Happy Republic Day. Today we had our first president and we had our constitution. (But I won’t blame you if what you remember about today is largely boondi ke laddoos)

I have always believed that today should be Liberty Day. I also agree with the Americans that the constitution is basically meant to protect an individual from the people in power. i.e. government, and the majority.

Government has a duty to protect the rights of all people. That becomes hard in a democracy if a sizeable portion of people want some person/group punished.

Two examples: Muslims in Gujarat in 2002 and Africans in Khirki in 2014.

Let me explain: Even before these riots Ahmedabad was rife with communal animosity. There were riots every few months. Curfew was routine. After 2002 there haven’t been any riots at all. It’s improved prosperity and the feeling of safety- for Hindus. Let’s assume the assertion that that massacre led to peace. Does even that justify it? Just because an overwhelming majority believes it was a good thing does it make it ok?

In Khirki, an overwhelming majority doesn’t want the Africans. Plain and simple. I have seen such attitudes in Jabalpur where there were a lot of African students when I was growing up. Our country has xenophobia and whoever denies it is lying to themselves. Of course there was late night noise in Khirki, of course there were occasional fights. Have you ever seen a student hostel where these things don’t happen? And there may have been crime. Actual crime. (And this would be the only crime ridden place in the utterly peaceful Delhi) 

But listen to people and listen to their subtext. The opposition is cultural. They don’t want women in short dresses, especially if they are moving with and around guys. They don’t want these foreigners in their area. They don’t want their sons and daughters talking to these people. Especially not daughters! Culture is the crux of the problem. And a midnight raid is the perfect way to intimidate and drive out a few students. Is it a good way to bust a drug cartel? Not so much.

(Before someone accuses me of supporting congress: how dare you? They have committed some of the worst transgressions against liberty. Same with Police. They are useless and dangerous, of course. I focus on these two because the urban elite generally supports one or the other)

So think on this. This is where constitution starts to matter. Are we all guaranteed security from harassment & violence, or can that security be taken away when the mob decides against us? This is the test of liberty.

A democracy of two wolves and a sheep will have the sheep for dinner. Liberal democracy demands protecting the sheep. One day you may be the sheep.

That’s what we need to celebrate today. The day we were promised our rights. We should keep fighting against people who violate these liberties. Especially if the one doing the violating is “one of us”

Meanwhile, enjoy the Boondi ke laddoos.