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Samvidhaan – Episode 10/10


In this beautiful Central hall of the Constituent Assembly in nearly three years, many proposals, amendments and points were raised and passed. In the very end came the Preamble… which comes at the beginning of the Constitution. If the Constitution is a political-constitutional document, the Preamble is its philosophical vision. The foundation for this Preamble was laid at the very beginning when on December 13, 1946, Pandit Nehru presented the Aims and Objectives Resolution. This Constituent Assembly declares its firm and solemn resolve to proclaim India as an Independent Sovereign Republic. All power and authority of Independent Sovereign India would be derived from the People; guaranteed and secured to all people of India, justice: social, economic, political; equality of status, of opportunity and before law; freedom of thought, expression, belief, faith, worship, vocation, association and action. Adequate safeguards for minorities, backward, tribal, depressed and other backward classes. The integrity of the territory of the Republic so that this ancient land may attain it’s rightful and honoured place in the world and make it’s full and willing contribution to the promotion of world peace and welfare of mankind. This resolution was the basis for much of the Constitution. After the work of the committees, various experts and the Constituent Assembly had helped give shape to the final Constitution, the Preamble was finally tabled in May 1949. This work was done by the head of the Drafting Committee, Dr. Bhimrao Ambedkar. Debates on the Preamble began in October 1949, when the rest of the Constitution was almost completed. The Preamble had the words that were to come at the very beginning of the Constitution. We shall now take up the Preamble. May I suggest that the Preamble be taken up when we meet again in November, for the third reading, by which time the Drafting Committee would have submitted its final report. Unless we pass the Preamble today how can you produce a report on the second reading? For once in my life, I support Maulana Saheb. The Constitution as a whole has to be passed in the second reading and the Preamble is a part of the Constitution. Hence the Preamble cannot be postponed. But I find Hasrat Mohani’s amendment to be of substance as it seeks to bring in new ideas. He may therefore move his amendment first. I have three separate amendments. First is that in the Preamble, the words Sovereign Democratic Republic be changed to Sovereign Federal Republic or Sovereign Independent Republic. But my friend Dr. Ambedkar has cleverly dropped the word ‘federal’ and ‘independent’ and replaced it with ‘democratic’ Sir, a point of order – if these amendments are passed, it would mean that the Constitution would have to be recast. Who would be responsible for this? I tried my best to warn you right at the beginning. I had said that before deliberating on a Constitution for India, you should first make up your mind about the vision of that Constitution. Hasrat Mohani’s first two amendments were rejected but he hung on stubbornly. For my third amendment I move that instead of ‘Sovereign Democratic Republic’, the words a ‘Union of Indian Socialist Republics’ to be called U.I.S.R. like the U.S.S.R. be substituted. Do you really mean to suggest that the Constitution we have passed is on the lines of the U.S.S.R.? Some of my friends whenever they hear the word “Soviet”, call me an agent of the Soviet government. I do not have connections even with the Communist Party of India because I refused to join them as once they made the mistake of proclaiming that we have a common ground with England because we are both fighting Nazism. I said then as I say now… Maulana Sahib, we are here not to discuss your life history, but the Constitution of India. I request you to confine yourself to your amendment. Very well. I only request Dr. Ambedkar and this House to adopt the same conciliatory attitude to all political minorities as has been adopted by the Soviet Union. With these words, I propose my amendment and request Dr. Ambedkar to accept it Maulana Hasrat Mohani, well known as a romantic poet, was nevertheless a sharp orator. Despite this his other proposals were also rejected. But some other members were not going to give in so easily. Especially H.V. Kamath. Who wanted to bring God in the Preamble. Besides God, there was still the question of Mahatma Gandhi, who was no less than God for many in that august House. that in the Preamble, following be substituted: In the name of God Almighty, under whose inspiration and guidance, the Father of our Nation, Mahatma Gandhi, led the nation from slavery into freedom. I do not want the name of Mahatma Gandhi in the Constitution because it is not a Gandhian Constitution. We must be sparing in the use of the name of the Father of the Nation. It will be consistent with the respect and love we have for him if we do not drag his name into this Constitution. In response to Acharya Kripalani, I withdraw my amendment. It was not simply a matter of God or Bapu. Other speakers were bent on introducing new words and ideas that were no less weighty. We the people of India having resolved to constitute India into a Unified, Sovereign, Democratic, Republic promise to give every citizen the following: 1. Adequate means of livelihood 2. Free and compulsory education 3. Free medical aid 4. Compulsory military training What about a camel and motor-cycle for everyone? Why don’t you propose these sir? Sir the word ‘Secular’ has not found a place in our Constitution. It is a word on which our leaders have laid the greatest stress. I submit that this word should be incorporated in our Preamble because it will improve the morale of our minorities and check the spirit of loafing rampant in politics. I have stressed upon another word – socialism. It is my firm belief that the future of India lies in Socialism. And I fully believe in a socialist order. The word ‘Sovereign’ has found a place in the Preamble. How can a State which consists of individuals be Sovereign? Therefore I am opposed to the idea of sovereignty. I am thick-skinned. I am not going to settle down on your appeal. Ultimately Brajeshwar Prasad had to give in and sit down. But 25 years later both the words ‘Socialist’ and ‘Secular’ were added in the Preamble. Mrs Purnima Banerji put forth many important points. The next speaker was Gandhiji’s socialist disciple, Acharya J B Kripalani who held views that were different from both Sardar Patel and Pandit Nehru. Debate on this Preamble should have been conducted at the very beginning as the Preamble is the vision of the Constitution. This way, the Preamble could have cautioned us against deviating from the basic principles laid down in it. Sitting in this House day after day, I have seen that often we have deviated from these basic principles. These are not legal and constitutional principles but spiritual and moral ones Take for example, Democracy. It implies the equality of man, it implies fraternity. Even the ordinary definition of democracy is that instead of breaking heads, we count heads. Politically we are a democratic people, but economically we are divided into such classes that the barriers seem impossible to break. I also say that democracy is inconsistent with the caste system. We have to do away with castes and classes. Otherwise we cannot swear by democracy. As he had done for three years, Naziruddin Ahmad, once again, raised a voice of dissent. What people? The people of India? There is no question of us representing them. Here we can talk only of the members of the Constituent Assembly. Thus the Preamble prepared by the Drafting Committee and chaired by Dr. Ambedkar, was finally passed. And became a part of the Constitution. Three years of hard labour was bearing fruit. A nation long suppressed by foreign rule and local despots was now going to be its own master. While a wave of euphoria swept across the nation, there was also fear. As Dr Ambedkar had said: With freedom we have lost the right to blame the British for every wrong. From now on if anything goes wrong, we will have ourselves to blame.” Yet, everyone was hopeful, and emotionally and philosophically looked forward to the future and to their own Constitution. Socialist thinker K T Shah was opposed to many clauses in the Constitution and yet he was hopeful The Constitution in intent and form, may be democratic. But the ideal of Democracy being of the people, by the people and for the people, is far from being realised if one carefully scrutinises the various Articles in this Constitution. Yet I believe that despite defects, if we correctly work to realise this Constitution, then if not the near future then in 5 to 10 years we will be able to establish true democracy. Only then will the people of this country become the real rulers of this nation. The greatest risk taken by the Constituent Assembly is giving every adult the right to vote. I want to tell the House why I consider it a risk. Because 85 per cent of our population is illiterate. Yet I will say that we have taken the correct risk. We have taken this risk after proper consideration. Because without the right to vote, a democracy has no meaning. Criticism and praise flowed the next day as well. But even the bitterest critics praised those who completed this gigantic task. Those who are criticizing the Constitution on the point that it has been framed by one party, I ask them to study the provisions relating to the revision of the Constitution. They will find that if they want to change it, if that be their wish and if they can carry public opinion with them, they can redo the whole Constitution. As was said by a French writer about the English Constitution: “Parliament can do everything except turn a man into a woman”. I think the same can be said of our Constitution and I feel the only thing the future legislatures will be unable to do, is to turn an idiot into a genius. Seth Damodar Swarup also asked some sharp questions. Please excuse me for placing some bitter truths before you. The people of this country even after the Constitution is completed and enforced will not be satisfied or happy. Because what is there for them in this Constitution? You may go through it from beginning to end, but you will not find any provision anywhere which ensures bread for the poor, starving, naked and oppressed people. Neither does it have guarantee of employment. Mr. President, this Constitution does not deserve to be passed. We should reject this Constitution. Whether we do it or not, the people of the country will never accept this. One after the other, many put forward their questions. We may have given equality before the law to every citizen in this Constitution. But liberty has been a casualty. I could never have conceived that in the Constitution of free India, detention without trial will be permitted under the Fundamental Rights of the people. Having spent 10 years of my youth in the prisons and condemned cells of the British, I know the tortures of detention without trial and I can never reconcile myself to it. Some said that the Constitution had many useless things. Brajeshwar Prasad devised a new way to oppose the Constitution. Sir, I rise to offer my limited and qualified support to this Constitution. But for the adoption of Hindi and abolition of untouchability, I would not have supported this Constitution. I support this Constitution to the extent it is Unitary. I request the honourable member to read his speech slowly. And not move like a superfast express. I would have gone slow if the President would have given me more time. The great Mahatma was an advocate of decentralization. His doctrine of decentralization had an integral relation with the concept of Ram Rajya. Only in a non-violent society where all violent elements have been liquidated can we think of decentralization. May I take one or two minutes more, Sir? No. You better hand over your speech. Then it should be taken as read, sir. The last, historic day of discussion finally arrived. Even on this day, many wanted to speak. Mr. Mahavir Tyagi raised a point of note. Although I have every respect and praise for this Constitution, yet there is one thing which I am most afraid of. I am afraid of that class of people which democracies invariably create. It is a class of people for whom politics is their livelihood, their profession, their business. If this democracy is also to be run by such persons who will have nothing else to fall back upon, besides becoming ministers and taking membership of the Parliament, then this democracy is doomed, of that I am sure. Mr Tajamul Hussain talked of the Constitution of Pakistan. We have been criticised of taking a long time in framing our Constitution. I want to remind such critics that two States started at about the same time to frame their Constitutions. We have finished and the other has hardly yet begun. Pakistan took not three but 25 years to finish its Constitution. And their Constitution finally got done in 1972. The man who articulated, debated and finally put together our Constitution, Dr Bhimrao Ambedkar, became the Assembly’s last, historic speaker. The words of Dr Ambedkar echo in this Assembly to this day. Now, there was just one task left, ratification and signing of the Constitution. Even if we make the world’s greatest Constitution, it would be useless if we do not have people to implement it. On the 24th of January, the Constituent Assembly met one last time to finish an important task. This day we adopted ‘Jana Gana Mana’ as our National Anthem and Vande Mataram as our National Song. That day we also elected the first President of the new republic. Laying the foundation of our democratic traditions, two people contested for this post – Prof K T Shah and Dr Rajendra Prasad. The assembly selected the man who for three years had presided over the making of the Constitution. Dr Rajendra Prasad became the first President of the Republic of India. Everyone eagerly awaited the day of January 26. All across the country there were festive preparations. And why not? A nation suppressed for ages had finally taken charge of its own destiny. From the drafting of our Constitution until today, we have made nearly 100 amendments for different reasons – at times when a situation changed, at other times to clarify some point, while yet other times to fulfil the needs of a political party and later to nullify those needs, and sometimes to fulfil the vision of the Directive Principles. As the scholar Granville Austin said: Equipped with the basic qualifications, attitudes and experience for creating and working a democratic constitution, Indians did not default their tryst with destiny.

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