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Poets, singers and writers speak about what the Constitution means to them ‘in letter and spirit’

‘I’m not a number. I’m a citizen.'

Written by Suanshu Khurana , Ektaa Malik , Tanushree Ghosh | Updated: January 26, 2020 8:29:05 pm
protest, constitution, what is constitution, fundamental rights, fundamental duties Women at Shaheen Bagh. (Photo: Tashi Tobgyal)

Artistes from around the country speak to The Indian Express and explain why the Constitution is the single most important document that answers all these questions.

‘The people are the nation’

Aamir Aziz, Aamir Aziz poer, Aamir Aziz Sab Yaad Rakha Jayega An ideal citizen is someone who can protest against any kind of exploitation, no matter who is doing it, he says.

Aamir Aziz, 30, poet
Claim to fame: Sab Yaad Rakha Jayega

What does the Constitution mean to you?

It is an endeavour to return a nation or a land to its people with the guarantee of liberty, equality and fraternity.

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The fundamental right that you value the most?

I value all the fundamental rights because to try and choose one fundamental right over the other can be a dangerous thing to do. All the rights — freedom against exploitation, to practise one’s religion, promise of equality and liberty — are necessary. It’s unfortunate that we are not aware of all our rights. People need to know them. I value all the rights and will not choose one over the other.

Who is an ideal citizen in your eyes?

An ideal citizen is someone who can protest against any kind of exploitation, no matter who is doing it. It could be the government, an individual or a corporate company against its employees. In today’s time, the citizen’s role is to stand up for the most basic parameters of inequality, communalism and discrimination. Someone who is raising her voice against discrimination, inequality, exploitation is the ideal citizen of every democracy.

Your idea of nationalism?

Nationalism, to me, is all about the people. A nation is not just made of land, boundaries, flags and symbols; it’s about its people, it’s about human beings. The people are the nation. If those people are bypassed and land is given top priority, then that can be dangerous. So it’s the people who need to be kept at the forefront of the narrative of nationalism. It’s a concept that can turn against its own people quite easily and it’s the same concept that ensures the life and dignity of its people.

— As told to Suanshu Khurana

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‘We need to be accountable for our society’

Naveen Chourey, poet Naveen Chourey, Naveen Chourey Vaastavik Kanoon, naveen chourey sunday eye Patriotism, nationalism and love for your county have now become one muddled idea, he says.

Naveen Chourey, 27, poet
Claim to fame: Vaastavik Kanoon

What does the Constitution mean to you?

The Constitution for me is the term “in letter and the spirit of the law”. It is not easy to explain the spirit of the law. We have the longest written Constitution in the world. It’s not a book which should be followed word by word. We should follow it as a guide map and imbibe all that it aims to inculcate in us. We have a political democracy, we need to make it a social one as well.

The fundamental right that you value  the most?

The right to life and personal liberty, which comes under Article 21 (of the Constitution). If you don’t have the right to live then what’s the point of equality or education? A close second is the right to constitutional remedies.

Who is an ideal citizen in your eyes?

I once had an intense discussion with a close friend who asserted that since he pays his taxes, doesn’t break any law and votes, the state shouldn’t expect anything else from him. I agree, but I add one point. We live in a social structure and there is a need to be vigilant as well. When heinous rapes take place in the country, it’s not just a law and order problem but a social issue. You cannot have state vigilance as a lone remedy because then the state will use that vigilance to further its own gains. We need to be accountable for our society. If something goes wrong in the country, we might say ‘that’s not my problem’, but we need to take it up.

Your idea of nationalism?

Patriotism, nationalism and love for your county have now become one muddled idea. Rabindranath Tagore had said, ‘Patriotism cannot be our final spiritual shelter; my refuge is humanity.’ According to Hitler, what he did was the best thing. Agreeing with his vision was called nationalism then. In the process, humanity was trumped. I think any such ‘ism’ which doesn’t have humanity as its bedrock is wrong. If your first brick is not humanity, then the superstructure can be anything, it doesn’t really matter.

— As told to Ektaa Malik

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‘I’m not a number. I’m a citizen’

Puneet Sharma, lyricist Puneet Sharma, Puneet Sharma Tum Kaun Ho Be, Puneet Sharma consttution I am not a nationalist, but I think a nationalist movement belongs to a culture and not to any particular religion, he says.

Puneet Sharma, 32,
Writer and lyricist, creator of the Claim to fame: Tum Kaun Ho Be

What does the Constitution mean to you?

Our Constitution is a promise, a pact between democracy and the people of the country. It is this that ties us to the nation.

The fundamental right that you value the most?

The right to question. Till the time I have that right, there is meaning to me being a citizen. Till the time I have the right to doubt the actions of the government, there is meaning to me being a citizen. Otherwise, there is no difference between me and a voting slip.

Who is an ideal citizen in your eyes?

The one who is a citizen and not a voter. The job of a voter is to only cast a vote. That is why various parties count the voter as a number. I am not some number. I have an identity, I have a viewpoint. I am a citizen who puts his fundamental rights to use. I don’t think that I can vote once in five years and then sleep for the rest of the term. My job, from time to time, is to ask questions of those who represent us.

Your idea of nationalism?

I am not a nationalist, but I think a nationalist movement belongs to a culture and not to any particular religion. Pakistan and Bangladesh are both Muslim countries but their respective nationalist movements were different because they were, culturally, very different societies. Our country is a mix of varied cultures, and this is significant to its character. It cannot copy someone else and become something else.

— As told to Suanshu Khurana

‘Nationalism is finding reasons to love one another’

Rahul Rajkhowa, Rahul Rajkhowa The Police, Rahul Rajkhowa the sunday eye, Rahul Rajkhowa constitution Nationalism is loving your country so much that you would do your absolute best to maintain its peaceful fabric and sanctity, he says.

Rahul Rajkhowa,
25, singer/rapper and history teacher,
Claim to fame: The Police?

What does the Constitution mean to you?

We are 1.3 billion extremely diverse people who need a document to abide by to maintain sanity and the Constitution is that document. It was written over three years by the brightest minds of the time and it was designed to be a progressive one. It must be respected and followed if you really love the country and what it stands for. As the party in power amends it to suit its agenda, it just shows how little it respects the country and its ideals. It is the responsibility of the government — as the ones who have been voted to power by the general public — to uphold the Constitution and treat everyone fairly.

The fundamental right that you value  the most?

Freedom of expression — which has been continuously violated in this country.

Who is an ideal citizen in your eyes?

One who is aware, weighs both the pros and cons of everything and is not swayed by rhetoric. An ideal citizen is someone  who doesn’t give in to incitement along religious lines.

Your idea of nationalism?

Nationalism is conserving your country’s environment/nature, bettering the living conditions of all. Nationalism is finding reasons to love one another rather than widening a divide and villainising one particular community. Nationalism is loving your country so much that you would do your absolute best to maintain its peaceful fabric and sanctity.

— As told to Tanushree Ghosh

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