Story

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15 August 1947

The Constituent Assembly (elected for an undivided India) met for the first time on 9 December 1946, reassembling on 14 August 1947 as a sovereign body and successor to the British parliament’s authority in India. As a result of the partition, under the Mountbatten plan a separate constituent assembly was established in Pakistan on 3 June 1947. The representatives of the areas incorporated into Pakistan ceased to be members of the Constituent Assembly of India. New elections were held for the West Punjab and East Bengal (which became part of Pakistan, although East Bengal later seceded to become Bangladesh); the membership of the Constituent Assembly was 299 after the reorganization, and it met on 31 December 1947.

Those were the turbulent times. The elections for the 296 seats assigned to the British Indian provinces were completed by August 1946 (One year before Independence). Congress won 208 seats, and the Muslim League 73. After this election, the Muslim League refused to cooperate with the Congress, and the political situation deteriorated. Direct Action Day was declared by Muslim League and Hindu-Muslim riots were initiated, and the Muslim League demanded a separate constituent assembly for Muslims in India. Complete country got converted into anarchy, not to be controlled and influenced by any known leader. Mahatma Gandhi went to Bengal for pleading for peace, but to no avail. This brought great distress to Gandhi Ji. Leaders were helpless.

india-pakistan-partition

The partition displaced between 1-1.2 Crore people along religious lines, creating overwhelming refugee crises in the newly constituted dominions; there was large-scale violence, with estimates of loss of life accompanying or preceding the partition disputed and varying between several hundred thousand and two million. The violent nature of the partition created an atmosphere of hostility and suspicion between India and Pakistan that plagues their relationship to the present.

The Constituent Assembly was led by Dr. B.R.Ambedkar (Baba Saheb). A momentous task was on the shoulders. People had a great hope from Babasaheb, and he was ready for the challenge.

Dr._Babasaheb_Ambedkar_Chairman,_Drafting_Committee_of_the_Indian_Constitution_with_other_members_on_Aug._29,_1947
Dr. B.R. Ambedkar, Chairman with with other members of Drafting Committee on Aug. 29, 1947

The first task of this Assembly is to free India through a new constitution, to feed the starving people, and to clothe the naked masses, and to give every Indian the fullest opportunity to develop himself according to his capacity. This is certainly a great task. Look at India today. We, are sitting here and there in despair in many places, and unrest in many cities. The atmosphere is surcharged with these quarrels and feuds which are called communal disturbances, and unfortunately we sometimes cannot avoid them. But at present the greatest and most important question in India is how to solve the problem of the poor and the starving. Wherever we turn, we are confronted with this problem. If we cannot solve this problem soon, all our paper constitutions will become useless and purposeless. Keeping this aspect in view, who could suggest to us to postpone and wait?

The problem of caste system and untouchability, being opposed since 1930’s, was nowhere near solution, a new problem of division of the beloved Nation and also, the mass killings because of direct action day and partition, came into the consciousness at the birth of this new nation. All the claims of peace and prosperity, the teachings and preachings of Mahatma Gandhi, the influence of the National Leaders thereby were dashed to ground.

So many divisions, so many problems in society; and what about those 565 princely states those were officially recognized in the Indian subcontinent covering a whopping 48% of the total area of pre-Independent India and constituted 28% of its total population.

Framing this Constitution was indeed a Mountainous Task.!

The Story

Babasaheb was wondering what could be the solution. He wondered at the powers of God, did they had the solution to the problem of India. He posed this question to the Gods straightway, and asked if there was a solution. No voice was heard. Sitting with distress, he went into the sleep. He was so stressful that his mind was engulfed and preoccupied by the thoughts of Constitution of India. He slept to get some peace.

He had a dream that night.

He saw a Motherly figure, clad in white saree, trying to wake him up gently. She had long hair blowing in wind. She had the Indian Flag by her side, and he could see the flag  in the background flying in the wind. She woke him up. And said, “Wake up my dear son! Wake up!” “I have come over here to guide you to find the right solution for the problem. It’s indeed difficult.” “What kind of a Nation do you want? What kind of a Nation you have in your imagination?”

Babasaheb, in awe and wonder, holding his emotions, joined his hands and said, “Namaste Ma!” Confused still, he continued, “Now as you have come here, and you are ready to help me, I pose a straightway question to you. I want to create a Nation where all people are equal, nobody is discriminated against or in favour, where people have right for preserving their languages, their respective cultures and there’s no problem in that.! A place where all are nurtured equally. All are happy. A Nation brimming with Life and Happiness everywhere. A place which is prosperous, where nobody is poor. Nobody dies of hunger.” “Also, a place which is strong enough that it never falls. India has been powerful and strong many times, but has fallen that many times. This time, O Mother, give me a solution that my country stands and never falls again.” “What can I do Mother. How can I create a country that’s prosperous and also, strong enough?”

After a second of silence, Bharat Mata spoke. “I understand your restlessness, my son. You mind is very ambitious about your nation. Your questions reflect that you are really  committed to your cause. That’s good. But it feels that you are getting impatient about your goals. You are losing your calm and so, unable to reach a solution. Remember, nothing can be achieved before it’s time has come. India was and it will become a great country again. Don’t lose your patience.”

Baba said,”Yes, Ma! Indeed! Nevertheless, I have been entrusted with such a momentous task of creating the Constitution of India.” “I do not see any nation that survived the onslaught of time. One nation rises to become an icon of the world and then it gradually subsides. I wonder why this happens, also, how not to make it happen this time.”

“This will happen anyways. There’s nothing that can survive the onslaught of time. The world is created as such. This is the irony. This is the only truth. I can tell you how to make a great nation, but surviving the time is another thing” “Nothing in this world is perpetual, my son!”

“But there is way” Ma said.

Not hoping this answer, baba saw her with amazement and awe and hope, and his face had a smile. With eager he went into the mother’s feet and started thanking Bharat Mata for just showing the hope at the end of the tunnel. With tears in his eyes, he said,”Ma, I have seen alot of bloodshed, I have seen men killing men, discriminating for even water to drink. I have seen alot Ma. I can’t take it anymore. The land of Gautam Buddha, Guru Nanak, Kabir, Baba Farid, Ram and Krishna has bled alot. This land deserves better, Ma! This land deserves better.” “I knew that you will give me a solution. Please Ma, carry on and let those sweet words fall on my ears.” And very attentively, he sat there at the feet of Ma to listen every word.

Ma said, “It is true indeed that nothing can stand the onslaught of time. Everything has to die out. But only the things that are constant, only the things that stop growing with time, only those things that are caught up with a specific time in past, die.” “Look, my son. There are trees and forest those date back to Shri Ram’s time, they are still not dead.”

It’s a mystery which only Gods know.”

Mother continued,”When God Brahma created Maya, he created her such that she could be able to keep everybody busy here, in this world, and not let anybody think about the real self (Atma). The power bestowed on his daughter Maya, was to attract the attention of anybody on this earth. And that, to challenge humans for spirituality, was the sole purpose of Maya. And Maya had indeed done a great job. Everybody is busy in their lives. Some are busy in killings, some are busy in saving themselves from being killed. Such is Maya.”

“Humans, when face a problem, they tend to find the solution to that problem. That problem ends.” “Then Maya changes her shape, she changes the circumstances and situations and hence, now humans face another problem. And are now busy with another problem in life.” “This is how the humans are kept away from the Enlightenment.” “One problem is then replaced by another, then it is replaced by another, just for that goal of keeping humans busy, not to concentrate on Enlightenment.”

Enlightenment is a separate thing.

“Problem changes, hence, the solution changes. Anything that does not adapt to this new situation, dies out. That’s the reason my son that nothing survives the onslaught of time.” “So, if you create an organization that adapts to all the situations of all the time to come, one can survive the onslaught of time.” “I have given you the solution son. This is the solution inspired by all the incarnations of Lord Vishnu. Make the system to evolve with the time. It should be time sensitive.. context sensitive. Don’t make it rigid.” “Give right to everybody to live and flourish. All the colors and hues are important. As God Vishnu has preached, one country can be either Rangbhumi or Ranbhumi, the choice is yours, son. Some people has committed a grave mistake in trying to clear all the colors and make one color holy, and hence, they have converted their country, not into Rangbhumi, but into Ranbhumi for all the times to come. How unfortunate are those sons and daughters who are destined to get born there.”

This was enough for Baba to understand the crux. Baba thought to himself, “The Country has to be made Time-Context Sensitive. So I must make sure that the Constitution should be time and context sensitive. It should be Federal in peace times, and it should be Unitary when its emergency. Different land reform policies should be adopted for farmers, and tribal people. They can not be alike. The policies can be similar but cannot be the same. Rangbhumi means, all the different cultures should survive side by side. Whether right or wrong, good or bad, we cannot categorize the colors in good and bad. They should all exist together. This country will be the most enchanting, most colorful, and incredible country. Such would be my nation.”

My Country will not be merely a Country. It will be a Sub-Continent.

Baba woke up with a calm mind; stunned but pleasantly surprised. Relaxed and feeling the calm. Wondering if the dream really had some meaning. Trying to analyze the statements and everything he could vaguely remember.

Smilingly and only thanking the mother, he started getting ready for the office. And this is what happened afterwards.!

Dr._Babasaheb_Ambedkar,_chairman_of_the_Drafting_Committee,_presenting_the_final_draft_of_the_Indian_Constitution_to_Dr._Rajendra_Prasad_on_25_November,_1949
Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar, Chairman of the Drafting Committee, presenting the final draft of the Indian Constitution to Dr. Rajendra Prasad on 25 November, 1949

The Aftermath

Dr B.R. Ambedkar, Sanjay Phakey, Jawaharlal Nehru, C. Rajagopalachari, Rajendra Prasad, Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel, Kanaiyalal Munshi, Ganesh Vasudev Mavalankar, Sandipkumar Patel, Maulana Abul Kalam Azad, Shyama Prasad Mukherjee, Nalini Ranjan Ghosh, and Balwantrai Mehta were some important figures in the assembly.

There were more than 30 members of the scheduled classes. Frank Anthony represented the Anglo-Indian community, and the Parsis were represented by H. P. Modi. The Chairman of the Minorities Committee was Harendra Coomar Mookerjee, a distinguished Christian who represented all Christians other than Anglo-Indians. Ari Bahadur Gurung represented the Gorkha Community.

Prominent jurists like Alladi Krishnaswamy Iyer, Benegal Narsing Rau and K. M. Munshi, Ganesh Mavlankar were also members of the Assembly. Sarojini Naidu, Hansa Mehta, Durgabai Deshmukh, Rajkumari Amrit Kaur and Vijayalakshmi Pandit were important women members.

It took 2 years, 11 months and 18 days to complete the draft. It was adopted by the Constituent Assembly on 26 November 1949, and came into effect on 26 January 1950. With its adoption, the Union of India became the modern and contemporary Republic of India replacing the Government of India Act, 1935 as the country’s fundamental governing document. India celebrates its coming into force on 26 January each year, as Republic Day.

Timeline

  • 9 December 1946: The first meeting of the Constituent Assembly was held in the constitution hall (now the Central Hall of Parliament House). Demanding a separate state, the Muslim League boycotted the meeting. Sachchidananda Sinha was elected temporary president of the assembly, in accordance with French practice.
  • 11 December 1946: Rajendra Prasad was elected as president and H. C. Mukherjee was elected as vice-president of the constituent assembly. B. N. Rau was appointed as its constitutional adviser.
  • 13 December 1946: An ‘Objective Resolution’ was moved by Jawaharlal Nehru in the assembly, laying down the underlying principles of the constitution. It finally became the Preamble of the constitution.
  • 22 January 1947: Objective resolution unanimously adopted.
  • 22 July 1947: National flag adopted.
  • 15 August 1947: Indian independence achieved as the Dominion of India.
  • 29 August 1947: Drafting Committee appointed with Dr. B. R. Ambedkar as the Chairman.
  • 16 July 1948: Along with Harendra Coomar Mookerjee and V. T. Krishnamachari was also elected as second vice-president of Constituent Assembly.
  • 26 November 1949: Constitution passed and accepted by the assembly.
  • 24 January 1950: “Jana Gana Mana” adopted as the national anthem, with the first two verses of “Vande Mataram” the national song. Rajendra Prasad elected the first president of India.

The Result

The original Constitution of India is hand-written with beautiful calligraphy, each page beautified and decorated by artists from Shantiniketan including Beohar Rammanohar Sinha and Nandalal Bose. The illustrations on the cover and pages represent styles from the different civilisations of the subcontinent, ranging from the prehistoric Mohenjodaro civilisation, in the Indus Valley, to the present. The calligraphy in the book was done by Prem Behari Narain Raizda. It was published in Dehra Dun, and photolithographed at the offices of Survey of India. The entire exercise to produce the original took nearly five years.

We the people of India had given ourselves the Constitution