Oxford Announces ‘Samvidhaan’ as Hindi Word of the Year 2019
Samvidhaan Zindabad now rings out in all corners of India, defiantly adopted by anti-NRC-CAA protesters wanting to protect the Constitution of India and follow in the footsteps of its writer, Dr. Bhimrao Ambedkar. This form of protesting, in the name of the Constitution, is the culmination of the events of 2019 that made it “a people’s document, given to the people by the people” according to the Oxford University Press. For 2019, ‘Samvidhaan,’ or Constitution, was the Hindi Word of the Year.
The Constitution, being a legal document, was mainly used by lawyers and judges, and used in mostly judicial proceedings, until 2019, when it was invoked by common citizens on the streets of India more frequently than ever before, Oxford said in a statement. This was in response to several policies and laws implemented by the government, which were widely perceived as going against the constitution — the revocation of Article 370 that stripped the state of Jammu & Kashmir of its special status and the implementation of a five-month-long internet shutdown, both of which protesters deemed unconstitutional; the Sabarimala verdict that finally allowed women to visit the Lord Ayyappa temple at Sabarimala and invoked fundamental constitutional rights such as Right to Equality; the floor test in Maharashtra that ended a month-long political crisis in the state and dealt with the last-minute change in party loyalties ultimately leading to Uddhav Thackeray of the Shiv Sena becoming Chief Minister.
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In all of these high-profile cases, the Constitution of India was invoked to determine the smooth functioning of democracy, ensure equal rights to its citizens and critique governmental policies. “This year’s Hindi Word of the Year is a fitting choice reflecting the mood of the masses as also the focus of the decision-makers. Constitution embodies the spirit of the country and the year 2019 was witness to the spirit of the constitution being embraced across segments of the society,” Hindi language champion for Oxford Languages, Kriti Agrawal, said in a statement. “In 2019, the Constitution moved from being an academic concept to a movement in real-time.”
Cut to 2020, and Agrawal’s statement cannot ring truer. Toward the end of 2019 and spilling in 2020 was when the Constitution was invoked more than ever, from the college campuses of Delhi to the streets of Gaya. Petitions to challenge the Citizenship Amendment Act that discriminates against Muslims from neighboring countries in citizenship matters, and the National Register of Citizens that has rendered many in Assam (and predicted to be all over India) stateless and in detention camps have invoked the fundamental rights of life and liberty guaranteed by the constitution.
Protesters all over the country have taken a vow to protect their Constitution against oppressive forces in power, with one of the most popular protest practices being reading the Preamble to the Constitution out loud in public spaces. The Constitution in today’s times acts as a unifier, as a threat to those in power and as a shield for those willing enough to challenge that power. As we move into the new decade, let’s make it word of the decade.