Sunday, July 31, 2011
Friday, July 29, 2011
P.S: Please read the comments as well, as they provide different perspectives!
Monday, July 25, 2011
Monday, July 18, 2011
Recently, I had an occasion to indulge in a rather lengthy debate on linking one’s religious pride and patriotism. It all originated in one of my friends on Twitter tweeting that he is a proud Muslim who doesn’t believe in preaching but practising. Another friend replied saying that the former has all the rights to be proud as a Musilm, provided he is first a good Indian. I was disappointed at this tweet for various reasons. Firstly, being proud about one’s religion has nothing to do with one’s pride in his/her country. Secondly, religion itself being a personal choice, others should not be condescending by granting a right to be proud about it. Thirdly, the tweet clearly demonstrated a religious profiling of Muslims, as if to show that Muslims, unless proven otherwise are not good Indians.
While we were at debating this issue, I suggested that it is not right for us to be proud of mere status, but pride should be in our achievements. My point was that things which are not in our control, or are not results of our efforts, but just happened to us like our country, religion, caste, mother tongue, race, colour, sexual orientation etc are nothing to be proud of, as these attributes are mere matter of facts.
As an aside, another friend of mine questioned the logic of this view. To prove his point he asked me that if one can only be proud of one’s achievements, how is that I am proud of my parents? I replied to him through a counter question as to what made him think that I am proud of my parents at all? I further explained to him that I may love and respect my parents but did not find anything to be particularly proud of that that they are my parents. Rather, I would be proud about the fact that I have been a good son to my parents (fulfilling all my duties) than taking pride in the fact that they happen to be my parents.
My friend was not convinced of the logic of this view. He repeated that he finds the argument illogical. I replied to him that I have no problem in his being proud of his parents (or being a proud Hindu or proud Muslim or proud Indian) so long as he doesn’t hold that pride against others who do not meet this qualifications. In other words, one may be proud of his parents but that should not extent further to hold in contempt others who do not share same parentage with him.
These exchanges prompted me to look at the concepts of ‘pride’ and ‘proud’ little more deeply. What is pride? What makes one proud? According to Wikipedia, one of the first definitions of pride came from St. Augustine, who defined pride as “the love of one’s own excellence”. In this sense the ‘pride’ is the opposite of either ‘humility’ or ‘guilt’.
In the words of Sullivan, “Pride is an inward directed emotion that exemplifies either an inflated sense of one’s personal status or the specific, mostly positive, emotion that is a product of praise or independent self-reflection. Pride is distinct from happiness and joy.
‘Proud’ is the adjective form. It is feeling pleasure or satisfaction over something regarded as highly honourable or creditable to oneself. It is also ‘having, or proceeding from, or showing a high opinion of one’s own dignity, importance or superiority.
I will not go further deep into the abstract thinking on the concept of pride. It would serve our purpose to know that pride and proud are associated with one’s own superiority or excellence viz-a-viz other persons.
Being proud about a particular status usually follows that absence of that status is a cause for guilt or inferiority. If I say I am proud of being straight in my sexual orientation, I am also making an implied statement that I would have felt guilty or I would be inferior if I happened to be a gay. Similarly, if I am proud of being an Indian, it would mean that I wouldn’t have been so superior, had I been born as anything but an Indian.
The above juxtaposition of pride and guilt/inferiority is not a cause of botheration so long as they remain internal to a person. But what happens if this mindset is extended to other persons who does not confirm to the same status? The classical ‘us’ versus ‘they’ prejudices? For example, when I am proud of being the son of my parents , am I saying that not being the son of my parents but of any other parents is a cause for inferiority or guilt? In other words, does being son of my parents make me superior to those who were not lucky to be born to same parents? Remember, pride is distinct from mere joy or happiness for being the son of one’s parents or belonging to some other status.
That is how it ends up more often than not. We know any number of prejudices associated with status. The proud whites found the blacks and coloured not worthy of any respect. A proud Muslim often finds a non-Muslim as mere Cafir, infidel and unworthy person, against whom even a bloody Jihad is permitted. No wonder we have so many prejudices in this world as we have so many factors about which we are proud! We hold other non-conformists (to our status) in contempt!
The problem gets even worse when one’s pride is exploited by some unscrupulous persons or groups. These elements exacerbate the pride of individuals in some common status, real or perceived, through propaganda and then exploit that intense pride to achieve their nefarious objectives. We can see lot of instances of such exploitation.
By appealing to a follower’s pride, the reason and logic are easily sidestepped. What remains is only emotion and by manipulating that emotion you can get almost anything done by the unsuspecting follower, be it a pogrom of ‘others’ or a bomb blast directed at innocents. Almost all religious denominations are guilty of manipulating pride of its followers, at one time or other, to achieve superiority over other religions.
At the time of wars (even sometimes at the time of peace), regimes effectively whip up the pride in one’s country to the extent that no one dares to question any wrong doings of that regime. In patriotism, the line between benign pride and chauvinism is not too thick.
How can we overcome this exploitation and channelize our energies towards creating a better human race that is organised only on the principles of mutual love, respect and dependency? Well, the first step is to recognise that a status is not something to be proud of.
Any status that gets bestowed upon us is not something that we earned. If I am son of my parents it is not my achievement but a mere coincidence. Every son or daughter in this world is a child of some or other parents, though the quality of those parents may differ. If my parents are good, I should feel joy and be thankful about it; not take any pride in it. If my birth happened in India, I may feel happy about it and love this country; but nothing to be proud about that birth. Every person is born in one or other country; not by his/her choice.
Same is the case of religion or other such statuses. Your religion, caste or mother tongue is only a fact that occurred due to mere chance of your being born to certain parents and not to others.
Second step is to consider how many of others who do not conform to the status in question would feel proud of our status? Would any person other than those born to Indian parents (with the exception of miniscule number of persons who adopted Indian citizenship for their love for India) feel proud about being an Indian? In other worlds, how many Pakistanis, British or French men would feel deprived that they were not born in India? When we start considering this, we feel most of the ‘they’ are also proud of similar yet very dissimilar status and that there is nothing great in our own status to be proud of.
Finally, we must all try to restrict our pride to our own achievements. Not what we were given with, but what we created/gave back, should be the reason for our pride. Our pride would then soon get deflated to the feeling humility because we have often got much more than what we could give back, be it our family, society, nation or humanity.
Let us be proud in not being the child of certain parents but in being a good child to them. Let us not feel pride in being an Indian but what we gave back to India. Let us not find pride in being a Hindu/Muslim, but in following the true tenets of those religions – in other words, being a true Hindu or Muslim.
Above all, let us find pride in being better human beings and making this society more humane.
Thursday, July 14, 2011
I live just about a kilometre away from one of the three blast sites in Mumbai, Dadar Kabootharkhana. I realise I could easily have been one of the victims, if it was only another time and another day. So, I am concerned more than many of the others about what happened in Mumbai on this 13th July and who are the black forces that carried out such a dastardly act on us!
The Police who are investigating these Blasts have not yet come to any conclusions as to the identity of the people or groups behind them. They are still working on the leads and trying to establish the identity. Some of the indications pointed fingers at Indian Mujahideen (IM). There are also other indications that do not confirm to their usual modus operandi, as per the media reports.
However, not all of us are in doubt. Some of the immediate reactions to the blasts blamed Pakistan, even before the extent of the tragedy was known. Some others pointed fingers at a section of our own society. However, these were emotional and immature reactions to an unfortunate incident and therefore, to be rejected out rightly.
But, as the day progressed, we witnessed attempts at politicisation and exploitation of the emotions. Mr LK Advani, who visited Mumbai today, had no doubts whatsoever that the Pakistan was behind the blasts either directly or indirectly by sustaining the Indian Mujahideen. He went on to demand that the Government of India take strong actions to get the ISI declared as a terrorist organisation and stop all talks with Pakistan until that country takes concrete steps towards terrorism. These were not ranting of an old man, because the BJP spokespersons like Chandan Mitra reiterated this position of directly holding Pakistan responsible for the blasts.
I believe it is irresponsible for supposedly responsible people to start blaming countries or groups without establishing the truth, or at least credible suspicion. As reported in the media, the rains at the site (open umbrellas making CCTV recordings less effective) as well as total absence of any electronic exchange among the perpetuators, unlike in the past, makes it difficult to confirm IM’s involvement. As it used to happen in the past, there were no communications sent to media from IM, claiming responsibility for the blasts.
That leaves the lists of suspects vide open. I am not a security or terrorism expert. Yet I can list many entities that could be behind these blasts. Just to prove the futility of premature blaming, I will list some of the possible suspects. Please do not take this as my accusation against one or the other named entity.
1. Indian Mujahideen – They have done it in the past. They have the expertise in IEDs
2. SIMI- The modules of the now banned organisation could easily be behind the blasts
3. ISI or its elements- Our usual suspects in any blasts in India. Also to disrupt proposed talks between Foreign Ministers of India and Pakistan
4. Pakistan based Kashmiri terror groups- with or without active support from ISI
5. Elements of Mumbai underworld – They have the training, resources and manpower
6. Any new groups that may have emerged under the radar in recent times.
7. Remnants of Abhinav Bharat or other disciples of Assemanand – They have done that in the past and successfully shifted blame on to the other organisations
8. Any other right wing organisation to bring additional pressure on Central/State Government.
9. Any political parties with the intention of destabilising the present government
10. Maoists who are in continuous struggle with Maharashtra Government.
11. China, with the intention of keeping India and Pakistan apart.
12. Any local forces, so that they can use these incidences in furthering their agenda
It is easy to accuse any one of the above (this list can be longer depending upon who creates it) but such accusations in the absence of proof will only be irresponsible. I know some of the above suggestions are laughable, but no sane investigating officer will rule out any possibility unless there are reasons for that.
Whoever it may be, those who conducted these blasts chose not to claim responsibility. I do not understand what purpose will be served by terror strikes unless one claims them, except for trying to defeat the spirit and morale of the people. People of Mumbai have defeated the designs of those terrorists by not losing their spirit and by keeping calm. If they chose to react, as the terrorists might have wished for and like some of our social and mainstream media friends wanted, there would have been riots in this city today.
People of Mumbai deserve a big salute for not falling for the designs of these terrorists or those who are trying to fish in the troubled waters.
Wednesday, July 13, 2011
Tuesday, July 12, 2011
The preamble of the Constitution of India is not a mere ornate statement but one that establishes the basic features of the Constitution itself. It goes as follows:
“WE, THE PEOPLE OF INDIA, having solemnly resolved to constitute India into a SOVEREIGN SOCIALIST SECULAR DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC and to secure to all its citizens:
JUSTICE, social, economic and political;
LIBERTY of thought, expression, belief, faith and worship;
EQUALITY of status and of opportunity;
and to promote among them all
FRATERNITY assuring the dignity of the individual and the unity and integrity of the Nation;
IN OUR CONSTITUENT ASSEMBLY this twenty-sixth day of November, 1949, do HEREBY ADOPT, ENACT AND GIVE TO OURSELVES THIS CONSTITUTION.”
Before going further, let us consider two important factors; (i) Indian Constitution is a result of solemn resolution of the people of India; and (ii) People of India have enacted and given it to themselves in their Constituent Assembly.
A Constitution cannot be completely rigid. It is expected to be flexible enough to meet the requirements of changing times. Therefore amendments may become necessary to the Constitution from time to time. Question arises as to who can amend the Constitution? Constituent Assembly is not there anymore. Can people of India amend it (as in the case of a referendum) each time, there arises a necessity? Impracticality of a referendum based amendment of Constitution is quite obvious in a country like India. Therefore, Constituent Assembly, in its wisdom, entrusted the power to amend provisions of the Constitution to the elected representatives of People of India, i.e., members of Indian Parliament (with or without concurrence of majority of the States, as the case may be, depending upon the provisions), through Article 368.
As a popular Malayalam saying goes, ‘Can salted be as salty as salt itself?’ When the power of Parliament to amend the provisions of Constitution is derived from the Constitution itself, can that power be as powerful as the Constitution itself? In other words, can Parliament amend the entire Constitution or replace the present Constitution with another Constitution? Answer is very clear and is in the negative. The Constitution is supreme and therefore, even Parliament and judiciary are bound by it. Any amendments carried out, therefore, cannot challenge this supremacy.
Why such a rigidity? Such rigidity is mandatory to protect our system from the shenanigans of the political dispensation in power. We have seen at least some efforts by political class to overcome the restrictions placed upon them by the Constitution, but all such efforts were thwarted by the judiciary, using the very same Constitution.
Challenge to Supremacy
The power of Parliament to amend provisions of the Constitution came up for judicial review in many cases; most important of them being Keshavananda Bharati Vs State of Kerala, the famous decision of 13 judges’ Bench in 1973. The majority in this case held that the power of amendment under Article 368 is not absolute but subject to various implied and inherent restrictions imposed by the basic structure of the frame-work of the Constitution. In other words, the power to amend under Article 368 is subject to the qualification that the basic structure of the framework of Constitution cannot be altered.
Indira Gandhi Vs Raj Narain (1975) is another case where Supreme Court struck down a constitutional amendment that sought to exclude certain electoral process from the judicial review. Readers may know that the genesis of Emergency (the black days of Indian democracy) was in the same incidences that led to this case.
The Parliament in its efforts to regain the ‘supremacy’ in amending Constitution, added clauses (4) and (5) to Article 368, trying to make the amending power of Parliament unlimited and to limit the judicial review over such amendments. However, this amendment was also struck down by Supreme Court in Minerva Mills Vs Union of India (1980) case.
In all the above cases, Supreme Court had relied on the doctrine of Basic Feature to limit the amending power of Parliament. While the judges are not unanimous on what all features constitute the basic features of Indian Constitution, some of them have by now become unassailable. Let us look at the basic features listed under various cases:
Kesavanda Bharati Case:
(i) Supremacy of the Constitution
(ii) Republican and Democratic form of Government
(iii) Secular character of the Constitution
(iv) Separation of powers of various arms of the State;
legislature, executive and judiciary
(v) Federal character of Constitution
Indira Gandhi Case:
This case established Judicial Review as one of the basic features of Indian Constitution
Minerva Mills Case:
(i) Limited power of Parliament to amend the Constitution
(ii) Harmony between fundamental rights and directive principles of the Constitution
Power of judicial review
The legislatures tried to circumvent judicial review by including the amended provisions in the 9th Schedule of the Constitution. (This Schedule lists the provisions that are not open to judicial review in the normal course). However, this loophole was also closed down by the Supreme Court through its decision in I.R. Coelho v. State of Tamil Nadu (2007). The Court held that: “All amendments to the Constitution made on or after 24th April, 1973 (Keshavanda Bharati Decision) by which the Ninth Schedule is amended by inclusion of various laws therein shall have to be tested on the touchstone of the basic or essential features of the Constitution as reflected in Article 21 read with Article 14, Article 19 and the principles underlying them. To put it differently even though an Act is put in the Ninth Schedule by a constitutional amendment, its provision would be open to attack on the ground that they destroy or damage the Basic Structure of the fundamental right or rights taken away or abrogated pertains or pertain to the Basic Structure.”
By now, these repeated decisions have firmly established the supremacy of Basic Features of the Constitution and subjugated Parliament’s powers of amendment. It is very clear that, as per the existing laws as stated by the Supreme Court, no amendment of Constitution or enactment of laws will stand the judicial scrutiny, if they are on the wrong side of the Basic Features.
As we all know, there are some developments that are taking place in India, today. There is a distrust being developed against the elected representatives and their motives for enacting or not enacting laws. The number of scams and corruptions cases, involving political functionaries at high levels, is only exacerbating this distrust. The so called representatives of Civil Society are increasingly trying to assert themselves over the elected representatives of the Country.
The proposed Lokpal Bill is such a case. Mr Anna Hazare and his Jan Lokpal Group is holding the Union Government to ransom with renewed threats of agitation, seeking acceptance of their version of the Lokpal Bill. While we have heard enough arguments, for and against the Bills being proposed by Government and the Janlokpal Group, we have not seen many analyses on the validity of clauses in the proposed Bills against the basic Features of the Constitution itself.
Assuming that the Jan Lokpal Group succeeds in getting their version of the Bill passed into a law, will that law stand against the test of Basic Features? Will Courts be called upon to strike down that law on the ground that it violates the Basic Features?
I am afraid many of the proposals that are part of that Bill would go against the Basic features of the Constitution. A complete analysis of provisions of the Bill viz-a-viz judicial review is beyond the scope of this post. The objective of this post is limited to understanding the Doctrine of Basic Features and its operations over legislative changes. However, I hope to come out with such a detailed analysis in a day or two.
PS: I kept my promise :) Please see http://confused-ambadi.blogspot.com/2011/07/jan-lokpal-bill-and-basic-features-of.html