‘Citizen Cafe’ reflects over the relevance of the Constitution

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Tehelka archive

On 16 December, businessmen, teachers, students, social activists and ex-army men came together for a ‘Citizen Cafe’ to reflect over the importance and relevance of the Indian Constitution. Starting the session, Vinita Singh of We the People, which organised the gathering, said “The Cafe uses the Preamble of the Constitution of India as the main anchor of the discussions and helps citizens derive the meaning and action from this visionary document. It explores what has worked and what we can do to ‘live’ our citizenship in our personal, social lives and in our interactions with the State. It intends to make citizens think, put them in touch with citizens who want change and move them to action.”

Over a cup of coffee at a coffee house in Gurgaon, the participants reflected on what the words secular, fraternity and justice mean to them. Aanvi Sinha, who studies in standard 8 at Heritage School Gurgaon said, “After this session, I see a lot of other opinions and differing positions. And all of them are right in their own way. I feel more encouraged to do my part.” She said she participated in the session in order to expose herself to politics beyond the classroom.

Survesh Sharma, 69, was an enthusiastic participant. A social activist working on governance reforms, he said, “Citizen Cafes are useful for one reason – spreading awareness. There is far too much of a feeling of helplessness. We all know something needs to be done but don’t know what to do. What stands out is the fact that people are really interested in getting involved.”

Deepa, a facilitator at the Citizen Cafe, explaining the motivation behind it said, “It is supposed to enable us to gain a deeper understanding of what it means to be a citizen of India. Our biggest grouse is, ‘What can I do as an individual?’ This Cafe helps us understand that we have agency as an individual to make a difference.” Citizen Cafes are being organised across seven cities in India. Staring from the 26 November, the day the Constitution was enacted, the sessions will continue to be held till the 26 January, the day the Constitution was enforced.

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