By Paul Michael, SJ
One might wonder why the architects of the Indian Constitution preferred a Democratic form of governance rather than other forms. These three factors should have played a decisive role in their decision to make India a Democracy.
Awareness of the prevalent discriminations:
The architects were aware of the prevalent discrimination on the basis of a) caste hierarchy and practices of untouchability, b) Gender – that males are superior to women, and c) Creed – that Brahminic religion is superior to others. They believed that a Democratic form of governance would put an end to these discriminations, since all will be equal according to the law.
Awareness of the pluralistic nature of our country:
Many different races, cultures, religions, and linguistic ethnic groups exist side by side in India. This is why they call our country the Indian sub-continent. In order to integrate people of different backgrounds with due respect to the uniqueness of each of them, the architects of the country rightly thought that a Democratic form of governance would be an appropriate structure.
A drafting Committee, consisting of 8 members, was formed on 29 August 1947, under the leadership of Dr. Ambedkar. It first met on the 09 December 1946. The committee took more than two years, 11 months, and 18 days to complete the work.
Knowledge of significant events of world history: The main proponents and architects of the Indian Constitution such as Mahatma Gandhi, Jawaharlal Nehru, and Dr. Ambedkar were all Western-educated scholars. They must have been exposed to the major events in world history such as: i) Renaissance and Reformation resulting in the birth of a philosophy that differentiated politics from religion. ii) French Revolution (1789), iii) Communist Manifesto (1848), iv) Russian Revolution (1917), v) World War I (1914), vi) World War II (1939), vii) Fight against Racial Discrimination in the USA (1850 onwards), viii) Fight against Racial Discrimination in South Africa (1900), ix) United Nations Human Rights Declaration (1950). Our Indian stalwarts must have learned the lessons in these major historical events and utilized them in the envisioning of independent India.
Therefore the architects of the Constitution of India discerned thoroughly and made a decisive choice to adopt a Democratic form of governance in our country.
What they chose to ignore: It is important to note that they deliberately refused to consider the rules of Manu – Manu Dharma Sastra, to be the guiding principle for our country – an ideology that was pushed forward by Rastriya Swayam Sevak Sangh (RSS) vehemently at that point in time. They knew well that Manu Dharma Sastra would uphold the caste hierarchical system, as well as Aryan-Brahminic supremacy and patriarchy, which was inherently rooted in inequality.
Long discerning process: Pursuing the idea of a Democratic form of Governance for independent India, a drafting Committee, consisting of 8 members, was formed on 29 August 1947, under the leadership of Dr. Ambedkar. It first met on the 09 December 1946. The committee took more than two years, 11 months, and 18 days to complete the work. In the process, the committee had gone through the Constitutions of 60 countries. During this period the Constituent Assembly has altogether held eleven sessions, which had consumed 165 days. Out of these, the Assembly spent 114 days for the consideration of the Draft Constitution. Finally, the Constitution of India was adopted by the Constituent Assembly on 26 Nov 1949, and came into force on 26 Jan 1950).
The idea of India: Sashi Tharoor, in an article in the Hindu (22.01.2022) says, “The idea of India as a modern nation based on a certain conception of human rights and citizenship, vigorously backed by due process of law, and equality before the law, is a gift of the Constitution. Earlier conceptions of India drew their inspiration from mythology and theology. The modern idea of India, despite the mystical influence of Tagore, and the spiritual and moral influences of Gandhiji, is a robustly secular and legal construct based upon the vision and intellect of our founding fathers, notably (in alphabetical order) Ambedkar, Nehru, and Patel. The Preamble of the Constitution itself is the most eloquent enumeration of this vision. In its description of the defining traits of the Indian republic, and its conception of justice, liberty, equality, and fraternity, it firmly proclaims that the law will be the bedrock of the national project.”
The architects of the Constitution of India discerned thoroughly and made a decisive choice to adopt a Democratic form of governance in our country.
Not the document, but individuals: On 25 Nov 1949, addressing India’s Constituent Assembly for the last time, Dr. B.R. Ambedkar said, “I feel, however good a Constitution may be, it is sure to turn out bad because those who are called to work it, happen to be a bad lot. However bad a Constitution may be, it may turn out to be good, if those who are called to work it, happen to be a good lot. The working of a Constitution does not depend wholly upon the nature of the Constitution. The Constitution can provide only the organs of the State such as the Legislature, the Executive, and the Judiciary. The factors on which the working of these organs of the State depend are the people and the political parties they will set up as their instruments to carry out their wishes and their politics. Who can say how the people of India and their parties will behave? Will they uphold constitutional methods of achieving their purposes or will they prefer revolutionary methods of achieving them? If they adopt the revolutionary methods, however good the Constitution may be, it requires no prophet to say that it will fail. It is, therefore, futile to pass any judgment upon the Constitution without reference to the part which the people and their parties are likely to play.”
A vision for a new India: It is clear, therefore, our Constitution was the ‘articulated vision of our leaders for a New India’. It laid down a broad framework for the normal functioning of the Nation as per the evolved vision. It upheld the principles such as a) Live and let others live, Respect, b) Recognize, and Acknowledge others, c) Exercise your rights and let others do so, and d) Exercise your freedom and let others enjoy their freedom too. However, Dr. Ambedkar gave caution that the effectiveness of the Constitution depends upon the agencies which are going to implement it.
The dangerous shift: Unfortunately, of late, the political course of the country seems to drift away from its original democratic principles towards Right-wing politics, which is centered around both the Brahminic Hindu religion and the Aryan race. Apparently, the move is towards a unitary ideology, ‘One Nation, One Culture and One Religion’ which appears outwardly as ‘religion-centered’ but actually is ‘caste and race centered’. This trend is obviously antithetical to the principles of the Indian Constitution. The implications of this shift come to light gradually as days pass by.
Making the victims fight among themselves: First of all, the general public, especially oppressed, vulnerable sections such as Dalits, Tribals, and women, who were organizing themselves and consolidating their strength to resist their age-old oppression, have now been polarized on the basis of their religion and sub-castes and are busy fighting among themselves for flimsy reasons, because of the propaganda of the right-wing ideologues.
Demonizing religious minorities: Secondly, a vicious propaganda that demonizes religious minorities (Muslims and Christians) is encouraged. They are portrayed as the cause of all the existing evils in the country – evils such as degradation of Indian culture, caste system, poverty, etc. These minorities, who had already been alienated from the mainstream, because of their limited number, are being pushed further to the margins. In short, the weak, vulnerable sections of Indian society are unable to understand the real political aims of their oppressors and the religious minorities of India are forced to become scapegoats to the onslaught of right-wing ‘high caste and race cantered’ politics.
Propagating falsehoods: In order to carry forward this political agenda, they propagate harmful falsehoods such as ‘India is nothing but Bharat which has its existence for thousands of years’, ‘Aryans are the original inhabitants of Indian soil’, ‘Muslims and Christians were the invaders’, ‘The evils of the caste system were imposed by the invaders – Moguls and the British / Christians’, ‘Christians are the root cause for the erosion of Indian culture’, and ‘India, that is Bharat, is a nation (not a union or federation of different nations)’ etc. These lies are injected into the minds of the youth of the country in a systematic manner. A well-planned systematic propagation of these dangerous myths is one of the root causes of the prevalent chaos in the country.
What will be the future of India? What will happen to this federal and democratic country, divided into 28 states and 8 union territories, with a population of 1.21 billion?
Fr. Paul Michael, SJ (MDU) is a veteran social activist. One of the Co-Founders of Kalangarai, a State-level movement to get justice for widows, he is now the Director of PEAK (People’s Education and Action, Kodaikanal). He can be contacted at email@example.com.