On February 14, marking a campaign for Valentine’s Day by expressing love for the Constitution, members of the #ReclaimConstitution project sent postcards to Justice Lekshmana Chandra Victoria Gowri, who was recently appointed as an Additional Judge of the Madras High Court. The postcards spoke about constitutional values.
Vinay Kumar, a Bengaluru-based patents engineer who initiated the project, said that in light of the controversial statements made by Justice Gowri in the past, “as ordinary citizens, we wanted to make an attempt to remind her of the Constitution that she has taken an oath to swear by, protect and pledge allegiance to preserve its values.” He added, “We wanted to welcome her as an additional judge of the Madras High Court.”
Kumar explained that one of the quotes in the postcards sent to Justice Gowri is by politician and former Union Finance Minister T.T. Krishnamachari, which was said during the Constituent Assembly debate on Article 25 of the Constitution. The quote cites an example of how he had studied in a Christian institute and never felt that somebody was attempting to convert him. Kumar remarked, “Postcards were sent to remind Justice Gowri of the Constitutional values that we have and want to uphold.”
On Republic Day, similar postcards were distributed for free on the streets of Bengaluru by Kumar.
Reclaim Constitution project
Kumar spoke with The Leaflet on the inception of the #ReclaimConstitution project and said that the seeds of the project were sown during the anti-Citizenship Amendment Act, 2019 (CAA) protests in the country in 2019 and 2020. He noted that the idea of citizenship was being questioned, where something fundamental was purported to be changed about the Constitution that affects everyone. There was a need to deeply understand the impact of the CAA on the constitution, Kumar remarked.
Kumar explained that the difficulty in understanding the Constitution — its language and text — which mostly fall in the realm of lawyers, judges and the government, led to the conception of the idea of the project. “The Constitution needs to be understood by ordinary people as well. There is a need for an ordinary language to communicate the values of the Constitution that is palatable to the common person, in simple terms,” Kumar emphasised.
As per Kumar, the framers of our Constitution not only debated what kind of India they want, but they also spoke of what kind of India they don’t want. “Unfortunately, today we are becoming more and more of India which the framers of our Constitution did not want. The idea is to communicate that we need to wake up to the crucial constitutional values that were imagined for us,” he said.
Delving into the process of starting the project, Kumar shared that it began with discussing the Constitution with scholars and experts in the field on how rights are accrued in the Constitution, the fundamentals of human rights, and how the Constitution is deeply rooted in the freedom struggle. Kumar opined, “Perhaps the only thing that can link many generations to the freedom struggle is the Constitution which represents its spirit. Today, there is an threat of this spirit being extinguished, and the project is an attempt to capture the spirit through postcards, and inspire people to preserve the spirit.”
Kumar shared that the inspiration for the postcards, including their artwork, was derived from perusing the original copy of the Constitution, which comprised artwork that captured over 4,000 years of civilisation this land has witnessed. It made him realise that something was missing from popular imagination, he said. Kumar picked up the 22 artworks from the Constitution and infused them with texts from the debates of the constituent assembly, capturing the spirit of law-making.
Instead of using social media, Kumar believed postcards could provide a personal touch and feel to a piece of the Constitution, which people ordinarily wouldn’t have access to. He explained that each of the paragraphs is selected from the Constituent Assembly debates that have contemporary relevance, and they relate to something happening to us today.
Postcards for “speaking truth to power”
Kumar hopes that the postcards reach the masses, and inspire people to understand the Constitution deeper and be better informed about the current-day politics that are constantly trying to rewrite the Constitution. He further hopes that the words in the postcards inspire readers to understand what they are losing and motivate them to take steps to protect it.
Kumar emphasised that the postcards are aimed at not just preaching, but to be used as a tool to speak truth to power. On the way forward in the journey of the project, Kumar said that the idea is to translate it into as many Indian languages as possible, including Braille and Indian sign languages.
More information on the project and the samples of the postcards can be found here.