On November 26, the world’s so called largest democracy celebrated its Constitution Day. Not only were special events held by the Indian government back home, several programs were organized in the Diaspora, including one in BC.
The Day was initiated by the current right wing Hindu Prime Minister Narendra Modi, under whom attacks on religious minorities, including Dalits and political dissidents, have grown since 2014. All this goes against the spirit of the constitution that guarantees religious freedom to everyone, as well as social equality and democratic rights.
This year’s events coincided with the release of Anand Teltumbde, a renowned columnist and published author, who had been held in custody for more than two years under trumped up charges.
Teltumbde was arrested in 2020, on accusations of inciting violence and being part of conspirators against the government, but his only crime was that he stood for the poor and marginalised and questioned the power through his writings.
Teltumbde happens to be the grandson-in-law of Dr. B.R. Ambedkar, an undisputed Dalit icon and the architect of the Indian constitution. He was not even granted bereavement leave when his brother, a Maoist insurgent, was gunned down by the police in November, 2021.
Ironically, he was arrested on the birthday of Ambedkar, who Modi claims to revere, and got bail on the day when Modi and his apologists, including self-styled Ambedkarites in Canada, were celebrating Constitution Day. His release came only after the Bombay High Court gave him the bail, while the Modi administration unsuccessfully tried to keep him behind bars. For all the time, he rotted in jail with his trial not being started.
From the time of his arrest until his release, Modi may have bowed his head before Ambedkar’s statues or garlanded them a number of times. But such tokenistic gestures by someone who is wedded to an ideology of turning India into an intolerant Hindu theocracy, will not hide the reality that he is unwilling to listen to any criticism or treat minorities or the oppressed with respect.
Gurpreet Singh is a journalist