last two years have seen an increasing rise of the image of India as being tainted with headlines of cases of sexual harassment of women that India tries to hide with a “but”, saying it supports the world’s largest democracy. I could only add to these stories by recounting from my personal experience to coming very close to being raped by three drunken policemen in my own apartment in Ahmedabad at 3:00am. There are plenty of other stories. This only states how far the state has gone away from being my protector to becoming my predator; that the men who are there to protect the rule of law are abusing and cursing the freedom that my ancestors fought hard to put in place.

A constitution, in its ideology, aims to protect the people that a nation-state holds within its boundaries. It should not be a surprise that we run into needs to modify what has been coded (or borrowed and pasted) 64 years ago. Yet, I am surrounded by self-claimed patriots who see the Indian Constitution as a sacred entity that cannot be ever thought as fallible. So the constitution is put everyday in a brain-constructed temple while my rights are burnt away in a sacrifice that for many is sacred.

The constitution today, in many ways, has become a constant that is contrary to its own setting ideology. The constitution has drifted away from the evolving needs of freedom. Protecting the rule of law in this nation has become equivalent to protecting the constant of the constitution.

What I can only hope, especially on this day, is that we think again of what a constitution means to us, of what freedom means to us; to think whether granting you your wish does not take away from the basic freedom of your neighbor (Kashmir, yes, I am hinting there) just because you cannot think of Mother India (if at all that exists) without some mystical head that Kashmir is supposed to be; to think again why I need to be a woman with masculine features to come anywhere to playing the game of politics; that being a woman wearing a red lipstick makes me a prey of the protectors of rule of law who are paid by the taxes I pay every day.

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About Shreya Parikh

I am Shreya. Project Rethought is my attempt to rethink my own observations as a brown woman of Indian origin. I currently live in Paris where I teach at Sciences Po Paris and Parsons Paris-The New School.
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