Home India News Post 26/11, campaign puts spotlight on nation’s constitution

Post 26/11, campaign puts spotlight on nation’s constitution

By Madhusree Chatterjee, IANS,

New Delhi : Very few Indian children – or even adults for that matter – find the time or inclination to reflect upon the country’s constitution. But after the 26/11 Mumbai terror attack, a campaign has put this golden charter under the spotlight.

“Every Indian needs to read the constitution to understand and appreciate the real DNA of India,” Zubin Driver, the founder of Fight-Back, one of the biggest online youth movements that rallies against gender crime and terrorism, told IANS on phone from Mumbai.

The online opinion community, www.fight-back.net, wants to teach schoolchildren across the country the values of sovereignty, socialism and democracy enshrined in the constitution.

The movement – which began after the Mumbai terror attacks that began Nov 26 and claimed over 170 lives in three days – has enlisted over 1.1 million children from across India and tied up with premier schools in Mumbai, Pune and Delhi.

The spotlight, said Driver, is on the fundamental duties of the citizen listed in the Article 51 A, which says it is the duty of every citizen of India to abide by the constitution, respect its ideals, the national flag and the national anthem.

The constitution also empowers the government to call upon the people to defend the country and render a national service when called upon to do so.

The fundamental duties, feels Driver, encapsulate what being an Indian entails.

“The duties embody the thoughts and actions that patriotic Indians must display in order to create the India of our dreams. It is also important because it puts the onus on us to act. It is a proactive and practical charter and not some romantic notion,” he said.

A random survey by IANS to find out the general awareness about the country’s constitution and its relevance as a subject in the school module brought out interesting responses.

For many, studying the constitution is a waste of time; while for others, the process is too complicated. Only a committed and enlightened few think it is worthwhile.

The rights and duties of citizens are now merely definitions in the abridged chapters of social study textbooks, feels a cross-section of people.

“I think studying the constitution is a burden for schoolchildren who are tasked with a multitude of subjects at the secondary level,” the father of a 10th grader at the Delhi Public School, R.K. Puram, told IANS.

“The social studies paper, which is of 100 marks, is divided into history, geography and civics – of which the constitution forms a small part. This can be done away with because everything is abridged.”

However, a hundred yards away, a Class 10 student of Sarvodaya Government School said he had been through the rights, duties and the preamble of the constitution.

“We have political science classes six days a week. And what I like most about the constitution is that it guarantees the right to life – everybody must live. I want to join the army and lessons in the fundamental duties stipulated in the constitution help,” the frail boy said.

His friend, Sahil, who wants to play professional cricket, finds the constitution a waste of time. “But I suppose one should know it.”

Such attitudes are what the Fight-Back campaign – launched after the organisation represented India at a global youth summit in the US – is all about.

Driver, the creative network head of media conglomerate Network 18, explained: “The agenda of Fight-Back, No More Terrorism is to create long-term interventions in the counter-terrorism space.

“One of the aims was to create educational inputs that would encourage children and the youth to understand the meaning of patriotism.”

“No one trigger has initiated Fight-Back, No More Terrorism…in fact a continuous state of terror in the country is an active stimulus for all of us to wake up and participate. We have convinced every principal we have spoken to to take this forward with their children… since over 1.1 million children were involved…,” Driver said.

Art promoter and writer Poonam Goel, whose son is a Class 6 student, said that constitution handbooks – like tiny Bibles – should be made available in the market.

“Students and even adults can carry these pocket books because the constitution is an integral part of civil society and everyone should know the basic rights and duties,” Goel said.

(Madhusree Chatterjee can be contacted at [email protected])