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Re-imagining the Directive Principles of State Policy

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Re-imagining the Directive Principles of State Policy
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The Directive Principles of State Policy (DPSP), enshrined in Parts IV and IVA of the Indian Constitution, were inserted in the Constitution by the framers to serve as a vision of the future of the Indian civilization. They were placed to function as an alter ego to Part III, which guaranteed Fundamental Rights, because if the fundamental rights were the heart of the Constitution, present as a guarantor of rights to the citizens, the directive principles would be its soul, enacted as an act of citizenship both of the Indian state and its citizens. The fundamental rights are bland and restricted in the sense that all they do is to set up the basic existential schema for the Indian state and its citizens, but the directive principles are visionary, opening up a new set of possibilities for the future. The fundamental rights separate and protect the citizens from the Indian State, but the directive principles bring both together in order to seek a new India. Guaranteeing fundamental rights to all the people is an act of assurance, while laying down non-justiciable principles and asking the state to act upon them is an act of risk, yet it is a risk which the society is ready to take because it brings along with itself a plethora of possibilities. The most innovative part of the DPSP are the fundamental duties of the citizens under Article 51A of the Constitution which are to be realized as a part of their citizenship. Part IV lays down the fundamental duties of the Indian state, while Part IVA sets those of the people, and it is these twin acts of citizenship which keep alive the hope for a better future of the Indian civilization. Just as the society needs to adapt and evolve with the passage of time, so do the directive principles and the Indian Constitution. A constitutional renaissance demands not just a re-reading of the fundamental rights, but also a re-invention of the directive principles, and only that could be the passage to a truly transformative constitution. A re-imagination of the DPSP requires summoning and re-imagining Gandhi, because for him the DPSP would serve as the backyard of the Constitution, where the state and citizens met and collaborated in acts of experimentation for the discovery of new possibilities of the future. Gandhi would have volunteered for a Peace Constitution, with the directive principles being at the forefront for its realization. I would like to kick off such an attempt at re-imagining the DPSP as a part of my citizenship through “thought experiments”, as eminent sociologist Shiv Visvanathan calls it (before beginning, I most humbly acknowledge that this article has come out as a result of thought provoking lectures, discussions and engagement with the ideas and works of Prof. Shiv Visvanathan and he is the driving force behind the idea of writing this article). The first step would be re-writing the directive principles, but I would prefer adapting and modifying them according to the demands of the present and the future rather than re-writing them in toto, as I would not wish to disturb the existing progress of jurisprudence on the DPSP by re-working them in toto. So, here I suggest six such possibilities as a part of my attempt.

First of my suggestions is for the Indian state to endeavor for a democratization of knowledge and for a continuous engagement in dialogue between different knowledge systems. If we treat the constituent assembly debates on DPSP and its eventual writing into the Constitution as a thought experiment preformed by the framers of the Indian Constitution, we see that the DPSP itself is a microcosm of plurality of the Indian society. As much as the directive principles are a result of liberal majoritarianism, they are also an “expressive accommodation of ideological dissenters”.[1] Tarunabh Khaitan argues that, “The framers successfully negotiated a constitution that deeply divided groups could sign up to. In part, they did so by accepting some of the transformative agendas of the groups that lost out in the constitutional bargain as expressive directive principles. But these agendas were, first, contained through tools such as dilution, instantiation, and qualification. Second, they were made subject to both constitutional and political incrementalism…

It seems that the acceptance of directives by the dissenting groups wasn’t necessarily, from their partisan viewpoint, a mistake. To put the point differently, dissenters under the DC (drafting committee) may not have been losers under the constitution that was ultimately adopted. By carving out a sphere for legitimate politics over their (contained) agendas, the dissenters were given a significant concession. What is clear is that directive principles accommodated divergent, even mutually incompatible, voices within the constitutional framework. For this reason, Lakshminarayan Sahu, called the constitution a “mixture”, an “unnatural product” that lacked “daring”, and predicted that it would last no more than two or three years. However, its very polyphony may well have facilitated the surprising- if occasionally wobbly- longevity of India’s post-colonial constitution.[2]  It is such a legitimacy which has been rightly claimed and given to dissenting imaginations which is the need of the hour. I would like to go a step further and state that what we need is not just the accommodation of dissenting ideologies into the majoritarian framework, but also a celebration of difference. The establishment of a syncretic culture demands a fusion of multiple imaginations into the civilizational matrix, such that each of them gets equal expression in the policies of the state and yet the state is able to come up with policies which harmonize, balance and cater to all of them. The democratization of knowledge requires questioning and ending the monopoly of dominant narratives, and treating all forms of knowledge, be it the knowledge of academics or the knowledge of tribals, as knowledge systems which need to be engaged with. Simultaneously there has to be dialogue between various knowledge systems, without which ending the monopoly of dominant narratives and the realization of democratization of knowledge is impossible. The plurality of knowledge systems, each a world in itself, is to be respected and protected. The existence and celebration of plurality, and the reverence towards the sacredness of dialogue, has always been the hallmark of Indian civilization. We need to safeguard our culture of dialogue which has been passed on to us by our ancestors, and we can’t afford to fail them. Knowledge and knowledge systems can’t be hierarchical, one taking precedence over the other. Each system is supposed to inform the other and be informed itself, by placing all the forms of knowledge at an equal pedestal. I recall a discussion I was having the other day with my mom. She was telling about an incident she was witness to during her childhood while questioning the present day treatment of faith as mere superstition without any logic. She narrated the incident and told how she as a child saw a snake being killed by a school headmaster just by the utterance of a mantra. She herself being a student of physics and a staunch believer in renaissance rationality, can’t be in a state of denial towards something she herself has been witness to, which is well embedded in her memory, and it almost seems pathetic to her the way today’s modern science would dismiss this as mere superstition. What is being questioned here is the apathy and discrimination of modern science toward indigenous forms of knowledge and what is being implicitly demanded is the recognition of the science behind and of faith, the logic of faith and its so-called “superstitions”, as equally legitimate forms of logical and scientific knowledge. Then the school headmaster would be regarded as a scientist with his own field of sciences. Democracy calls for acts of storytelling to be performed by different forms of knowledge, with each knowledge system being a beautiful narrator and a keen, patient observer and listener.

Second, I would suggest the amendment of Article 51A(h) with the removal of the words “to develop the scientific temper” and compensate it with the introduction of a new principle as a part of Part IV which reads as such, “The State shall promote the democratization of science and the idea of sustainability as being in harmony with nature.” The logic of modern science and development have been more detrimental to the Indian society than any other factor. Scientific temper demands a santization of knowledge, which is to be exorcised from faith and superstition and requires to meet the Western logical standards. Science and development clubbed together become the twin devils of destruction and ecocide a tool of organized havoc and oppression wielded by the Indian state. The body count of development is way more than any other genocide, and yet it is sounds absolutely logical and legitimate due its approval by the idea of scientific temper which demands the erasure of anything that falls in its way. Scientific temper serves as a tonic to cure the indigenous savage of its “illiteracy”. Either the savage is sanitized of its savagery and barbaric culture and absorbed into the new age of modern science, or has to be erased along with a following erasure from the nation state’s memory. This has to be countered by a democratization of science which regards the indigenous as a scientist rather than a savage and the indigenous knowledge systems are to be treated as alternative sciences which offer new possibilities of re-thinking science and democracy. Science needs to be answerable and accountable to democracy, and the first step towards it is the democratization of science itself. It needs to have an esteemed place for alternative ways of thinking about science. It should have a place for a J.C. Bose, or a Ramanujan who could make his theories’ claims to legitimacy successfully while treating mathematics and numbers as a dialogue with God and stating that the Goddess herself has given him the theories he has propounded. The lack of logical proof of his theories according to the Western standards would not strip them off their legitimacy. It is extremely painful to watch the works of Indian scientists being delegitimized simply for not living up to the Western standards.[3] The idea of sustainability I am desirous of here is not the same as that of sustainable development. Sustainable development has turned out to be more of an anathema to the idea of sustainability, masking ecocide under the garb of development. It’s an anthropocentric notion encapsulated in the Brundtland report and reiterated in the Stockholm (1972) and Rio Declarations (1992), and all it does is the furtherance of development along with destruction without any care for sustainability. In contrast, what could help us out is ecocentrism, which sees humans only as a part of ecology and thus requires them to be constrained by the demands of ecology, to be actually at harmony with nature. So, science has to be democratic so as to pander to the plural forms of knowledge and ensure that the spirit of scientific temper does not result in genocides and ecocides, and that science and development become a way to be in harmony with nature. As Shiv argues, “Democracy as a theory of difference has to recognize not the universal validity of science but the plural availability of knowledges, that no form of knowledge can be forcibly museumized and that memory and innovation intrinsically go together. The idea of alternatives in sciences allows for alternative sciences, for competing universalisms. Both the alternative and Luddite critique of technology are now seen not as fundamentalisms but other ways of constructing knowledge.[4]

Third, I propose that the State should have an understanding of the multiplicity of time[5], rather than a linear understanding of time. Time has to be seen as a multi-dimensional unit which works in the past, present and the future simultaneously. A linear understanding of time results in erasure and museumization, while civilizations thrive and prosper in the multiplicity of time. Time is treated not just a uni-dimensional entity moving forward, and the society “progressing” along with it. Instead, it is seen as the documenter of societies and knowledge systems, essential for the thriving and survival of societies threatened by the possibility of erasure. Imagine a language or a dialect getting disappeared. The indifference of state to it is appalling. Linearity of time makes it history, something of the past to be forgotten, while multiple time frames see it as the pathway to a culture which needs to live on.

Fourth, security as a state responsibility has to be responsive to the regime of rights. As Shiv Visvanathan argues, security began as a responsibility of the state for the guaranteeing of rights but has ended up as the main cause of undermining human rights.[6] Security can’t be allowed to be used as a tool by the state to undermine the rights of citizens under the pretext of the for securitization to ensure the guaranteeing of rights. Legislations like AFSPA, MISA or UAPA are some of such examples where the state uses security in the name of guaranteeing rights and securing the citizens against rights’ violations to actually violate their rights.

Fifth, knowledge needs to be treated as a commons, to ensure the availability of knowledge. This would be something proposed against the intellectual property rights (IPR) regime, where knowledge is treated as an individual property. However, as opposed to what is proposed by Shiv, that is, the State doing away with the IPR regime, I propose that it should be done with a consensus between the state and the individual.[7] It has to be accepted that knowledge production needs to be incentivized, so it should be left to the individual whether it wishes to treat the knowledge it produces as an intellectual commons or personal property. The State can’t act in an authoritarian manner stripping off the works from their authorship, thus denying the people producing them what is rightfully theirs. The availability of knowledge as a commons would give leeway to the application of hermeneutics, thus time and again re-inventing knowledge and adding everytime a little bit to knowledge production.

Last but not the least, I propose an amendment to Article 38(1) of the Indian Constitution by the inserting the word “cognitive”, such that it will read, “The State shall strive to promote the welfare of the people by securing and protecting as effectively as it may a social order in which cognitive justice, social, economic and political, shall inform all the institutions of the national life.” Here, by cognitive justice what I mean is, as coined and described by Shiv, “Cognitive justice recognizes the right of different forms of knowledge to co-exist, but adds that this plurality needs to go beyond tolerance or liberalism to an active recognition of the need for diversity. It demands recognition of knowledges, not only as methods but as ways of life. This presupposes that knowledge is embedded in ecology of knowledges where each knowledge has its place, its claim to a cosmology, its sense as a form of life. In this sense knowledge is not something to be abstracted from a culture as a life form; it is connected to livelihood, a life cycle, a lifestyle; it determines life chances.[8] Cognitive justice needs responding to sensoria, and seems to be the best way to actually dispense justice and move towards a peaceful civilization. Though sounding like an almost impossible task to be realized, the possibilities and multiple visions it offers for the future make it worth a chance. Cognitive justice, for me, gives a hope for peace.

These are some of the suggestions I would give, so that they in turn allow for new possibilities and ways to think about a Peace Constitution.    


[1] Tarunabh Khaitan, “Directive principles and the expressive accommodation of ideological dissenters”, International Journal of Constitutional Law, Volume 16, Issue 2, 15 June 2018, P. 389-420. Italics added.

[2] Ibid

[3] https://www.thehindu.com/thread/arts-culture-society/an-open-letter-to-the-indian-scientist/article25476088.ece .

[4] Shiv Visvanathan, “The search for cognitive justice”, https://www.india-seminar.com/2009/597/597_shiv_visvanathan.htm . Italics added.

[5] Ibid.

[6] Ibid.

[7] Ibid.

[8] Ibid. Italics added.

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Disclaimer: The opinions expressed within this article are the personal opinions of the author. IndiaFacts does not assume any responsibility or liability for the accuracy, completeness, suitability, or validity of any information in this article.
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