Podcast on Constituent Assembly and Idea of India
Dr. Rajendra Prasad, President of the Constituent Assembly, signs the new constitution as passed. | Image source: The Hindu Archives
India celebrates Constitution Day or Samvidhan Divas on the 26th of November. And on this day in the year 1949, the Constituent Assembly adopted the Constitution of India which came into effect from 26th January 1950. Our Constitution incorporates ideals that affirm the soul of our nation, its political law, structure, powers, duties and basic rights of government institutions and its citizens, making it the longest written constitution in the world .
The Chennai-based Equals Project, an initiative that helps people better understand the constitution and their relationship to it, has partnered with Suno India, a multilingual podcast platform, to explore the issues discussed in the Constituent Assembly.
The project, which is undertaken by two lawyers, an engineering graduate, and a design fellow and was founded by Shruti Viswanathan, a graduate of the National Law College of India, has focused on constitution in workshops, walks and book discussions since its inception in 2019.
Shruti Viswanathan | Image source: private arrangement
The first season of The Contested Nation includes eight episodes, individually covering topics such as the basic right to marriage, freedom of expression, and even the Constituent Assembly of Pakistan. The common theme is the Constituent Assembly of India, the events discussed in it and the political events outside it that have brought us to this moment. The idea of India and its vision of its future has been the subject of intense dispute within and outside the Society. Some members of the Constituent Assembly refused to sign certain paragraphs saying that the importance of states has been waived, the rights of minorities are not sufficiently protected, etc. It is important to understand why we made the choices we did. The fault lines we see between 1947 and 1949 are the same as those we see in public life today—class, language…the tone of the discourse has remained the same. What does it mean to be an Indian is a question we struggle with even today. “To move forward, we need to look back,” says Shruti, 34.
The podcasts are all less than an hour long and follow text about the general issue being discussed. “If it’s too complicated like a discussion about citizenship, we divide it into two cycles.”
A four-person team works on research, fact-checking, and design while Suno India helps with editing and publishing.
The project chose speakers who would be accessible to the public; He had knowledge of the subject, and varied opinions. Constituent Assembly is largely discussed by academics and jurists. We hope to expand that. For example, Ganeev Kaur Dhillon is a lawyer but is also the curator of the Partition Museum, Amritsar, and brings her knowledge of oral history documentation to the podcast,” says Shruti. Among our speakers is Maitrey Krishnan, who looks at the unorganized sector at work in Karnataka. We have focused on those who understand what restrictions on free speech mean for the practice of democracy, not just in academic terms.”
The Equals Project in association with Suno India has directed the Podcast Series | Image source: private arrangement
Why Constituent Assembly of Pakistan? “It was great because here we have two groups going off in similar ways, created at the same moment as the founding leaders who made the case for inclusivity. But the journey takes a different path in Pakistan. The first assembly was dissolved even before the constitution was written. It took 25 years to get to the constitution which they have today,” says Shruti.
The podcast relies heavily on audio clips, historical sources such as the Mountbatten Declaration on Partition of India, a clip from the 1973 movie “Garam Hava” on Partition, and various pop culture related audio media. “We look at everything from an illegal perspective, and at things about the Constitution that we don’t know about.”
Disputed Nation can be streamed on Spotify.
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