Satire | Snow Right and the 11 Duties

It transpires that we are actually good citizens who are doing all our duties faithfully

January 28, 2022 06:01 pm | Updated 06:45 pm IST

vaishna roy 

vaishna roy 

If you’ve been following the news, you probably know that Indians have unknowingly weakened the country since Independence. At every turn, personalities ranging from Annie Besant to Ambedkar, Bharati to Namdeo Dhasal, Hasina Khan to Radhika Vemula have fought for the fundamental rights of all Indians, but it transpires that this was a pretty anti-national move. Instead, they should have focussed on people performing their fundamental duties.

Added to the Constitution in 1976, Fundamental Duties, like the Directive Principles, are in the nature of guidelines and not enforceable by law. Perhaps it’s time to change that now, given the eagerness with which we are already enforcing the duties.

Take, for instance, the duty to “promote harmony and the spirit of common brotherhood amongst the people, transcending religious, linguistic and regional or sectional diversities”. I believe nothing does this so well as a strategic lynching or two, disrupting prayers, breaking statues of each other’s religious communities, barring some people from some river banks, and so on.

Equally, there is the duty to “cherish and preserve the rich national heritage of our composite culture”. Many people define ‘composite culture’ as a happy fusion of many disparate ways of being. Which is fine, but it doesn’t take into account a widespread misreading of the said passage. Our venerable Constitution writers wrote ‘composite’ but many people are probably reading it as ‘compost’. This explains why the protectors of duties are now showing much interest in digging up all sorts of historical worms that turn, purely in the interest of vermiculture composting.

I actually did not know that one of the fundamental duties is “to renounce practices derogatory to the dignity of women”. One suspects that this too needs a small amendment. It should perhaps read as “denounce” and not “renounce”. In this revised form, I am happy to say, the nation is following its duty to the letter. Each day brings news of women auctioned online, of women raped by powerful seers and heads of church, of famous actors and singers assaulting female colleagues, and each of these crimes is loudly denounced in public speeches. As long as someone somewhere denounces all practices derogatory to our ma-behens , all will be well.

Duty No. 7 is to protect and improve the natural environment including lakes, wildlife, rivers, forests, etc. And the best way to do this is to find innovative ways to increase India’s forest cover. It was recently discovered that India’s forest and environment ministry has begun to include tea gardens and palm plantations as forest cover. It should be a citizen’s duty to suggest other areas they can add. Golf courses, lawns and coconut groves come to mind. As for “improving the natural environment,” both industrialists and ministers know that nothing improves messy jungles as neatly as a coal mine or two.

One of the Fundamental Duties also says that citizens must “abjure violence”. But this duty, I believe, one can safely ignore because enforcing duties invariably requires a bit of violence. Remember how that man was beaten up by dutiful citizens even as they asked him to recite the anthem? It’s the spirit of the thing that counts.

Another duty that could pose a challenge is the one that urges citizens to develop “a scientific temper, humanism, and the spirit of inquiry”. One is aware that many dutiful citizens have a short temper, but it might not always be scientific. After all, when it becomes our bounden duty to bang plates and ring bells to connect aurally with the cosmos, one can’t be too keen on science. And then there’s the highly unscientific Corofil that many of us swear by and diligently distribute to friends and relations. As one should. Never let science come between you and your duty.

All told, it appears as if one need not feel anxious about the direction in which the country is headed. But one never knows; people have a nasty habit of suddenly demanding fundamental rights. And that’s probably why the Prime Minister felt the need to caution the nation in its 75th year of Independence. One shares his anxiety. It is perhaps time for another constitutional amendment — one that takes away all rights and assigns to citizens a set of duties alone.

Where the writer tries to make sense of society with seven hundred words and a bit of snark

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