CPI(M) WB WebDesk
The Constitution of India came into force on 26th January, 1950 and since then the day is celebrated as Republic Day. It could be mentioned here that before 1950, the common Indian people, committing themselves to the cause of freedom, celebrated 26th January as Independence Day since 1930. Commenting on the selection of 26th January as Republic Day, historian Bipan Chandra notes that “it was only fitting that the new republic should come into being on that day, marking from its very inception the continuity between the struggle for independence and the adoption of the constitution that made India a republic.”
Framing of Constitution: A Chapter in Freedom Struggle
The evolution and making of the Constitution was, in fact, a direct consequence of the relentless struggle of the Indian people that emphatically demanded to be able to frame their own constitution without any colonial interference. Hence, the framing of the Constitution could not be separated from the larger picture of the freedom struggle, rising particularly in late 19th and first half of 20th century. Despite accusing Indian Constitution as a text, initiated by the Western administrators and colonial rulers, our Constitution is essentially an Indian and indigenous document, reflecting a larger socio-political ambition of all sections of people, produced by a Nationalist enthusiasm, arising out of the contemporary Nationalist movement. Thus, for instance, one could note that the Nationalist movement, by the end of the second decade of the 20th century, began to advocate the doctrine of the self – determination or the right of the Indians to frame their own Constitution. In fact, the Home Rule agitation, during the First World War, demanded a discussion on self-government. On 8th February, 1924, Motilal Nehru passed a resolution, which came to be known as the ‘National Demand’ in the Central Legislative Assembly. Without an unmistakable clarity, the ‘National Demand’ insisted for making a Constitution by the Indian people and most importantly, the procedure for its adoption. Thus, the tension was rising among the colonial rulers and a burgeoning Nationalist movement for the right of self-determination from the first decade of 20th century.
In November 1927, the British government appointed the all–white Simon Commission to report on India’s constitutional progress for furthering certain constitutional reforms, as promised. The Simon Commission was opposed by the leaders of the Nationalist movement on the ground that it did not include any representative from the Indians. At the same time, as part of the persistent struggle of the Indian people to espouse the doctrine of self-determination, an All Parties conference was called in May 1928 that appointed a committee chaired by Motilal Nehru, to determine the foundational principles of the Constitution of India. The Nehru Report, as it is known today, laid special emphasis on securing fundamental human rights for the people of India that typically included freedom of conscience, freedom of practice of any religion, freedom of thoughts and opinion etc. It was increasingly becoming clear that by 1930s, with the beginning of the Civil Disobedience Movement, Indian population started articulating their demand, in various parliamentary and extra parliamentary methods, for complete independence, on one hand and for gaining the rights to frame their own Constitution via a Constituent Assembly, elected on the basis of the widest possible franchise, on the other.
The framing of Constitution by a Constituent Assembly, elected on the basis of universal adult franchise, became a popular demand in all of the Nationalist movement. The British Government, coming under a huge pressure, finally accepted the making of Constituent Assembly in 1946. Hence, it would not be an exaggeration to note that our Constitution was a result of a long drawn desire of the Indian people, fighting to free the country from their colonial masters. In fact, the spirit and ideas of democracy, liberty, freedom etc., all of which serve as the basic foundational principles of our Constitution, were already inculcated among the people during the process of the Nationalist movement. In fact, the claims of the most prominent ideologue of the RSS, Golwalkar that “our Constitution too is just a cumbersome and heterogeneous piecing together of various articles from various Constitutions of the Western countries” and “it has absolutely nothing which can be called our own” stand on some absolutely sectarian ideological false premises (See MS Golwalkar, Bunch of Thoughts, Sahitya Sindhu, Bangalore, 1996, p. 238).
Basic Features of the Constitution
The basic guiding philosophy of our Constitution is to be found in its Preamble, based on the famous Objective Resolution drafted by Nehru and adopted by the Constituent Assembly on 22nd January, 1947, which promises to secure to all citizens “Justice, social, economic and political; Liberty of thought, expression, belief, faith and worship; Equality of status and of opportunity; and to promote among them all, Fraternity assuring the dignity of the individual and the unity of the nation.” The Preamble of our Constitution provides India to be a Sovereign, Socialist, Secular, Democratic and Republic Country. An important part of our Constitution resides in the fact that it ensures certain Fundamental Rights, which are protected by the state. The Fundamental Rights such as the right to equality, the right to freedom, the right against exploitation, the right to freedom of religion, the right to property, the right to constitutional remedies etc. are aimed protect individual and minority groups from arbitrary state action. The Directive Principles of State Policy, on the other hand, seems to work as guidelines to the legislatures and state to “promote welfare of the people”. Thus, the basic guiding principles of our Constitution seem to create objective conditions for building of a modern, progressive, secular and egalitarian society, based on individual freedom and liberty.
Recent Attack on the Basic Features of Constitution
It could be noted that the basic features of secularism, as enshrined in Indian Constitution, has come under attack in the recent past, primarily from the RSS. Ever since the Constitution came into force, upholding a modern, secular worldview, the RSS found it objectionable. The RSS organ Organizer came out with an editorial on 30th November, 1949 titled ‘Constitution’ declaring that “the worst about the new Constitution of Bharat is that there is nothing Bhartiya about it…There is no trace of ancient Bhartiya constitutional laws, institutions, nomenclatures and phraseology in it…Manu’s Laws were written long before Lycurgus of Sparta or Solon of Persia. To this day his laws as enunciated in the Manusmriti excite the admiration of the world and elicit spontaneous obedience and conformity. But to our constitutional pundits that means nothing.” Thus, the RSS imagined India to be a Hindu Rashtra. Realizing the sectarian view, Dr. Ambedkar, way back in 1940 exposed the hidden agenda of the RSS with special reference to the Constitution in the following words:
“Mr. Jinnah says India should be cut up into two, Pakistan and Hindustan, the Muslim nation to occupy Pakistan and the Hindu nation to occupy Hindustan. Mr. Savarkar on the other hand insists that, although there are two nations in India, India shall not be divided into two parts, one for Muslims and the other for the Hindus ; that the two nations shall dwell in one country and shall live under the mantle of one single constitution; that the constitution shall be such that the Hindu nation will be enabled to occupy a predominant position that is due to it and the Muslim nation made to live in the position of subordinate co-operation with the Hindu nation” (See Ambedkar, Pakistan or Partition of India, p. 142). No wonder, thus, that Ambedkar's opposition to such a Hindu dominated constitution was ridiculed by the RSS. On 25th December 25, 1992 Swami Muktanand Saraswati and Swami Vamdev Maharaj held a joint press conference at the office of the Vishwa Samvad Kendra (that also happened to be a BJP member of parliament’s flat). They released a booklet that was a veritable ‘white paper’ of the Hindutva brigade, denouncing the Constitution as “anti-Hindu” and putting forward a prototype of the kind of Constitution it desired for the country. Its pink front cover posed two questions: “Who is the destroyer of Bharat’s unity, integrity, brotherhood and community amity? Who has increased starvation, unemployment, corruption and irreligion?” The emphatic answer was “Vartaman Indian Sanvidhan”. On another instance, on 1st January, 1993, the RSS published a white paper denouncing the constitution as “anti-Hindu” and noted that “the constitution is contrary to the country’s culture, character, circumstances, situation, etc. It is foreign-oriented” (See https://www.deccanchronicle.com/opinion/columnists/290919/is-constitution-anti-hindu-or-the-rss-anti-indian.html).
Thus, the RSS is out there to assault the secular and democratic fabrics of the Indian Constitution and Nation and wants to promote, in its place, a theocratic state (Read Hindu Rashtra). It is our responsibility today to protect the basic secular, modern and progressive features of our Constitution from such ideological assault on the part of the RSS.
- image source: Social Media
At WebDesk: Arnab Roy