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  • Chaitanya Kirtikar

Parched

The sun sent sweltering rays of heat across the road, and hot air blew across the dry, cracked

earth. Shrivelled leaves clung to tree branches, delicate and brittle, holding on to the last few

dregs of life that still survived in them. Trees bent over the road; crooked and emaciated, slowly bending towards the earth in greater extents as they looked for support to hold themselves upright. The road itself was streaked with cracks and dotted with potholes, the loose rocks forming the decorative cherries on the cake. A young boy walked alone in the blazing heat, his

toes burning inside his worn out sandals, a ragged school bag slung across his shoulder; hand

gripping a torn gunny bag which bumped into his leg at every step.

Sweat dripped across his forehead, trickling down the side of his face regardless of how many

times he wiped it away. A water bottle peaked out of his bag, its contents long since consumed;

yet his thirst persisted. Another couple of kilometers separated him from home; a daunting

prospect in the face of the searing heat that was constantly accentuated by the hot breeze that

blew tirelessly onto his face. His eyelids drooped with exhaustion, and his shoulders slumped

with the weight of his school bag. The sound of wheels snapped him back to reality, an almost

incomprehensible glimmer of hope; or rather; wishful thinking began to light up his spirit.

The car continued to speed ahead; fast approaching him. Dare he wish for water? Or perhaps

even a lift? His feet momentarily stopped moving as he stood by the side of the road, watching

the tiny blob of a car gradually grow bigger and bigger. As it progressively advanced closer to

him, he tentatively stretched his hand forth; hoping the driver would be kind enough pause for a

minute.

It eventually did reach him, stopping just a few feet ahead of him. A presumably middle aged

man sat inside, his beard flecked with miniscule pricks of grey and white. He eyed the young,

sweaty boy standing before him through the car window, his eyebrows slightly raised in

suspicion; unsure of what the stranger before him wanted. Lowering the car window, he asked

in Hindi, "Can I help you?", his tone still far from forthcoming.

“May I have some water? The water in my bottle is finished.”, was the answer, as the young stranger

gestured to the empty bottle in his bag.

Ascertaining the fact that he was not indeed lying by a quick glance; the man reached for a

plastic water bottle in the back seat of the car, just about to hand it over when something caught

his eye.

A thin leaf of paper was poking out of the boy’s bag, held upright by being sandwiched between

his books. A name was written on the top corner of the page in barely discernible handwriting.

Peering at the name, something seemed to change in the man's demeanor . He turned to

inspect the boy's face, something almost akin to hatred burning inside his eyes, clearly disgusted. The boy was taken aback by the sudden change in mannerisms;

"What did you want to do, lure me in with the false pretense of being thirsty, then taint

me with your vile touch?", said the man.

The sudden castigation was followed by a volley of insults that continued as the man started his

engine again; eager to drive away; still seething with rage as the thirsty, despondent boy stared

at the distance between himself and the car grow ever distant; the injustice of what had just

transpired burning him within, more than the heat had done without.


***


The Fundamental Rights were added to the Constitution of India of India in order to preserve

individual liberty and democratic principles based on equality of all members of society. Dr. B.R

Ambedkar, the Chairman of the Drafting Committee, once said that the fundamental rights were

the ‘heart and soul of the Constitution’. He dedicated his life to attempting to achieve equality

and fraternity amongst the citizens of India, particularly working against the unjust practices and

beliefs against the “untouchables”. During the course of his career, he attempted to help uplift

their social and economical position of the by encouraging education among them.

His first organised attempt to achieve the same was through his establishment of the central

institution Bahishkrit Hitakarini Sabha; intended to promote education and socio-economic

improvement; while simultaneously endeavouring to nurture the welfare of those not considered a part of society.

By 1927, he decided to launch active movements against untouchability by organising public

marches and opening public drinking water resources. He also promoted movements that were

attempting to win the right to enter Hindu temples, and condemned the caste discrimination and

‘untouchability’ advocated by certain texts.

Upon his appointment as the chairman of the drafting committee, he made several meaningful

contributions to the Constitution by arguing for extensive economic and social rights for women;

and won the Assembly’s support regarding the introduction of reservation of jobs in the civil

services, schools etc for members of scheduled castes, scheduled tribes and other backward

classes. He was thus a very influential figure in the framing of the Indian Constitution and was a

pivotal personna in the social changes that swept through the Indian Society during his time.





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