“I don’t think the Constitution will save Indian democracy. Indian democracy has to save the constitution,” author Madhav Khosla said during a debate at the Jaipur Literature Festival on Saturday.
The third day of the Jaipur Literature Festival began with understanding, re-visiting and examining the relevance of the Constitution. In the session, Of the people, by the people: The Indian Constitution, former Election Commissioner of India, Navin Chawla, legal scholar and author of The Indian Constitution, Madhav Khosla, and politician Margaret Alva were in conversation with author and Supreme Court lawyer Saif Mahmood. As expected, the recent anti-CAA protests overshadowed the conversation.
Emphasising on the need to make the text work, Khosla asserts that it is on us to see that it does. “Whether or not the Constitution works or not has to depend on some external commitment to making it work. Imagine, if you have a refrigerator and if you are not plugging in, how will it work? I think people at the time understood this. This was the reason why Nehru wrote letters to chief ministers every two weeks. He was basically saying that democracy will go as fast as the British government went.”
Weighing on the question, Alva expressed her consternation on the intent of the present government. “I became an Indian citizen in 1950. Today I am being asked to prove that I am an Indian?”
“We are being told that the voter’s identity card is not proof of citizenship. My friends, in that case, those in the parliament have been elected by non-citizens? How are they passing laws if they have been elected by non-citizens?” she asked. “I have fought so many elections and now I am not a citizen? I said in a speech in UP recently that I refuse to submit any papers to any authority. What will they do, send me to a detention camp which is being constructed in Karnataka? Incidentally, 5000 people have been rendered homeless in my state despite the High Court orders. They were looking for Bangladeshis. Most of the people there had their Aadhar cards. If this continues then the economy will fall,” she persuaded.
Signalling her refusal to adhere, she added, “What will they do if I don’t show my papers? They are saying, to send her to Portugal. Aarey, what is my connection to Portugal? I don’t understand. This is crazy. After 70 years of Independence, I am being asked to prove my citizenship? I told my people, if anybody asks you to fill out forms, do not. Now is the time for civil disobedience.”
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