By Seema Singh
New Delhi, Aug 18 (IANS): As we celebrate 75 years of Independence, it is a high time to introspect and contemplate about the gains and losses we made in past this much of years.
We got Independence after a long struggle on August 15, 1947. On this day, a new Independent state came into existence. On January 26, 1950, the Constitution of India was implemented, which begins with the ‘Preamble'.
The Preamble indicates the mission and vision of the Constitution. The Preamble begins with "We the People of India" followed by "Sovereignty, Justice, Liberty, Equality and Fraternity". All of these goals are the collective responsibility of every citizen of this nation.
Here sovereignty and fraternity is related to the rights of the nation and rest with the rights of the citizens. Unfortunately, the concept of nation has not received appropriate attention within the existing constitutional scheme.
In fact, in the entire Constitution, the term ‘nation' has hardly been mentioned at one or two places, only under the chapter of Fundamental Duties.
Article 1 of the Constitution begins with - India i.e. Bharat shall be a union of States. For majority of the people, there is no difference between India and Bharat, but in reality there is a big difference. India is a political entity comprising territories and citizens but Bharat is one of the most ancient cultural civilizations.
India is defined according to the modern theories of political science, but the meaning of Bahrat remained undiscussed in post-Independent India.
Bharat is one of those rarest nations whose geography naturally defines its territory. According to Puranas, from the Himalayan range in north to the Indian Ocean in south, the entire region was the land of Bharat. Before 1857, the area of Bharat was somewhere around 1 crore sq km which is now hardly 33 lakh sq km.
Bharat Mata means a living entity having all the rights of a natural person. Like any other person, Bharat Mata has the right to dignity, sovereignty and integrity and it is the responsibility of every Bhartiya to protect her rights even at the cost of their own life.
Bharat Mata has some distinguished rights - like right to territorial sovereignty, ecological sovereignty, cultural sovereignty and spiritual sovereignty.
Here the meaning of territorial sovereignty is any attempt to alter the territorial boundaries should be discouraged and defended by the people of this country with best of their ability. This right of motherland is non compromisable. Our land has been dived 24 times in the last 2500 years, which proves that we could not successfully defend the territorial sovereignty of this country.
The idea of ecological sovereignty is deeply ingrained in Indian society in connivance with spiritual sovereignty.
The Bhartiya culture is fundamentally eco-centric. Bhartiya darshan always believed in the deep alliance of human being with nature and considered itself as the trustee, and not the owner of the same. The philosophy of non-duality removes the difference among the different creation of supreme divine whether inanimate or animate.
Through the spiritual richness of this nation, we kept our ecology balanced for thousands of years and also provided a safe ecosystem to all components of nature, including the five elements of universe or 'Panch Mahabhoots', i.e., Ether, Air, Fire, Water and Earth.
Bhartiya culture does not believe in exploitation of nature but under the influence of globalisation we are compromising with the cultural and ecological sovereignty of this nation and leaving behind our richest cultural and spiritual heritage, which is the constant source of our existence in all odds.
As we mark the 76th Indpendence Day, we need to analyse how much we are concerned about our nation's rights. There are several good reasons for celebrations.
We are now the fifth largest economy of the world, there is a considerable hike in per capita income and we are among the most powerful nations in the world.
But there is more to inspect, to think and to analyse. It is a reality that our total forest cover is now only 21.71 per cent though it should at least be 33 per cent of the total area.
In coming years, we are going to be the most populated country leaving behind China, which is going to cause immense pressure on our natural resources.
We are the third most polluted country in the world. We are under serious ecological threat. Around 10,000 species of plants and a few hundred animal species are under severe threat due to the violation of ecological sovereignty of the nation.
Air pollution was responsible for 16.7 lakh deaths in India in 2019, or 17.8 per cent of all deaths in the country that year.
According to a report by World Meteorological Organization (WMO), natural disasters, such as cyclones, floods and droughts, cost India around $87 billion in 2020.
Air pollution cost Indian businesses about $95 billion – or Rs 7 lakh crore – every fiscal. There are around 76 active terrorist organisations operating in India.
Our border areas are constantly receiving direct or indirect threats; divisive voices are rising from within the nation. These data reveals that we have heavily compromised with the cultural, ecological, spiritual and territorial sovereignty of our nation.
All these data indicate that the threats faced by the nation is actually damaging each of us. All these threats are challenging not only our right to life but also to our cultural, ecological and territorial existence.
Our Constitution and our courts are very much concerned about the protection of the rights of the citizens. Under Articles 32 and 226 on the violation of the fundamental rights, immediate relief can be claimed before the Supreme Court or any high court. But what about the rights of the nation? They have not been properly recognised by us.
In fact, in many cases of conflicts between the rights of the nation and the rights of the citizens, the latter's rights prevail.
In a very recent observation, the Supreme Court suspended the sedition law. The right to freedom of speech and expression of the citizens is many times protected in violation of the restriction of Article 19(2) which is also a constitutional mandate.
Even after 75 years of Independence 'Rajdroha' is not recognised in the form of a separate offence, though it directly violates the right of the nation. Many a times courts are mixing rights of refugees and rights of intruders and illegal migrants and passing such orders which are adversely affecting the rights of the nation.
Perhaps we don't have the realisation that without protecting the rights of the nation, rights of the citizens cannot be protected.
In few recent judgments of high courts some ray of hope could be seen, as the courts gave recognition to the ecological right of the nation when they recognised the rights of rivers, birds and animals.
In 2017, the Uttarakhand High Court (UHC) had ruled that rivers Ganga and Yamuna, the Gangotri and Yamunotri glaciers, as well as other related natural elements are 'legal persons' with all corresponding rights, duties and liabilities of a living person.
And more recently, the Punjab and Haryana High Court declared the entire animal kingdom, including avian and aquatic, as legal entities having a distinct persona with corresponding rights, duties and liabilities of a living person. In both the judgments, the ecological and environmental sovereignty of the nation were indirectly recognised.
All these discussions conclude that we are very indifferent with the importance of the rights of the nation. The importance can be understood from those who are stateless and known as illegal migrants or intruders. We still don't realise that we cannot exist without the existence of our nation.
This is not the responsibility of the armed forces and the government only to protect the rights of the motherland. This should be our collective responsibility.
It is high time for the government/s and judiciary to recognise the rights of the nation and to give them supreme priority.
Governments should be responsible to citizens, but every citizen must also be responsible to the nation. We cannot survive as a powerful citizen unless the rights of the nation are protected. So let's take a pledge to save our nation, to save its values, its sovereignty and its culture. Let's take a pledge that we will not destroy what we have not created on our motherland... we will save this divine motherland at all cost raising above our petty interests.
Let's rise together to protect the territorial, cultural, ecological and spiritual sovereignty of the nation to save our existence and to save the future of the coming generations.
(Dr Seema Singh is Assistant Professor, Campus Law Centre, University of Delhi. The views expressed are personal)