The Constitution Day is being celebrated with fanfare. There have been constant debates about the character and implementation of the Constitution since its inception. From the Gandhians to Swarajya Partists, everyone was presenting their views when the Constitution was being framed. Once the Constitution was adopted and enacted, all ideological shades agreed to embrace the collective wisdom, except the communists. As Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar remarked in the Constituent Assembly, “The condemnation of the Constitution largely comes from two quarters, the Communist Party and the Socialist Party. Why do they condemn the Constitution? Is it because it is really a bad Constitution? I venture to say no’. The Communist Party want a Constitution based upon the principle of the Dictatorship of the Proletariat. They condemn the Constitution because it is based upon parliamentary democracy”. Over the period of time, the same socialist/communist variety of intellectuals and politicians misrepresented and manipulated the Constitutional provisions, while accusing others of being anti-Constitution. As we are entering the seventy-fifth year of the adoption of the fundamental legal framework of our democracy, instead of going it to political overtones, we need to understand and imbibe the spirit behind the enactment of this Constitution.
“The words ‘We the people’ written in the beginning of the preamble of our Constitution are not just three words. ‘We the people’ is a call, a pledge, a belief! These words written in the Constitution holds the basic spirit of that India, which has been the mother of democracy in the world” — Narendra Modi, PM Constitution Day Celebration, November 26, 2022
True Bharatiya Spirit
Though there were critics who had disagreement with the continuation of some of the provisions enacted by the British Parliament to continue, even within the Constituent Assembly, the procedure adopted and the spirit expressed in the Constitution was as per the tradition of Shastrartha.
Our Constitution is inspired by our history, our values and our requirements. It is certainly a truth that many of the elements of organisational structures like Parliament, Judiciary etc. are adapted from the other countries, but the soul, values and principles which guides them certainly Bharatiya in nature. As the book edited by the judges of the Supreme Court (Courts of India – Past to Present © Supreme Court of India, 2016, p. 15) articulated, “The Constitution that ultimately emerged after two years of debate and discussion, was distinctly Indian in form, features and character; but part of its very Indianness was its openness to the outside world, its cosmopolitanism and its willingness to engage with other traditions and other streams of thought, without submerging itself in their tides. The Constitution represented the best of India”. It further adds, “Indeed, one of those aspects of India was its plurality and its diversity, which stemmed from a long history of encounters, engagement and ultimately, assimilation. …The Constitution was an instance of lawmaking in a 5000-year old history of lawmakers and lawgivers, who thought, argued and debated with one another in a dialogue across centuries of time, and forests, rivers, and mountains of space. The Constitution did not erase, but rather, drew upon and was influenced by all those traditions. So when we think of the history of law and legal institutions in India, we must not think of 1949 as a tabula rasa, upon which the Constitution was written. We must think of it as a beautiful palimpsest, upon which the Constitution is but the last — albeit profoundly important — piece of calligraphy”.
It is certainly a truth that many of the elements of organisational structures like Parliament, Judiciary etc. are adapted from the other countries, but the soul, values and principles which guides them certainly Bharatiya in nature
During the entire course of our History, we have been run by clearly articulated and written system of rules and regulations supported by unwritten principles, customs, traditions and practices. From the times of Vedas to the present times, our civilisation and culture has believed in idea of rule-based society. Large number of Smritis and granths easily lead us to this conclusion. Much before Magna Carta of the West, we have very advanced development of jurisprudence, legal principles in our Country.
Therefore, we must counter and defeat arguments which see the constitution as a gift of the West or mere export of better values of the West. It is only due to usage of English and easy understanding that we have proceeded with the term ‘constitution’ but the word ‘Samvidhan’ makes it aptly clear. We must strongly assert that idea of Constitution as a basic document of governance is not an exported idea but a Bharatiya idea which is based on our rich history.
Essence of the Freedom Struggle
During the resistance against all invasions – Arab, Turk, Moghul, Portuguese, French and British – our spirit behind that struggle was very clear. We did not fight just for change of rulers but for the cultural values that ‘we’ as a civilisation stood for. Our freedom fighters changed the instruments of resistance as per the nature of the colonisation. Hence, Swa-Dharma, Swadeshi, Swa-Bhasha and Swaraj constituted the entire gamut of our freedom struggle.
“Bharat is a democratic nation, and we respect all symbols of democracy. The Constitution of India is one of the prime symbols of democracy because it is the outcome of our collective consciousness” — Dr Mohan Bhagwat, Sarsanghchalak, Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, Future Bharat Lecture Series at Vigyan Bhawan, New Delhi, on September 18, 2018
Our Constitution making process though was a continuation of the legal procedures established by the British, never remained devoid of the essence of the freedom struggle. The deliberations on the name of the independent nation, structures of the Government, issues like communal representation, cow protection, conservation of Bharatiya languages, promotion of Bharatiya crafts and industries etc reflect the same spirit in the Constituent Assembly.
Modern Terms, Ancient Ethos
We adopted the adult franchise in one go, unlike most of the Western Democracies. Irrespective of gender, caste, religion etc. we ensured right to vote to each and every adult citizen of Bharat with our own three tier structure of governance. In the right spirit, we initially rejected the terms like socialism and secularism as their western connotation did not fit into our civilisational ethos. The blind imposition of those ideas through political route, especially during the emergency, created certain confusion but we are recovering from the same in the due course. There have been conspiracies and fraudulent attempts by so-called Left-liberal cabal and some others who interpret the Constitutional values through the Lenses of the West or ideologies and concept originating in the West. They take pride in denigrating whatever that is Bharatiya. We must defeat and expose them. We should strongly assert that the Constitutional values and ideals like Democracy, Justice, Liberty, Equality, Fraternity, Republic, and Sovereignty etc. are Bharatiya values and ideals. Their content, expanse, and interpretations should be based upon the ideals and practices of Bharat. Our texts in various languages and practices during different times across Bharat should provide the content of these ideals. The paintings by Nandalal Bose on each chapter of the original copy of the Constitution also signify the same spirit and ethos.
Secret of Success
As a living, organic document, our attempt to provide Constitutional framework for the newly independent Bharat has turned out to be a great success, irrespective of upheavals and manipulations. All the three top positions of our republic, President, Vice-President and Prime-Minister are occupied by first generation politicians coming from a very ordinary background is a testimony of this success. The challenges posed by different forms of separatism and armed movements, food crisis, poverty, illiteracy and different forms of inequalities are effectively addressed within the Constitutional framework when many were suspicious about inception of modern democratic structures after independence. Soon we will have women from various backgrounds as one-third of representatives in the Parliament.
In our march towards a Vishwaguru, we need to do much more that what we have achieved especially for creating a harmonious society with shared prosperity. The original spirit behind making of our Constitution – which is rigid and flexible at the same time – can help us in achieving our future goals. For that, we must free our Constitution from the colonial interpretations and take a pledge to save and nurture the soul of ancient civilisational state and its modern manifestation.