Presentation Sister Dorothy Fernandes, working in Bihar, was honoured for promoting democratic and republic characteristics of the Indian Constitution on Monday November 26. Catholics of Patna know her as a person with a strong commitment for the poor and disempowered.
She received the award “Neelkanth Samman” on November 26, the Constitution Day, at Mavlankar Hall in New Delhi.
The day marks the 70th anniversary of the adoption of the Indian Constitution, “a significant even in the political history of our nation,” says Sanjay Paswan, patron of Kabir ke Log and a union minister.
Two NGOs — “Kabir ke Log” and “Centre for Dalit Studies, India Foundation”—decided to give the award to the Catholic nun for her “outstanding contribution towards democratic ethos and constitutional commitment.”
The awardees are scholars, activists and thought leaders, Paswan explains.
Sister Fernandes told a Catholic media outlet she was surprised when she got a call on October 15 regarding the award. She was invited to New Delhi to receive the award.
The nun, a native of Goa, says she never thought she would get an award although she has been advocating that Indians should be informed about their constitutional rights.
“I feel both humble and grateful to the Almighty who continues to journey with me,” she said. “It has strengthened my belief to continue to work with those who are on the margins — those who need a voice,” she added.
An educationist by profession, Sister Fernandes has taught people about the six fundamental rights enshrined in the Indian Constitution, which she says, gives “very clean mandate as to how we Indians should live.”
She says the constitution give clear directions for good governance. “In a diverse and beautiful country like ours it’s important that we have in written the need to preserve the secular dimension of our country,” she asserts.
She says she has enjoys freedom to a great extent and want fellow citizens to know the importance of the Constitution and the need to safeguard it.
“We have lived in peace and harmony and have been inclusive. Let us continue to promote this and keep our unity through our diversity which is a wonder. Let us join hands together to preserve our Indianess,” she added.
She says the pathetic situation of women compelled her to leave formal school and move out to work among the people on the margins.
“My introduction into working among the grassroots was among the tribal people of Madhya Pradesh – the Gonds, organizing the people for their rights and enabling them to get basic amenities of life,” Sister Fernandes recalled.
She currently works in Bihar, based in Patna, the capital. She went to the eastern Indian state in 1997 to teach social Justice and women empowerment. She began to work in 25 villages of Maner Block with 25 non-formal centers for three years.
based on media reports