What We Are Reading Today: A People’s Constitution

Updated 15 November 2018
0

What We Are Reading Today: A People’s Constitution

Author: Rohit De

It has long been contended that the Indian Constitution of 1950, a document in English created by elite consensus, has had little influence on India’s greater population. Drawing upon the previously unexplored records of the Supreme Court of India, A People’s Constitution upends this narrative and shows how the Constitution actually transformed the daily lives of citizens in profound and lasting ways. This remarkable legal process was led by individuals on the margins of society, and Rohit De looks at how drinkers, smugglers, petty vendors, butchers and prostitutes — all despised minorities — shaped the constitutional culture.
The Constitution came alive in the popular imagination so much that ordinary people attributed meaning to its existence, took recourse to it, and argued with it. Focusing on the use of constitutional remedies by citizens against new state regulations seeking to reshape the society and economy, De illustrates how laws and policies were frequently undone or renegotiated from below using the state’s own procedures.
De examines four important cases that set legal precedents: a Parsi journalist’s contestation of new alcohol prohibition laws, Marwari petty traders’ challenge to the system of commodity control, Muslim butchers’ petition against cow protection laws, and sex workers’ battle to protect their right to practice prostitution.
Exploring how the Indian Constitution of 1950 enfranchised the largest population in the world, A People’s Constitution considers the ways that ordinary citizens produced, through litigation, alternative ethical models of citizenship.


What We Are Reading Today: The Dreamt Land by Mark Arax

Updated 17 June 2019
0

What We Are Reading Today: The Dreamt Land by Mark Arax

  • The Dreamt Land weaves reportage, history, and memoir to confront the “golden state” myth in riveting fashion

California-style agriculture has created one of the most unequal societies on earth because extensive irrigation requires large corporations with deep pockets, says Mark Arax, author of The Dreamt Land.

The Dreamt Land weaves reportage, history, and memoir to confront the “golden state” myth in riveting fashion. 

“Arax is persistent and tough as he treks from desert to delta, mountain to valley. What he finds is hard earned, awe-inspiring, tragic and revelatory. In the end, his compassion for the land becomes an elegy to the dream that created California and now threatens to undo it,” said a review in goodreads.com. “It is a beautifully written book and one that lots of people ought to be required to read,” the review said.

Critic Gary Krist says in a review for The New York Times: “Granted, there are times when The Dreamt Land feels overstuffed and chaotically organized, as if Arax decided to include every relevant newspaper feature he’s ever proposed to an editor. But I suspect that few other journalists could have written a book as personal and authoritative.”