Tag Archives: Indian Constitution

Ambedkar’s Appeal to the Nation – Last Speech in Constituent Assembly

….My mind is so full of the future of our country that I feel I ought to take this occasion to give expression to some of my reflections thereon. On 26th January 1950, India will be an independent country (Cheers). What would happen to her independence? Will she maintain her independence or will she lose it again? This is the first thought that comes to my mind. It is not that India was never an independent country. The point is that she once lost the independence she had. Will she lost it a second time? It is this thought which makes me most anxious for the future. What perturbs me greatly is the fact that not only India has once before lost her independence, but she lost it by the infidelity and treachery of some of her own people. In the invasion of Sind by Mahommed-Bin-Kasim, the military commanders of King Dahar accepted bribes from the agents of Mahommed-Bin-Kasim and refused to fight on the side of their King. It was Jaichand who invited Mahommed Gohri to invade India and fight against Prithvi Raj and promised him the help of himself and the Solanki Kings. When Shivaji was fighting for the liberation of Hindus, the other Maratha noblemen and the Rajput Kings were fighting the battle on the side of Moghul Emperors. When the British were trying to destroy the Sikh Rulers, Gulab Singh, their principal commander sat silent and did not help to save the Sikh Kingdom. In 1857, when a large part of India had declared a war of independence against the British, the Sikhs stood and watched the event as silent spectators.

Will history repeat itself? It is this thought which fills me with anxiety. This anxiety is deepened by the realization of the fact that in addition to our old enemies in the form of castes and creeds we are going to have many political parties with diverse and opposing political creeds. Will Indian place the country above their creed or will they place creed above country? I do not know. But this much is certain that if the parties place creed above country, our independence will be put in jeopardy a second time and probably be lost for ever. This eventuality we must all resolutely guard against. We must be determined to defend our independence with the last drop of our blood.(Cheers)

On the 26th of January 1950, India would be a democratic country in the sense that India from that day would have a government of the people, by the people and for the people. The same thought comes to my mind. What would happen to her democratic Constitution? Will she be able to maintain it or will she lost it again. This is the second thought that comes to my mind and makes me as anxious as the first.

It is not that India did not know what is Democracy. There was a time when India was studded with republics, and even where there were monarchies, they were either elected or limited. They were never absolute. It is not that India did not know Parliaments or Parliamentary Procedure. A study of the Buddhist Bhikshu Sanghas discloses that not only there were Parliaments-for the Sanghas were nothing but Parliaments – but the Sanghas knew and observed all the rules of Parliamentary Procedure known to modern times. They had rules regarding seating arrangements, rules regarding Motions, Resolutions, Quorum, Whip, Counting of Votes, Voting by Ballot, Censure Motion, Regularization, Res Judicata, etc. Although these rules of Parliamentary Procedure were applied by the Buddha to the meetings of the Sanghas, he must have borrowed them from the rules of the Political Assemblies functioning in the country in his time.

This democratic system India lost. Will she lost it a second time? I do not know. But it is quite possible in a country like India – where democracy from its long disuse must be regarded as something quite new – there is danger of democracy giving place to dictatorship. It is quite possible for this new born democracy to retain its form but give place to dictatorship in fact. If there is a landslide, the danger of the second possibility becoming actuality is much greater.

If we wish to maintain democracy not merely in form, but also in fact, what must we do? The first thing in my judgement we must do is to hold fast to constitutional methods of achieving our social and economic objectives. It means we must abandon the bloody methods of revolution. It means that we must abandon the method of civil disobedience, non-cooperation and satyagraha. When there was no way left for constitutional methods for achieving economic and social objectives, there was a great deal of justification for unconstitutional methods. But where constitutional methods are open, there can be no justification for these unconstitutional methods. These methods are nothing but the Grammar of Anarchy and the sooner they are abandoned, the better for us.

The second thing we must do is to observe the caution which John Stuart Mill has given to all who are interested in the maintenance of democracy, namely, not “to lay their liberties at the feet of even a great man, or to trust him with power which enable him to subvert their institutions”. There is nothing wrong in being grateful to great men who have rendered life-long services to the country. But there are limits to gratefulness. As has been well said by the Irish Patriot Daniel O’Connel, no man can be grateful at the cost of his honour, no woman can be grateful at the cost of her chastity and no nation can be grateful at the cost of its liberty. This caution is far more necessary in the case of India than in the case of any other country. For in India, Bhakti or what may be called the path of devotion or hero-worship, plays a part in its politics unequalled in magnitude by the part it plays in the politics of any other country in the world. Bhakti in religion may be a road to the salvation of the soul. But in politics, Bhakti or hero-worship is a sure road to degradation and to eventual dictatorship.

The third thing we must do is not to be content with mere political democracy. We must make our political democracy a social democracy as well. Political democracy cannot last unless there lies at the base of it social democracy. What does social democracy mean? It means a way of life which recognizes liberty, equality and fraternity as the principles of life. These principles of liberty, equality and fraternity as the principles of life. These principles of liberty, equality and fraternity are not to be treated as separate items in a trinity. They form a union of trinity in the sense that to divorce one from the other is to defeat the very purpose of democracy. Liberty cannot be divorced from equality, equality cannot be divorced from liberty. Nor can liberty and equality be divorced from fraternity. Without equality, liberty would produce the supremacy of the few over the many. Equality without liberty would kill individual initiative. Without fraternity, liberty would produce the supremacy of the few over the many. Equality without liberty would kill individual initiative. Without fraternity, liberty and equality could not become a natural course of things. It would require a constable to enforce them. We must begin by acknowledging the fact that there is complete absence of two things in Indian Society. One of these is equality. On the social plane, we have in India a society based on the principle of graded inequality which we have a society in which there are some who have immense wealth as against many who live in abject poverty. On the 26th of January 1950, we are going to enter into a life of contradictions. In politics we will have equality and in social and economic life we will have inequality. In politics we will be recognizing the principle of one man one vote and one vote one value. In our social and economic life, we shall, by reason of our social and economic structure, continue to deny the principle of one man one value. How long shall we continue to live this life of contradictions? How long shall we continue to deny equality in our social and economic life? If we continue to deny it for long, we will do so only by putting our political democracy in peril. We must remove this contradiction at the earliest possible moment or else those who suffer from inequality will blow up the structure of political democracy which is Assembly has to laboriously built up.

The second thing we are wanting in is recognition of the principle of fraternity. what does fraternity mean? Fraternity means a sense of common brotherhood of all Indians-if Indians being one people. It is the principle which gives unity and solidarity to social life.

Read the full text Ambedkar Last speech in consituent assembly

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RSS, Hindu Nation and The State

Source

Courtesy Indian Express

MG Vaidya Courtesy Indian Express

Sometimes, something good comes out of a seemingly ugly or evil event. The JNU episode, though unfortunate, has given rise to a debate on what constitutes a nation. The confusion is due to the present-day formation of a one state — one nation reality. But the two concepts need not be congruent. One state can include many nations, so also one nation can consist of many states.

For example, the state of the USSR, till a quarter of a century ago, included many nations, like Latvia, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Armenia, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, etc. The state of Yugoslavia, too, had comprised of more than one nation. Our India, that is Bharat, that is Hindustan, was one nation from time immemorial but contained many states. At the time of the invasion of Alexander in the 4th century BCE, there was one Nanda empire but, besides that, there were many republics. Lord Buddha was born in a republic. In the 7th century CE, King Harshavardhan ruled over the territory to the north of the river Narmada; in the south, the king was one Pulakeshin. Germany had been a nation for many years. But from 1945 to 1990, there were two states.

The distinction between the two concepts — state and nation — should always be remembered. A state is a political association that is run by and through laws. And for laws to be effective, the state needs physical force. To quote political thinker Ernest Barker, “The state… is a legal association: a ‘juridically organised nation, or a nation organised for action under legal rules.’ It exists for law: it exists in and through law: we may even say that it exists as law, if by law we mean not only a sum of legal rules, but also, and in addition, an operative system of effective rules which are actually valid and regularly enforced. The essence of the state is a living body of effective rules; and in that sense the state is law.”

All those who follow the legal framework become its citizens. A nation means the people. The people are the nation. There are three main conditions for people to constitute a nation: One, their sentiment for the land in which they live. Those who believe that the land is their motherland constitute a nation. The Jews were driven out of their motherland and for 1,800 years, they lived in different countries. But they never forgot that Palestine is their motherland. The second condition is a common history. After all, what is history except certain events that happened in the past. Some of them may lead to a feeling of pride and others may cause shame. Those who have the same feeling of joy or grief about the events in their history constitute a nation. The third and most important condition is adherence to a certain value system, that is, culture. In all nations of the world, these three conditions prevail. It is in our hapless country alone that there is controversy about these conditions.

Who are the people who take pride in uttering a slogan like “Bharat Mata ki Jai” or “Vande Mataram”? Who are the people that stretch their history to Rama, Krishna, Chanakya, Vikramaditya, Rana Pratap and Shivaji? And who are the people that share a certain value system? One major principle of this value system is the appreciation of plurality of faiths and religions. These people are known, world over, by the name of Hindu. Therefore, this is a Hindu nation. It has nothing to do with whether you are a theist or atheist, whether you are an idol-worshipper or against idol-worship, whether you believe in the authority of the Vedas or some other sacred book. This was understood by the framers of our Constitution. Therefore, Explanation II under Article 25 states that “reference to Hindus shall be construed as including a reference to persons professing the Sikh, Jaina or Buddhist religion”. Why should this not be applicable to those who profess Christianity or Islam? B.R. Ambedkar moved the Hindu Code Bill in Parliament, and it is applicable to Sikhs, Jains and Buddhists. Why not to Christians and Muslims?

For 17 long years, I was a lecturer in a Christian college run by a Protestant church. I never concealed my affiliation to the RSS. Once, in 1957, a very senior Christian professor, some two decades older than me, asked me: “Can I become a member of the RSS?” I said, “Yes, you can.” He said, “What shall I have to do?” I replied, “You need not give up your church, nor abandon faith in the Bible and can have the same reverence for Jesus Christ.” I was watching the signs of surprise on his face. However, I said, “But, sir, you have to accept the validity of other faiths and religions also.” He immediately remarked, “I cannot accept this. If I accept this, I will not be able to propagate my religion.” I said, “Sir, then you cannot become a member of the RSS.”

The whole confusion in our understanding of “Hindu” is due to our consideration of Hinduism as a religion. It is not a religion. As S. Radhakrishnan said, “It is a commonwealth of many religions.” “Hindu” is a dharma. And in English, there is no equivalent of the word dharma. It will require another article to explain the correct concept and connotation of dharma. I will end by quoting Ernest Renan, a French philosopher, whose book as translated in English is titled What is a Nation. I quote, “The soil provides the substratum, the field for struggle and labour, man provides the soul. Man is everything in the formation of this sacred thing that we call a people. Nothing that is material suffices here. A nation is a spiritual principle, the result of the intricate workings of history; a spiritual family and not a group determined by the configuration of the earth.”

He adds, “Two things, which are really one, go to make up this soul or spiritual principle. One of these things lies in the past, the other in the present. The one is the possession in common of a rich heritage of memories; and the other is actual agreement, the desire to live together, and the will to make the most of the joint inheritance. Man, gentlemen, cannot be improvised. The nation, like the individual, is the fruit of a long past spent in toil, sacrifice and devotion…To share the glories of the past, and a common will in the present; to have done great deeds together, and to desire to do more — these are the essential conditions of a people’s being. Love is in proportion to
the sacrifice one has made and the evils one has borne.”

To become a nation, Renan emphasises that you don’t need to have one language or one religion, or a community of economic interests. You only need the spirit, the sentiment, the value system. Can one abuse this connotation of “nation” as narrow or dangerous?

  • By Sri M.G.Vaidya

‘Controversy’ on Preamble of Constitution

 

constitution

On the occasion of Republic day 2015 GOI issued an advertisement where the first/original preamble of constitution was mentioned. Original in the sense it was the one that was created when India became a republic. It does not contain the words “socialist” and “secular” as defining features of Indian republic, which were added in 1970’s.

Opposition is up in its arms against this “omission” . BJP and some of the government representatives are indicating their willingness to debate and union minister Ravi Shankar Prasad expressed it.

As can be expected, media tried churning a controversy out of it. It is called an omission, then a blunder, then a graciously granted benefit of doubt calling it a possible “oversight”. This is expected because it does not contain the current version which has the words “socialist” and “secular” that were introduced during the emergency-notorious Late PM Indira Gandhi’s tenure. The two words that are so dear to the liberals, leftists, secularists and proxy-colonial elite that they have used as scarecrows for decades to protect their fiefdoms, the two words that have been added under conspicuous circumstances with no democratic procedures followed, have been “let go” by the government run by a Hindu Nationalist. How can an omission of these two words be not mischievous and simply an error! But then, one must understand the secular predicament not just in the objection but also in not invoking any matter of intent and agenda.

The original constitution’s preamble defines Indian union as a sovereign democratic republic. The 42nd amendment whose consequence is addition of these two additional words “secular” and “socialist” happened at the expense of democratic ideal. It is one of the most remembered amendments for the spirit in which it was done. When the Janata government formed later in 1977, the notion of basic structure was brought in so that such amendments do not occur in future. However, the Janata party and allies being socialist themselves, the government did not try enough to undo this modification of the preamble.

So understandably, invoking this amendment reminds us that it goes against a more fundamental aspect of constitutional ideal (spirit of democracy) than those introduced with it (secularism and socialism). It not only shows those responsible for such amendment in bad light but also indirectly shows who respects the constitution more. Hence the predicament in limited protest, to only let the fact of omission but not of the merit of introduction in debate.

However this event presents us with an occasion to not just see what transpired but evaluate the merit of the amendment itself. The fact that it was it was made without inviting a public debate and evaluation of the proposal does not fully explain lack of merit in the amendment – it only indicates an unjustified means, not unjustified ends. To examine the end achieved is also necessary, and in fact more important as it continues to impact policy in future.

Obviously the words like secularism and socialism were not new in 1970’s, they were well known to the original authors of constitution in 1947-50 both as desirable and as prevalent ideals elsewhere in the world. If they did not form part of preamble of the first draft of constitution, it was not merely because some of the main aspects of rights were inspired by American constitution. It was also not because these two features were not sought to be present in Indian union’s policy.

There are multiple reasons why these two words do not appear as the *defining features* of Indian union that appeared in the preamble, although they are in spirit not undesirable.

One, they are not defining features of the nation and hence cannot and should not form the defining features of the state. Secularism originates from the need for church-state divide in Christian societies and simply does not arise as a requirement in a society like Bharata where statecraft always was inspired by a tradition-agnostic moral scheme and religious traditions prospered as power-agnostic knowledge institutions of society, through ethical epistemic argumentation. Similarly socialism does not become a requirement in a society which always prospered with a fine balance between trading and skill groups and has a large privatized social security system. In fact while the state calls itself socialist, the economic model followed by society is hardly socialist. So in both these aspects the nation by its very nature inherently lives by what these ideals try to achieve and are hence redundant. Not just that, the nation has a more refined system of achieving both these goals and demonstrated their successful implementation for several continuous centuries before these concepts were even conceived in the west.

Two, secularism and socialism do not mean what they are made to mean in today’s Indian context. Neither is secularism about religious pluralism (or appeasement) nor is socialism about scuttling the nation’s productive potential to exploit a poverty vote bank.

Three, while secularism is a non-starter for our society, socialism is not a permanent ideal and can easily degenerate into a temporarily acceptable or unacceptable economic policy which cannot hence be the defining feature of a nation or a union of states. Given the longevity and stability of Indian society, such temporal aspects can never be and should never be incorporated as defining features.

Four, there is no moral locus standi for the demand that Bharata should be a secular state after the partition. Pakistan and Bangladesh are not carved for “communal” forces but for Muslims alone. Some elite try proudly claiming that Muslims got Pakistan whereas secularists got India, which is a polite way of representing a colossal fraud against the core identity of this nation, the Hindu culture and society. That hardly means the lack of willingness of Hindus to coexist: partition is entirely about the Muslims’ willingness to coexist. That means that this nation should be run according to the age old Hindu ideals of tolerance, pluralism, tradition-agnostic state, power-agnostic spiritual traditions, a nation and geo-culture duly recognized by the state and protected. That means this nation cannot be run with artificial ideals like “idea of India”, “secularism”, religious exclusivism and protection of intolerance as a right. Only then can it represent the true nature of this nation, its society and its greatness.

The authors of constitution, unlike the uprooted and politically motivated leaders of the subsequent generations, had a much better understanding of what becomes a defining feature for the nation and hence Indian union and what does not, and how to frame the preamble accordingly. Hence they chose, with due diligence and in their wisdom, not to make these two words secular and socialist, the defining features of Indian republic.

It is time there is a debate on the merit of the continuation of these in the preamble, the benefit accrued and loss incurred by the nation in these three decades since their introduction. It is time to evaluate whether there is any inherent contradiction between the secular-socialist policies and the universal worldview of Bharat, whether they go against the democratic nature of this nation, whether they created a problem or solved one. Whether making our state secular is inline with what constitution says elsewhere (such as taking control of Hindu religious institutions and giving complete freedom to minorities) needs debate. Whether undoing this inconsistent change is required to restore justice and fairness to constitution is required. It needs debate whether “secularism” made India’s religious conflict more acute, a case Prof Balagangadhara argues in this paper. The merit in advertising secularism as a solution to religious conflict when it is not by design about religious harmony but about state-religion divide should be debated. It is also required to be debated whether calling the state socialist helped making a policy that built or retarded our economic progress. It needs debate not just whether these two words should be removed but a policy of how and what the defining features of a state for Bharata should be.

 -Skanda Veera

Dr.Babasaheb Ambedkar on Anarchy

20th Jan 2014

As we now have the Chief Minister of Delhi, Arvind Kejriwal announcing that he is an “Anarchist”, it would be good to understand what Dr.Ambedkar and other constituent assembly members said about anarchy.

The definition of anarchy as per the Webster dictionary is as follows :

” a situation of confusion and wild behavior in which the people in a country, group, organization, etc., are not controlled by rules or laws”

1a   :  absence of government

1b   :  a state of lawlessness or political disorder due to the absence of governmental authority

1 c   :  a utopian society of individuals who enjoy complete freedom without government
2a   :  absence or denial of any authority or established order
2b  : absence of order :

Dr.Ambedkar on Anarchy