The Republic of Reasons

Discourse within a constitutional framework alone can be the foundation for a possible solidarity in societies which are vibrant with real diversities and differences.

The intellectual and moral foundations of our republic seem insecure from time to time—for reasons both trivial and, alas, grave. The trivial threat is exemplified, for me—by the advertisers’ fascination with the princeling culture of yesteryear. The bewhiskered twits who figure in the advertisements that wish to signal gracious, old-world aristocracy—and look for all the world like the grand durbaans in five-star hotels—are an anomaly in a democratic republic. But there are unfortunately more serious reasons to make one wonder about the depth of our republican culture.

At its simplest, a republic is a freely constituted community of equals. This is distinguished from communities that make archaic and often fanciful claims for their existence, involving both hierarchy and even, God help us, God. But a republic is a voluntary, freely constituted community of equals—and the necessary foundation of this freely constituted community is, naturally, the Constitution—which has even been endorsed as our “only sacred book” by the Hon’ble Prime Minister Narendra Modi. This “coming together” of diverse peoples is not a “natural” or easy process—as will be evident from the laborious wranglings in our own Constituent Assembly. The Constitution is a heroic achievement, and it is only appropriate that the people who are associated with its making—notably, B R Ambedkar—are honoured by a grateful nation. By the same token, the repeatedly signalled desire of certain political elements to open up the Constitution to fundamental reconsideration is—and should be recognised to be—an attempt to tamper with the very foundations of our republic. Mercifully, good sense has prevailed—so far. But my primary concern here is with another threat that, while it is not quite foundational, is still extremely serious.

To read the full text Login

Get instant access

New 3 Month Subscription
to Digital Archives at

₹826for India

$50for overseas users

Comments

(-) Hide

EPW looks forward to your comments. Please note that comments are moderated as per our comments policy. They may take some time to appear. A comment, if suitable, may be selected for publication in the Letters pages of EPW.

Empirical data from the last two-and-a-half decades tells stories of upper-caste hegemony and lack of lower-caste representation in Indian media....

In recent times, the right to speech, expression and the right to protest have been constantly undermined. An attack on these rights runs contrary...

This article argues in favour of dismantling the Industrial Disputes Act. For several decades now, the provisions in the IDA have been the leading...

The presence of status quo bias and information asymmetry in the market of menstrual products as deterrents for urban, educated menstruating women...

This article raises wider questions like whether the social sciences have been able to provide any meaning to the Covid-19 crisis by exploring the...

As a signatory to the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, India is committed to ensure equal access to all levels of education and vocational...

There is a tendency to view the threat to judicial independence in India as emerging from the executive branch, and occasionally the legislature....

COVID-19 and the resultant lockdowns have severely curtailed the mobility of persons with disabilities, restricted their ability to seek basic...

The extraordinary nature of the crisis faced by the Congress means that the revival of the party is necessarily predicated upon its renewal. This...

This article aims to study the global trade union initiatives and their efforts besides understanding the journey of global union federations’ in...

Back to Top