It was a Saturday of September 2006, myself my friend Nishant Datta, Shanmuga patro, Kiran patra (All advocates), Sudha Passi, Avtar Nehru and Gautam Basu (All journalists) and Nabajyoti Das formally met at Chamber No 12 over a cup of tea and samosa to discuss if we can create country-wide platform for promoting in each and every individual a sense of belonging to the country and that its output would be used against corruption and terrorism. We firmly believed that citizenry consciousness only would provide an answer to the problems that the country was facing.
We discussed to disagree on most methods. We disappointed each other. We crumbled at times. But we rebuilt ourselves. Pledge Festival, pledge in 17 languages, country-wide exercise involving students across the country, the method of write-recite-commit to inspire students to be good citizens, sermons, slogans and songs amidst charged ambiance came as tools to reach out to lakhs of students when we organised pledge festival on the third Saturday of January every year since 2008.
We were supported and inspired by Justice A K Patnaik of Suprme Court, Justice Kailash Gambhir of the Delhi High Court, former Union ministers Ram Jethlmalani and Salman Khurshid, former Delhi ministers late Purnima Sethi and Mangat Ram Singhal, Sr Advocate Rakesh Khanna, A K Behera, India Islamic Cultural Centre Trustee H R K Suhel, Advocate Sunil Malhotra, Rajeev Saxena, among many lawyers, educationists, and social workers to reach out to students across the country.
But educational institutions had their own limitations. Many educational institution heads like Mrs Bushra Rani, Mrs Mala Sood, Preity Goel, Savita Das, Late P J Naidu, Dash Benhur, Prof B K Kuthiala, DR U K Mishra, Prof Anita Das, Rajesh Asthana, Pradosh Debi, S L Arya, Neera Khera, A P Sharma, J S Ghuman, Onika Mehrotra, Promod Kumar Ray among many others found the programme meaningful and carried it to various educational institutions where students took a pledge to be good citizens. Many feared that their officers might disagree and that it could affect their jobs or career.
The weather conditions on the third Saturday used to be harsh in north India and many states were under the cover of snow this time. Thus in 2013, we wanted a day for the country which could be truly celebrated as a national festival. We decided we will fill up vacuums as regards a national pledge (we do not have one) and a national festival (we do not have one).
We thought November 26 could be ideal for this purpose and imagined if it could be a part of national policy and declared as a national day.
We examined and found that most people do not know the relevance of November 26, 1949. We thought it is the most significant day in the history of this country. It is most significant because it changed the status of common people of this country from being subjects of their erstwhile kingdoms to the sovereign owners of this country. We are grateful to 11 MPs of the Rajya Sabha including our adviser Sh A V Swamy who wrote a letter to the Prime Minister in September 2013 urging him to declare November 26 as the National Pledge Day. Then MP Rabi Mahapatra laid the foundation in the official corridors that this day should be declared as a national day. Though it was not responded by the then government.
Pledge festival, with a national outlook with equal respect to all faith systems, had already become popular in many schools and colleges across the country. Dr Bhagaban Prakash, Pankaj Sukhija, Ravikesh Sinha, Promod Chawla, Ramakant Gaur, Anant Trivedi, Rajiv Mallik, Shailendra Srivastava, Ashwini Sood, Aswhini Dubey and Rakesh Chitkara, V K Sharma, Ranjan Mohapatra, among many others who stood together to suggest to the government if November 26 could be declared as a national day.
In 2014, our adviser Sh A V Swamy, MP, continued to patronage us and wrote letters after letters to the Prime Minister and other ministers for their support for celebrating November 26 as the Citizens Day. But last year the Prime Minister had announced November 26 as the Constitution Day and it was more a kind of political move than patriotic. Most officers across the country on that day were made to recite the preamble of the Constitution as pledge notwithstanding the fact it is just an index of our supreme book. Reciting the preamble as a pledge is nothing but mockery of the Constitution. A V Swamy ji did protest about it in Parliament while expressing gratitude to the Prime Minister for acknowledging his letter with BIG brochures as enclosures for declaring November 26 as the Constitution Day.
We did not lose hope. On September 19 this year, Swamyji wrote another letter to the Prime Minister urging him to examine the proposal of Build India Group. Prompt came the reply. On September 21, PM office responded to Swamy ji on phone that the Prime Minister has taken note of it and appropriate instructions were being given. Subsequently three ministers Prakash Javadekar (HRD) , T C Gehlaut ( Social Justice ) and Juel Oram (Tribal Affairs) were appointed to give suggestions.Swamy ji wrote to Javadekar and also to Mr Gahlaut and Oram with a copy of brochure and a time line of Build India Group for celebration of Constitution Day on October 13, 2016. We met Javadekar and other two ministers as well.
Javadekar responded well. We were happy that the government issued instruction how to celebrate the Constitution Day with Article 51 A as its foundation. We only hope from the next year onward, it should not be a mere ritual but a real integrity building exercise in the whole country.
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