In an exclusive conversation, Key members of Synergy Sanstha, Anhad Pravah, Bharat Calling and Agrini talk about their take on constitutional literacy and the steps they have taken for its implementation with ComMutiny – The Youth Collective’s Samvidhan Live! The Jagrik Project
Even as we celebrate India’s rich diversity and plurality, we need to sit up and take notice of our collective failure to pass the only common task taken by every citizen. It’s the single story we, the people, all share; The Constitution. The ‘Living the Samvidhan Survey’ conducted by ComMutiny – The Youth collective with 18,000 people in 16 states revealed as part of our reality check, that the average score of citizens on constitutional awareness and action was a dismally low 36%.
On the other hand, a group of 500 young people, who played a reality game conducted by them fared much better in the same survey scoring 70% at the end of a five-week fun filled intervention that took them way beyond their books; turning the world into their classroom.
In a time when identity politics has become a way of life, how does a young person decide what kind of action is suitable? There’s actually an easy answer to that- to follow the Constitution of India. Our Constitution gives us that common narrative or framework within which we can all act as Active Citizens. But because most of us have no clue about the constitution, unfortunately even the schooled know it as the most boring chapter that they study for one year in school to pass an exam and perhaps never referred to again in their lives.
ComMutiny decided to bridge this crucial gap in our collective consciousness. Samvidhan LIVE! The Jagrik Project is a unique public initiative that aims to help citizens live and experience the fundamental rights and duties enshrined in our Constitution through an interactive game and thereby enshrine them in their minds forever.
In 2016, almost 500 Jagriks (Jargruk Nagriks or aware citizens), undertook this critical task of bringing the Constitution to their city, town, village and streets through this fun-filled game. In a matter of 5 weeks, almost 1500 social and self-action tasks, such as spending a night in a homeless shelter, organising a health camp, reversing gender roles to experience the other, spending time with religious leaders to truly understand and experience freedom of religion, and many others, were carried out.
Today, ComMutiny is carrying forward this legacy and have started another chapter of Samvidhan Live! The Jagrik – in collaboration with 22 partner organisations in 14 states engaging more than 600 youngsters by making them live the Constitution for 5 weeks through various social action tasks. The Optimist Citizen interacted with members of some of the partner organisations working in Madhya Pradesh and got their understanding of how they are playing a part in developing constitutional literacy here.
Synergy Sansthan is a not-for-profit organisation that was started in 2006 by a group of young people who wanted to work on youth in Harda and villages surrounding it. Today, Synergy Sansthan works with tribal and Dalit women and young people from various rural communities – who had faced some form of social oppression – and tries to empower through various programs to become leaders and responsible citizens of their community and the nation. Synergy Sansthan is a part of ComMutiny – The Youth Collective and conducted the Samvidhan Live! The Jagrik Project in Harda and surrounding villages. We had a conversation with the co-founder Vishnu.
“I think constitutional literacy is not just having a knowledge of the constitution. It is essentially effective when you take the core values like fraternity, justice and equality to your friends and family and give them an opportunity to understand them. When you are able to propagate the core ethos of the constitution to a larger community, it is then that you can call yourself an able citizen who completely understands and follows the constitution.” Said Vishnu.
Vishnu’s words resoundingly reflect in the actions taken up several young people of Harda and villages around it. Two 12th standard students, Mudit Rathore and Vishal Bhati, of Harda school of Education conducted a session with 100 people on the issue of Gender Gap and discrimination as part of their task in Samvidhan Live. Another pair of 12th standard students, Saloni Rathore and Manthan Patel, did a task where they went to various places of worship and asked the religious leaders about the role of women in these places. Another pair of students did a task of convincing two soon-to-be married guys on not taking any form of dowry.
Anhad Pravah aims at building leadership capacities of young people by taking them on a journey from Self to Society. It facilitates 5th Spaces for young people where they understand themselves better, challenge their comfort zones, and build authentic relationships to become leaders in their own spheres in society. Anhad Pravah is based out of Indore and also is a part of ComMutiny – The Youth Collective. The founder of Anhad Pravah, Shilpa Jhawar, shared her views on constitutional literacy. “There are numerous aspects of our constitution – especially our Fundamental rights and Duties that people are unaware of. And those who know a bit, know it from just a theoretical perspective. A deeper structure of awareness, knowledge and application is required.” Said Shilpa. “Our attempt at working on this model of awareness under the umbrella of Samvidhan Live! The Jagrik happened in our work with girl students at government Urdu schools.”, she added.
Anhad Pravah team works with many girls from these schools for whom religious texts hold a larger importance than the constitution. That is a big reason they are not able to embrace the values in it. “Constitutional literacy can only come when one considers the constitution as theirs; as a part of their lives. It is then that you get your desired outcome” said Shilpa. And Anhad Pravah’s response to this detachment of the girls from the constitution was praiseworthy.
“When given a small spark, the fire broke out. Girls from orthodox families, who have never spoken a word of their own mind, went back to their communities and talked about the discrimination they see in the community everyday with various individuals. They actually spoke out and realised that they have a Right to the Freedom of Speech. I believe that was the best variant of constitutional literacy that saw unfurl in front of me.” Added a proud Shilpa.
Bharat Calling, youth initiative of the Shri Ramesh Prakash Foundation, Itarsi, Hoshangabad, M.P aims in Linking rural students to prestigious universities and has been running since 2009. Divya, an integral member of the Bharat Calling team, had a chat with us. “Rote learning in school for a subject was our only window for the constitution. Public Initiatives like Samvidhan Live! The Jagrik Project are opening doors that we had not known even existed. This is also making a bridge for young people to break the cocoon of rote learning and get into a domain of experiential learning about the constitution”, said Divya.
Jagriks working with Bharat Calling did tasks that ranged from awakening, adventurous to out rightly maverick. Jagriks broke their religious superstitions, wrote a letter to the Prime Minister for the construction of a road in their village to surviving a whole day on just Rs. 32. “Our organisation too is drafting its own constitution with the help of Jagriks. It will not only benefit our members but also open up a wide scope of dialogue internally within the organisations”. Said Divya.
Agrini has been working in sectors of governance & education in Seoni, Madhya Pradesh wherein they have worked in improving the quality and access of education since 2009 and also works with rural communities, mostly youth by training them on laws and legal rights. Currently, they are trying to build up a resource centre that will house information on all the educational innovations that has been created in the country.
“ We all have a way of life that we base on our surroundings, our religious inclinations, our caste based practices and so much more. So, true constitutional literacy can only be achieved if we accept and live the constitution as a way of life”, Navendu, one of the co-founders of Agrini, said when asked how he feels about constitutional literacy.
And the actions taken up by the Jagriks who participated in Samvidhan Live! The Jagrik Project on behalf of Agrini are a testament to this fact.
Diksha, a 13-year old Jagrik, created a constitution for her school and presented it to the Bal Sansad (parliament of children) and the school management. Mayank, another Jagrik, did not speak for 12 hours as part of a task. He understood the difficulties faced by those who can’t speak and cannot vocalise their constitutional sentiments. Sagar swapped roles with his mother for a day and deeply felt the importance of his mother for the existence of their household and family. “We often discard the work done by our mothers just because they stay at home. Sagar’s task literally gave him a shock and gave him an understanding that without his mother, the household would crumble into dust”, said Navendu.
So, how was the campaign for Agrini? Navendu gave a resounding affirmative statement. “We had always faced an incoherence on propagating the message of the constitution to young people. Samvidhan Live! The Jagrik Project helped us in dissolving that incoherence. Now our mission is to propagate this message forward by making constitution a topic of public discussion. Organisationally, we try to instill these values in students, young people and people from the rural community where we work. Bodies like Bal Sansad drive the message to school students. In communities we conduct open debates on various raging issues of the nation. And for young people we communicate learning through experiential activities. We also bring Panchayats and local municipal bodies in this process to amplify the impact. I think this would be our effort to strengthen and propagate the values of our constitution to the common public.” said Navendu.
These days the term leader has ascertained an ambiguity – which more often than not gets a political paint over it. But, these examples of various young change leaders across Madhya Pradesh paint a very different picture. One which showcases how the true understanding of being a citizen and a leader comes not from foul-play, but from empathy and understanding – which are the primary pillars of our constitution. They have facilitated and internalised constitutional literacy for hundreds of young people across the state; young people who would now not just remain mere Nagriks (citizen) like a cog in a machine. Instead they would act as Jagriks (aware citizens) and spread the message of the constitution as far and wide as possible.