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Friday, November 27, 2020

We the People: Voices from across the country on ‘being Indian’

What does the Constitution mean to men and women across the Republic, in letter and spirit? Which rights matter to them the most, at home and beyond, as they enter 2020, the 70th year of the Republic.

By: Express Web Desk | New Delhi | Updated: December 29, 2019 1:38:09 pm
We the People: 70th year of the Republic In the year 2019, ascendant nationalism made way for narrowing the definitions of who is a national.

Resident, usual resident; citizen, non-citizen; immigrant, illegal immigrant; Muslim, non-Muslim; Kashmiri, non-Kashmiri. In the year 2019, ascendant nationalism made way for narrowing the definitions of who is a national. From Kashmir to Assam, the complex matrix of identities woven over hundred of years of history and geography disintegrated into a jumble of numbers (370, 1971, 19 lakh), while old identities proved strong despite the passage of centuries from Sabarimala to Ayodhya. The contesting figures took the form of protests against the government towards the end of the year. This seemed to have a common identity defined by the following characteristics: young, articulate, seeking its rights under the Constitution, and rallying around the Preamble, beginning with the words, ‘We, the people of India’.

The Sunday Express reached out to men and women across the Republic, from the uneasy calm of the Kashmir Valley to the angry disquiet of a campus, the desolation of Bastar to the solitude of a rape victim, and the hope for a job next to Millennium City Gurgaon to the longing for a temple in Ayodhya — to find out, in their own words and their own photographs or sketches, what they talk about when they talk about ‘being India’ and ‘being Indian’. What does the Constitution mean in their lives, in letter and spirit? Which rights matter to them the most, at home and beyond, as they enter 2020, the 70th year of the Republic.

‘We might look, eat different, but are all equally Indian, right?’

We the People: 70th year of the Republic Khrielievinuo Suohu is a member of the Angami tribe, one of the major ethnic groups of Nagaland.

20-year-old Khrielievinuo Suoho, a first-year student of English Honours, lives in Kohima with her parents and three siblings. In October, she participated in the Miss Kohima beauty pageant. Suohu is a member of the Angami tribe, one of the major ethnic groups of Nagaland. On October 31, the deadline for the final settlement of the Naga peace accord lapsed.

‘Being Ayodhya resident, I know what wrong politics can do’

We the People: 70th year of the Republic Ankit Tiwari believes living in Ayodhya has taught him “how to follow politics without being political”.

A law graduate, Ankit Tiwari was born two months after the demolition of the Babri Masjid in December 1992. The 26-year-old believes living in Ayodhya has taught him “how to follow politics without being political”. In November, the Supreme Court ruled that the entire disputed land be handed over to a trust for the construction of a Ram temple.

‘We’re what we are due to freedom, and those who fought, died for it’

We the People: 70th year of the Republic Rishav (left) sent this photograph of him winning an award for ‘Best Article in the College Magazine’ earlier this year.

With Assam the epicentre of the protests against the new citizenship law, following which the government suspended the Internet for 10 days, Rishav Rajguru, a final-year student at Guwahati Medical College and Hospital, says the government must talk to the protesters as the Act affects all citizens.

‘I enjoy the right to speak against PM, if necessary… Even after speaking against him, people are not prosecuted’

We the People: 70th year of the Republic Anshuman Singh

Anshuman Singh is a post-graduate student of English at the Udaynath Autonomous College at Adaspur in Cuttack. While pursuing his passion of making films, Anshuman would also like to work as a translator, and someday join the Odisha Administrative Service.

‘I fear that in future, I too may have to prove my citizenship’

We the People: 70th year of the Republic Seena sent a picture of her in her library

A post-graduate in history, Seena Uppalakkal Thazhe Kuniyil is an activist associated with the Renaissance Committee, an initiative of the CPM-led LDF government in Kerala that has been campaigning for the entry of women into the Sabarimala temple. In November, the Supreme Court referred the issue to a larger bench.

‘I have been detained by police several times. I feel I’m acting as per Constitution’

We the People: 70th year of the Republic Yogesh Makwana, 37, Labour contractor

Yogesh Makwana lives in Ahmedabad’s Rama Pir No Tekro, Gujarat’s biggest slum, with around 13,000-15,000 households, most of them Dalit like him. Since the 2016 Una assault on a group of Dalits, Gujarat has seen increasing Dalit assertion and, often, a resultant backlash from the upper castes. Having studied till Class 8, Makwana provides plumbers to various construction sites in the city.

‘When police shot the rape accused in Hyderabad, I felt proud to be an Indian’

We the People: 70th year of the Republic The 25-year-old sent this picture of her copy of the Constitution and her sketch of ‘Mother India’ riding a lion and captioned: “Jai Hind, Jai Bharat; Jai Bhim, Jai Samvidhan”

Four years after the 25-year-old Dalit was raped by her neighbour, the accused was sentenced to five years earlier this year. This year, at least two incidents of rape and murder — in Hyderabad and Unnao — and the death in a police ‘encounter’ of the four accused in the Hyderabad case, turned the spotlight on women’s security and the definition of justice.

‘People are the government… A good citizen speaks up without any fear’

We the People: 70th year of the Republic Saima sent a pic of Preamble of the Constitution, saying she holds its principles close to heart.

Third of five daughters, Saima Anjum lives with her family in Jamia Nagar and is currently a second-year law student at Jamia Millia Islamia. She was in the library on December 15 when police stormed the university over protests against the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA).

‘The real issue is jobs… This isn’t time for CAA, NRC’

We the People: 70th year of the Republic Sanjay Kumar, 22, graduate, currently unemployed.

Sanjay Kumar has been looking for a job since he completed his BA English (Hons) from a government college in Gurgaon in June this year. He is a resident of Nuh in Mewat district, which has been identified by NITI Aayog as the country’s most backward district. In 2017-18, the unemployment rate in the country stood at 6.1 per cent, according to data released by the government earlier in 2019.

‘The most beautiful thing about Constitution was that Kashmir had a special identity… That is now gone’

We the People: 70th year of the Republic Shoib Khalil, 27, Hotel owner

Shoib Khalil, who lives with his mother and elder brother, owns a hotel in Srinagar. Most of the bookings and queries for his hotel would come through email, WhatsApp or Facebook. Since August 5, when the Centre revoked Kashmir’s special status and enforced an Internet shutdown, business has been down, he says.

‘Protests give me hope… people are standing by their fellow citizens’

We the People: 70th year of the Republic “The campus milieu, the debates and the open fields represent to me the kind of freedom that I have not witnessed in my hometown,” says Naikun Nessa

Hailing from Berachampa village in North 24 Parganas district, Naikun Nessa just completed her MA in Journalism and Mass Communication from Jadavpur University (JU). She says that JU has changed her outlook towards life, shaped her opinions, and convinced her to become a social worker to try and change society. In recent times, the campus has emerged as one of the battlegrounds in the bitter and polarised tussle between the Trinamool Congress and the BJP for West Bengal.

‘When people visit India, must give positive picture’

We the People: 70th year of the Republic “The right to vote is the most precious right,” says Ashish Mude.

With the Opposition accusing the Centre of following “Savarkar’s formula” with the new citizenship law, the Hindu Mahasabha leader and his legacy are once again part of public debates. Ashish Mude, a Hindu Mahasabha member and a manager with Nagpur-based Desh Publication, believes there must be no fear-mongering over CAA.

‘I don’t want to be a farmer… farmers have always been at the receiving end’

We the People: 70th year of the Republic Ramesh sent this image of his one-acre farm, where his family grows jowar, bajra

While the new Shiv Sena-NCP-Congress government in Maharashtra is the latest to announce a loan waiver, Ramesh Lingayat, whose family grows jowar and bajra, says he doesn’t want to take up farming since “farmers have always been at the receiving end”. From Choramba village in Maharashtra’s Nanded district, Lingayat is a final-year student of political science and history at the Shankarrao Chavan College in Ardhapur taluka of the district.

‘Dream chasers in India are often pushed to limit of quitting… but we still do the job’

We the People: 70th year of the Republic Bastin sent this photograph of his parents at their home in Alappuzha

A native of Alappuzha in Kerala and the elder of two siblings, Bastin Bajiyo Job is in the third year of his course at the Indian Institute of Space Science and Technology, Asia’s first space university. This year, India’s Chandrayaan 2 mission missed making a soft landing on the moon by a whisker.

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