Amar KJR Nayak
he constitution of a nation is a body of fundamental principles and values according to which the nation state is governed. It is closely related to the life, thoughts and cherished values of the people over the years. It is an institution of all institutions or the rules and regulations that govern a nation state.
The basis for governance goes back to ancient philosophers Plato and his student Aristotle. While Plato argued that a ruler of a state should be a ‘philosopher king’; one with both wisdom and intelligence; his student Aristotle argued against this. Aristotle argued that no matter how wise and intelligent a king may be; it is impossible for any king to be wise and intelligent at all times and hence a set of written fundamental principles and rules be written down on the basis which a state could be ruled. So convincing was Aristotle’s argument to people across the world that most countries across the world today have written constitutions.
The fundamental principles of the Indian Constitution are best described in its preamble: That India is a sovereign, socialist, secular and democratic republic. That she shall secure justice, liberty, equality to all citizens and promote fraternity to maintain unity and integrity of the nation. The diverse people of India solemnly resolved and signed in to be a sovereign, socialist, secular and democratic republic January 26, 1950, with a promise to secure to all its citizens who joined to form the federal state four key interrelated features: Justice (social, economic and political); liberty (of thought, expression, belief, faith and worship); equality (of status and of opportunity); and fraternity (assuring the dignity of individual and the unity and integrity of the nation). While these key features, or rather principles of Indian constitution, are deeply interconnected, fraternity (bandhuta) forms the foundation for justice, liberty and equality.
Growing evidence from evolutionary biology, game theory analysis, agro-ecology and sustainable agricultural system, forest sciences, all show the inherent interdependence and cooperation among species in an ecosystem for survival. Systems science, in particular, has increasingly been observing the significance of this natural or ecological phenomenon and has developed the logic that the strength of a chain is the strength of the weakest link.
Social sciences, including moral philosophy, theology and jurisprudence have applied this very logic in their various arguments. The Kantian view, “Do unto other as you want others do unto you”, or Rawl’s “theory of veiled ignorance”, or the epitome of the Vedas, “Vasudaiva kutumbakam”, or “love your neighbor as you love yourself” of Bible, or “brotherhood” the basis of Quran are a few examples of this. The ecological principles of interconnectedness, interdependence complementarities and caring for the weakest is being increasingly discovered, understood and appreciated by the human being as we transit from an anthropocentric view to a biocentric view of our planet.
It may be worth recalling the talisman of Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi. The talisman resounds with the above ecological principles as it states “whenever you are in doubt, or when the self becomes too much with you, apply the following test. Recall the face of the poorest and the weakest man (woman) whom you may have seen, ask yourself, if the step you contemplate is going to be of any use to him (her). . . . Then your doubts and your self melt away.”
It is our luck and privilege to have a constitution such as India’s, which has been so thoughtfully and painstakingly written by the Constituent Assembly and adopted by the people of different regions, caste, colour, creed, religion and language. It is not only an opportunity to celebrate every day the hidden science, logic, and beauty of the Indian Constitution but to also collectively practice them in our respective small communities and ecosystems to be in harmony with nature and flourish.
The writer is professor of strategy and general management and Chairperson, Centre for Sustainable Ecological Systems, XIMB.