The CADIndia team attended ‘The Idea of the Indian Constitution’ Chapter II between 7th to 9th February 2020 at Pune. An initiative of the History for Peace, it was organised in collaboration with Takshila Educational Society. It brought together constitutional experts and school teachers to build a dialogue on key constitutional ideas and how to teach them in the classroom.

Photo Courtesy:  Seagull PeaceWorks’ Twitter Account

Apoorvanand, Professor of Hindi at Delhi University, delivered the keynote address. The talk introduced the Indian Constitution as a transformative document and explained the values in the Preamble. In light of the ongoing protests against the Citizenship Amendment Act, 2019 and increased engagement of Indians with the Constitution, he pointed out that the contemporary ‘united constitutional dialogue’ was taking place outside the traditional classroom settings and in ‘new constitutional classes’ like the streets.

While Apoorvanad laid out the broad spirit and values that the Constitution embodied, Anuj Bhuwania spoke on one ‘Part’ of the Constitution: fundamental duties. He viewed fundamental duties as a tool that was being used to create a certain type of citizen. He traced its constitutional history and contrasted the Supreme Court’s treatment of fundamental duties vis a vis individual rights. The Court’s tendency to treat duties with more importance than individual rights, according to Bhuwania, was ‘fundamentally tainted’.

Photo Courtesy:  Seagull PeaceWorks’ Twitter Account

Arun Thiruvengadam took a few steps back from the previous day’s presentation and spoke on The Making of the Indian Constitution: A focus on Process and Methods. He laid out the historical facts of the Constituent Assembly. BN Rau’s ‘Note on Points of Procedure’ was crucial in establishing procedural norms in the functioning of the Assembly. Moving on to scholarly debates, he analysed works of experts that threw light on the workings of the Assembly.

Taking on from Arun’s general introduction to the Indian Constitution Assembly and the framers, Achyut Chetan dwelled on the women Assembly members. The contribution of fifteen women members of the Constituent Assembly is mostly overlooked. Chetan argued that their involvement must be gleaned through the lens of ‘women’s constitutional politics’: they adopted collaborative rather than confrontational approach and preferred to codify their demands. Chetan pointed to issues that saw their significant participation: conscription, right to freedom of religion, directive principles of state policy and due process clause.

 

On the last day, Vineeth Krishna from the CADIndia team introduced the Centre for Law and Policy Research and CADIndia website. He took the participants through the various pages of the website. The Assembly Debates and resources in the Constitution in the Classroom page provide with interesting modes of teaching the Constitution.

During the course of three days, the Conference also held three workshops. Sunita Biswas ran a workshop on Critical Understanding of the Right to Freedom of Speech and Expression. The participants prepared and presented a lesson plan to teach free speech in the class.  Pawan Dhall and Rafiquel Haque Dowjah conducted a workshop on Gender Rights and the Classroom: Queer Story of Section 377 in Our Lives in which they traced the legal history of Section 377 and its impact. And finally, there was Satish Jayarajan who offered Making Sense of a Contested Canon: Developing A Constitutional Sensibility in Grades 1 and 12 in Complicated Times in which he focussed on how the classroom could be a crafted as a liberal democratic space.