‘Mature societies must deal with challenges like Lokpal’
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At a time when Anna Hazare and his supporters are threatening another round of protests to push for their version of the Lokpal Bill, historian Linda Colley, who was in Delhi earlier this week, said "as a society matures, it needs to be able to deal with challenges like the Lokpal movement".
An authority on written Constitutions around the world and the Shelby M C Davis 1958 Professor of History at Princeton University, Colley said "this means the idea of democracy must also necessarily develop".
She was speaking to Newsline after delivering the 5th Indian Economic and Social History Association lecture, Written Constitutions, Identity, and Empire, at the Indian Habitat Centre.
While she underlined that "constitutions do have to change", she made it clear that there was no need to amend the Indian Constitution only because of the protests by Hazare and his supporters.
"Re-writing Constitutions is always a challenge", she said, precisely because "written Constitutions have often been instruments of empire, and not just instruments of nations".
She said the American Constitution of 1787 was "an instrument of internal colonisation" because it left Native and African Americans and women out. Similarly, Napoleon used "written Constitutions (for the countries he took over) to bind together his European empire".
To this, Sanjay Subrahmanyam, Professor & Navin and Pratima Doshi Endowed Chair in Pre-Modern Indian History at the University of California, Los Angeles, and the moderator of the discussion that followed Colley's lecture, said, "Constitutions are diagnostic of the community that they ostensibly represent. Through them, we discover the people and their idea of themselves."
Colley pointed out that the "original Indian Constitution was, for all its glories, an elite text" though she acknowledged that the Constitution has changed, due to the many amendments made over the years.
"The average longevity of every written Constitution since the 1780s is just 18 years. So the fact that your written constitution has lasted so long is a good thing". Count the many achievements and this is largely true.
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