In earth science, the Coriolis effect explains why megastorms rotate in opposite directions in the two hemispheres. The political storms brewing over India and Chile appear to be under the same influence.
One tries to move away from the long shadow of the Augusto Pinochet era, a time of market fundamentalism and authoritarian oppression, towards a pluralistic, intercultural, regional and ecological republic. At the same time, in India we are moving from a secular, socialist and democratic republic back to one that is majority, unitary and grotesquely unequal.
Chile will hold one referendum on September 4th to bury the Pinochet constitution in favor of a multilingual one that guarantees dignity and justice for all, that recognizes differences and believes in coexistence. It is a constitution that prioritizes social security and recognizes the right to care.
It follows one of the most bitter and polarized elections in Chilean history in November 2021, which was essentially a contest between the legacy of left-liberal Salvador Allende and that of General Pinnochet, who ousted Allende in a US-backed 1973 military coup.
Last year, Gabriel Boric garnered more votes than any other Chilean president in history to defeat his far-right opponent Jose Antonio Kast. The draft constitution is a continuation of the same battle of ideas.
At the same time, a group of 30 seers and scholars in India are preparing a draft the constitution of India as a Hindu nation. The authors include members of Shankaracharya Parishad, Hindu Rashtra Nirman Samiti, World Hindu Federation, experts in Sanatan Dharma, Defense and a senior Supreme Court Counsel. It will eventually become a 750-page document, half of which will be published in a Dharam Sansad at Magh Mela 2023 in the city known until recently as Allahabad.
While the draft in Chile promises a “solidarity republic” with “inclusive” and egalitarian democracy, the draft in India speaks of depriving Muslims and Christians of the right to vote. This, of course, is an old line of battle. It is consistent with the idea of citizenship which is based on lex sanguinis or “the law after blood” as opposed to the idea of lex soli or the “law of the place of birth”.
In the fierce debates of the Constituent Assembly in India in the late 1940s, the collective wisdom of the House prevailed over doctrine based on narrow sectarian notions based on blood, race or religion. But they are on the rise again today as they aim to change the criteria for Indian citizenship.
“It would be simply absurd to give the Muslim minority the right to exercise a practical veto over the legitimate rights and privileges of the majority and call them Swarajya,” he said VD Savarkar in his presidential speech at the Calcutta session in 1939 by Hindu Mahasabha, the hero of the current dispensation.
Hindu Rashtra’s draft constitution is based on ideas that were finally discarded 75 years ago – but now its basic philosophy is already in motion.
The draft in Chile speaks of cross-border contacts and cooperation throughout Latin America; the draft in India speaks of a warlike Akhand Bharat. The draft in Chile vouches for “no privileged person or group”, while the draft to be drafted here wants to replace the existing case law with the Varna system.
In Chile, the proposed constitution speaks of the “right to remember” of brutalized communities. It states that “victims and the community have the right to be informed and to know the truth about serious human rights violations, particularly when they involve crimes against humanity, war crimes, genocide or territorial dispossession”.
In India we are erasing and rewriting the history of what they call the “Muslim past”. A 14 man committee was appointed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi for this task. The committee’s chairman, KN Dikshit, said he was “asked to produce a report that will help the government rewrite certain aspects of ancient history”.
The Chilean document speaks of media pluralism and critical thinking, but in India we revel in curbing these things. The power of money and muscle is used to bury, buy, or bully the news.
The proposed constitution in Chile provides for education “guided by the principles of cooperation, non-discrimination, inclusion, justice, participation, solidarity, interculturality, gender orientation and pluralism”. Here the regime seeks to nefarious colleges carefully built to encourage critical thinking. So much so that any deviation is branded and denounced as “anti-national” and “seditious”.
The draft in Chile envisions a country where even nature has rights. And this is where we commission studies criticize judicial efforts to preserve ecology in the face of the juggernaut of development. Voices young and old – be it activists Medha Patekar or Disha Ravi – who advocate for ecological and climate justice for the people are being persecuted today.
I want to tell my friend Umar Khalid who it is Behind Bars advocates for equal citizenship, that Chileans envision a country where people have the right to compensation for unlawful detention.
I wish I could say it Rohith Vemula, the Dalit student who committed suicide, that the people there speak of the right to a night sky full of stars. In India, on our 75th anniversary of freedom, even a touch earthen pot drinking can prove fatal for a Dalit schoolchild.
Western publications such as Bloomberg, The Washington Post, That economist are already defending themselves verbally against the draft constitution in Chile, the latter going so far as to speak of a “fiscally irresponsible left-wing wish list”. And here in India, even reciting the preamble to our constitution is proving to be a daring wish.
Writer Isabel Allende tells how many people in Chile in the early 1970s believed that the military regime would soon end as their country had a solid democratic tradition. But as history would have it, it took 20 years for Pinochet’s rule to end. Regardless of whether the new constitution is accepted or rejected, it at least has a vision worth admiring.
For us in India it is a testing time as we dare to dream against the Coriolis charm.
Anirban Bhattacharya is a Delhi-based researcher, activist and social commentator.