‘Dr Ambedkar would disapprove of CAA’

The Preamble is also packed with ideas and ideology — ideology that is expressed simply.
Last Updated 25 January 2020, 19:30 IST

Author and Professor Akash Singh Rathore has dug through thousands of documents from the era of its drafting — archival collections, minutes from meetings and so on — in order to truly establish in his book how it was that the Preamble was brought to life, which day, by whom, and with what aims and motivations in mind. In a chat with Sunday Herald, he tells us why it is a good thing the Preamble is back in focus today.

Presciently enough, there is a lot of debate about our Constitution and its Preamble today. What is your take on it?

For ordinary people, the content of most of the Constitution is largely inaccessible, wordy and packed with legal jargon. The Preamble, however, is different. It is concise, clear, compelling and inspirational. This makes the Preamble the obvious choice for public attention, and it can serve as a powerful unifying document. The Preamble is also packed with ideas and ideology — ideology that is expressed simply.

The Left parties, over the last years, have been incapable of articulating their own values, stance and ideology in a way that is completely compelling and motivational.

On the other side, the Right has easily been able to communicate its ideology, because it is a simple one. Hence, the wider Indian public has been forced to choose between vagueness and ambiguity (Centre-Left) or regressive ethno-nationalism (Right).

The rediscovery of the Preamble, especially by the youth, is a breakthrough, because it offers an inspiring and clear ideology that can be rallied behind and championed, and it is the very one that the Indian nation was/is founded upon. The Preamble can serve us as the measure according to which we evaluate policies as well as political parties.

What do you think Dr B R Ambedkar’s stance on CAA would be if he were to be alive today?

Dr Ambedkar was a legal expert. Hence, even keeping aside his ideological leanings, Dr Ambedkar’s assessment of the CAA is very simple to reconstruct.

But, it is not something that is out there in the public discourse. That is, the CAA — he would say — fails the essential test of proportionality. Proportionality, in law, is the requirement that legislation (or punishment meted out by a judge) is in proportion to the problem being addressed (or to the crime, in the case of punishment).

If an Act entails broad, highly impactful consequences way beyond the particular issue that it was meant to address, then it fails to be proportionate, and is bad in law.

The CAA legislates way beyond the specific need, and in doing so, puts negative pressure on other important constitutional values. Hence, it fails the proportionality test and must be rejected. Thus, Dr Ambedkar would be opposed to it simply on juridical grounds.

To put it simply, ‘We the People’ opted for the Constitution, for inclusive citizenship, for a progressive and equitable nation, and this has been our aspiration for over 70 years. Any meddling with this basic premise is dangerous.

Which is why, the current movements, where the youth are championing the Preamble, is a very fitting and inspired response.

(Published 25 January 2020, 19:19 IST)

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