Chellenges Await President Kovind


Presently, there is not a single state in Central, North-West and North India where complete rule of law as required by the Constitution prevails. A greater part of the nation is ravaged by criminals operating under the guise of ‘saving ‘Indian culture’, unleashing violence against the citizenry, blatantly violating Constitutional rights and guarantees. The writ of cultural vigilante groups even has sway over the writ of the state, good examples being UP, Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Haryana. The actors in the violence are those patronized by the ruling dispensation, with the government’s culpability in the violence demonstrated by its zero efforts to curtail it. Mere condemnation of such violation of the Constitution amounts to paying lip service, while the real need is for complete Constitutional rule of law to be enforced, not selectively as is currently happening.

Additionally, there is increased overt suppression of Dalits and minorities on caste, historical and religious lines, made possible through existing anti-Constitutional laws, such as anti-conversion laws in individual states, and through instituting new ones that enable goons to further target these segments of society – laws, such as, beef ban and the recent new cattle sale rules. In states like Gujarat, the Dalits are even being attacked for not performing their caste assigned occupations. Even more has been taken away from the marginalized sections through a huge cutback in allocation under Scheduled Caste and Tribal Sub Plan component of the Budget.

The murders of Pansare, Dabholkar and Kalburgi and the suppression of other writers, along with the suppression of the media, highlights the assault on the Constitutionally guaranteed freedom of expression. This freedom is being suppressed because the writings of various entities threatens the ruling dispensation’s agenda, which is in variance with that of the Constitution.

Clearly, there is a concerted effort by various forces to undermine the Constitution. President Mukherjee did very little to arrest the blatant violations of the Constitution. The new President Ram Nath Kovind, therefore, has his task cut out: reinforce the Constitution in letter and in spirit. Constitutional rule of law must be reestablished; the nation’s political and social ethos has to revert to be all inclusive as set about by the Constitution, all extra-constitutional activities have to be curtailed and the focus has to be brought back towards developing the marginalized sections, along with others.

President Kovind does not evoke much confidence about doing the right thing because of his identity as a cadre of the RSS- an organization which is known for its disdain for India’s democratic Constitution, Dalits, minorities and for secularism. Even among the Dalits, he is seen as a Dalit representing Hindutva to the Dalits rather than a Dalit representing Dalits to the BJP. That he earlier made an anti-Constitutional statement regarding Christian and Muslim Dalits, which has been dug up, has not helped matters either. The content of the statement is the same argument put forth during the Constituent Assembly debates to deny Dalit Christians and Muslims reservation, which was tuned down by the Assembly, but later made law through a dubious backdoor Presidential order in 1950. These acceptance problems are challenges he must first tide over through pro-Constitution conduct before winning the people’s confidence.

The President may also not have the same administrative powers like the PM to make corrections, but as head of the Constitution, he has powers that allow him to throw a spanner in the mechanism that drives all the mentioned extra and anti Constitutional activities. The Presidents he can learn from are Zail Singh, who, convinced that it was anti-constitutional and against the rights of the citizenry, stood up to PM Rajiv Gandhi and refused to sign the controversial Postal Bill. Likewise, another Dalit President, KR Narayanan, twice asked the incumbent government to reconsider its advice on using Article 356.

Will President Kovind display the same commitment to the Constitution that Zail Singh and Narayanan exhibited or will he bend to the agenda of those who made him President? Will he bring India back to the Constitutional path or will he become part of the problem? Will he turn into a statesman for the nation or will he become a spokesperson for Hindutva? Time will tell. For now let’s celebrate the fact that we have another Dalit President.
 Oliver DSouza is editor of Dalit Post and award wining author

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