Chapter 15 Framing the Constitution The Beginning of a New Era
What were the ideals expressed in the Objectives Resolution ?
The “Objectives Resolution” outlined the ideals of the Constitution of Independent India as mentioned below :
- Independent sovereign republic : India will be an independent state without any foreign or internal control. Its head will be elected by the people.
- Justice, equality and freedom : It will guarantee its citizens justice, equality and freedom.
- Safeguards for minorities : It assured that “adequate safeguards shall be provided for minorities, backward and tribal areas, and Depressed and Other Backward Classes”.
How was the term minority defined by different groups?
N.G. Ranga, a socialist who had been a leader of the peasant movement, urged that the term minorities be interpreted in economic terms. The real minorities were the poor and the downtrodden. Some considered that the real minorities were the masses of our country who were so depressed and oppressed that they were ot even able to take advantage of the ordinary civil rights. Singh spoke eloquently on the need to protect the tribes, and ensure conditions that could help them come up to the level of the general population.
What were the arguments in favour of greater power to the provinces ?
The following arguments were given in favour of greater power to the provinces :
- K. Santhanam stated that by giving more powers to the Centre, we could not make it strong because in such a situation, the Centre would be overburdened with responsibilities. It would not be able to function effectively. On the other hand, if the Centre was relieved of some functions or powers it could function effectively and become stronger.
- He argued that weak status would cripple them. Their financial position would be weaker and without finances they would not be able to take up any project for development. They would have to depend on the central aid for education, sanitation and other welfare work for the people. He added a strong centre might lead the states to “revolt against the Centre” in the future.
- A member from Orissa warned that “the Centre is likely to break” since powers had been excessively centralised under the Constitution.
Why did Mahatma Gandhi think Hindustani should be the national language?
In view of Mahatma Gandhi Hindustani was a language that the common people could easily understand. Hindustani was a blend of Hindi and Urdu. It was also popular among a large section of the people. Moreover, it was a composite language enriched by the interaction of diverse cultures. Words and terms from many different languages got incorporated into this language over the years. It made this language easily understandable by people from various regions.
As per Mahatma Gandhi Hindustani would be the ideal language of communication between the communities. It would help to unify Hindus and Muslims and the people from north and south. Language came to be associated with the politics of religious identities from the end of the 19th century. But Mahatma Gandhi retained his faith in the composite character of Hindustani.
What historical forces shaped the vision of the Constitution?
Historical forces that shaped the vision of the Constitution were as given below :
- Historic efforts in the past : Nehru in his famous speech of 13 December 1946 referred to the American and French Revolutions. He thus linked the making of the Indian Constitution with the revolutionary moments in the past. But at the same time he emphasised not to copy the west but to learn from their experiments, achievements and failures.
- The will of the people : Nehru stated that the source of the Constituent Assembly was its strength i.e., the will of the people. So, members always kept in mind that passions that lay in the hearts of the masses of the Indian people and tried to fulfil them. Thus, Constituent Assembly was expected to represent the people.
- India, a large country with diversities : India is a large country with different religions, castes, communities, languages and groups. It was necessary to keep all united. So, the Constitution was prepared keeping in mind these diversities.
- Protection of minorities : There were minorities and depressed classes. It was necessary to protect their interests. Gandhiji had already started movement for upliftment of the Harijan. Thus, there were debates in the Assembly and provisions were incorporated for their protection and upliftment.
- Period of violence : There were riots and violence and communal frenzy. Under these circumstances it was necessary to have a strong Centre. There were arguments in favour of and against it. But ultimately more powers were given to the Centre.
- Problem of princely states : There were more than five hundred princely states. To accommodate them, it was absolutely necessary to have a federal system of government.
Discuss the different arguments made in favour of protection of the oppressed groups.
The different arguments made in favour of protection of the oppressed groups were as mentioned below :
- It was argued that the problem of the “Untouchables” could not be resolved through protection and safeguards alone. Their disabilities were caused by the social norms and the moral values of caste society that had used their services and labour but kept them at a social distance.
J. Nagappa from Madras pointed out that the suffering of the Depressed Classes was i due to their systematic marginalisation and not due to their numerical insignificance. They had
no access to education, or share in the administration.
- K.J. Khanderkar from the Central Provinces argued that the Depressed Classes had been suppressed for thousands of years to such an extent that their bodies and minds were not able to march forward.
What connection did some of the members of the Constituent Assembly make between the political situation of the time and the need for a strong Centre ?
The Constitution of India was framed between December 1946 and December 1949. It was a trouble-some time. There were riots and violence. There was the rising of the ratings of the Royal India Navy in Bombay and other cities in the spring of 1946. The violence culminated in the massacres that accompanied the transfer of populations when the Partition of India was announced. Some members of the Constituent Assembly made connection between the above political situation of the time and the need for a strong Centre as mentioned below :
- Referring to riots and violence in the country, many members had repeatedly stated that the powers of the Centre had to be greatly strengthened to enable it to stop the communal frenzy.
- Gopalaswami Ayyangar declared that “the Centre should be made as strong as possible”.
- Balakrishna Sharma from the United Provinces reasoned at length that only a strong Centre could plan for the well-being of the country, mobilise the available economic resources and establish a proper administration.
How did the Constituent Assembly seek to resolve the language controversy ?
There were two main views about the language of the nation as mentioned below :
- A plea for Hindi : R.V. Dhulekar, from the United Provinces made a strong plea that Hindi be used as the language of making the constitution. He wanted Hindi to be declared a National Language.
The fear of domination : Shrimati Durgabai from Madras explained her worries. She informed the house that there was strong opposition against Hindi in the South. She stated
that the erosion of inclusive and composite character of Hindustani was bound to create anxieties and fears amongst different language groups.
In view of the above differences, some members appealed for a spirit of accommodation and asked the members not to push the cause of Hindi aggressively. Thus, the language controversy was solved in the following way :
- Hindi in the Devanagari script would be the official language.
- Transition to Hindi would be gradual.
- For the first fifteen years, English would continue to be used for all official purposes.
- Each province was allowed to choose one of the regional languages for official work within the province.
Thus, referring to Hindi as the official rather that of the national language it was hoped that it would be acceptable to all.