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C for Constitution, D for democracy

C for Constitution, D for democracy

Given that the matter of citizenship has taken precedence over development to a considerable extent, the nation continues to bear witness to the wide-spread protests following the legislation of the new citizenship law and against NRC. With at least two dozen people already killed and ban on rallies in several places, people are still out on the streets to express their anger about a law that essentially discriminates against Muslims. The unanimous demand is that India's secular Constitution to be upheld in letter and spirit. The Citizenship (Amendment) Act grants a fast track to getting citizenship if the refugees belong to the Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist, Jain, Parsi, and Christian communities who have fled Pakistan, Bangladesh, or Afghanistan to India till December 31, 2014 due to religious persecution so that they will not be treated as illegal immigrants –the conspicuous exclusion of Muslims from the list of refugees is the bone of contention and stokes fears that India is headed towards a genocide of Muslims eventually. It remains a raging matter of debate whether CAA is actually in essence fundamentally discriminatory or not, but the fact that influential international body like the United Nations also made a statement calling in question the conduct of a sovereign nation is something the government should not ignore. Ensuring a situation peacefully and near normally under control in the aftermath of formalising the law would have counted well in the favour of the government as a healthy democracy allows space for the expression of dissent. But, on the contrary, matters are far from settled with persisting demonstrations against CAA and NRC across the nation, pushing India to the brink of a major change. In a commentary published by digital news portal Scroll.in, "The twin instruments of this transformation are the National Register of Citizens and the Citizenship Amendment Act. If the former is carving out paths to statelessness for disfavoured groups, the latter is creating paths to citizenship for preferred groups". The globally held impression of the Central government being one of a Hindu supremacist is in stark contradiction with the government's claim that this entire undertaking is a humanitarian act; what is alleged to be stemming from Islamophobic ideology of the party, this entire national-level exercise is taking place at a time when, most conspicuously, the Indian economy is in utter shambles. Thinking development instead of details of citizenship at this time would have been much more favourable and conducive to the nation in several ways.

As masses of people rise in defense of the Constitution, it comes rather clear that people have an adequate understanding of the fundamental principles on which the state is built. This persisting stance of the public is sufficient indication that the government has no need whatsoever to go out of way to convince people of the relevance of this exercise by way of granting citizenship to migrants. In the true essence of democracy, people have taken it upon themselves more directly to turn the course of policy towards inclusiveness. Breaking out of the restricting identifications with a community in terms of region, language, faith, caste, profession, educational achievement, etc., people come together and stand as just Indians insisting on equality and rallying to protect the Constitution. While there is an unexpected broad-based popular opposition, one particular development is of the kind to hold special significance. For a 53-year-old lawyer who provides free basic education to at least 150 children dwelling in slums through "jhuggi classrooms" in Ludhiana, D is for democracy and C for Constitution. This lawyer takes up civil and criminal cases in the district courts and the Punjab and Haryana High Court. He is of the opinion that education and learning should go beyond the basics, and people must be educated about their rights and duties as well. In his book, 'Empowerment through Knowledge', he structures the alphabet lessons in a unique manner: A for Administration, B for Ballot Box, C for Constitution, D for Democracy, E for Election, F for Freedom, G for Government, and so on, explaining the meaning and significance of each word as well. The impact, he says, is visible. With simultaneous lessons in things like empowerment, democracy, and elections, the people are well-informed enough to not fall for any bluff played by any state agency. The empowerment of the common people is the soul of a healthy democracy and as long as the common people take a stand and push for what they unanimously think is right, irrespective of the government, democracy is alive and kicking.

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