Framing of Indian Constitution | Indian History

The Indian Constitution, which came into effect on 26 January 1950,has the dubious distinction of being the longest in the world. But its length and complexity are perhaps understandable when one considers the country’s size and diversity. At Independence, India was not merely large and diverse, but also deeply divided. A Constitution designed to keep the country together, and to take it forward, had necessarily to be an elaborate, carefully-worked-out, and painstakingly drafted document. For one thing, it sought to heal wounds of the past and the present, to make Indians of different classes, castes and communities come together in a shared political experiment. On 15 August 1947, India had been made free, but it had also been divided. Through the late 1940s  the two leading Indian political parties, the Congress and the Muslim League, had repeatedly failed to arrive at a settlement that would bring about religious reconciliation and social harmony. The Great Calcutta Killings of August 1946 began a year of almost continuous rioting across northern and eastern India The violence culminated in the massacres that accompanied the transfer of populations when the Partition of India was announced.

Another problem faced by the new nation was that of the princely states. During the period of the Raj, approximately one-third of the area of the subcontinent was under the control of nawabs and maharajas who owed allegiance to the British Crown, but were otherwise left mostly free to rule – or misrule – their territory as they wished.

The members of the Constituent Assembly were not elected on the basis of universal franchise. In the winter of 1945-46 provincial elections were held in India. Congress swept the general seats in the provincial elections, and the Muslim League captured most of the reserved Muslim seats. But the League chose to boycott the Constituent Assembly, pressing its demand for Pakistan with a separate constitution. The Socialists too were initially unwilling to join, for they believed the Constituent Assembly was a creation of the British, and therefore incapable of being truly autonomous. In effect, therefore, 82 per cent of the members of the Constituent Assembly were also members of the Congress.  

The Congress however was not a party with one voice. Its members differed in their opinion on critical issues. Some members were inspired by socialism while others were defenders of landlordism. Some were close to communal parties while others were assertively secular. As the deliberations continued, the arguments were reported in newspapers, and the proposals were publicly debated. In order to create a sense of collective participation the public was also asked to send in their views on what needed to be done. Many of the linguistic minorities wanted the protection of their mother tongue, religious minorities asked for special safeguards, while dalits demanded an end to all caste oppression and reservation of seats in government bodies. Important issues of cultural rights and social justice raised in these public discussions were debated on the floor of the Assembly.

The Constituent Assembly had 300 members. Of these, six members played particularly important roles. Three were representatives of the Congress, namely, Jawaharlal Nehru, Vallabh Bhai Patel and Rajendra Prasad. It was Nehru who moved the crucial “Objectives Resolution”, as well as the resolution proposing that the National Flag of India be a “horizontal tricolour of saffron, white and dark green in equal proportion”, with a wheel in navy blue at the centre. Patel, on the other hand, worked mostly behind the scenes, playing a key role in the drafting of several reports, and working to reconcile opposing points of view. Rajendra Prasad’s role was as President of the Assembly, where he had to steer the discussion along constructive lines while making sure all members had a chance to speak.

Besides this Congress trio, a very important member of the Assembly was the lawyer and economist B.R. Ambedkar. During the period of British rule, Ambedkar had been a political opponent of the Congress; but, on the advice of Mahatma Gandhi, he was asked at Independence to join the Union Cabinet as law minister. In this capacity, he served as Chairman of the Drafting Committee of the Constitution. Serving with him were two other lawyers, K.M. Munshi from Gujarat and Alladi Krishnaswamy Aiyar from Madras, both of whom gave crucial inputs in the drafting of the Constitution. These six members were given vital assistance by two civil servants. One was B. N. Rau, Constitutional Advisor to the Government of India, who prepared a series of background papers based on a close study of the political systems obtaining in other countries. The other was the Chief Draughtsman, S. N. Mukherjee, who had the ability to put complex proposals in clear legal language.

On 13 December 1946, Jawaharlal Nehru introduced the “Objectives Resolution” in the Constituent Assembly. It was a momentous resolution that outlined the defining ideals of the Constitution of Independent India, and provided the framework within which the work of constitution-making was to proceed. It proclaimed India to be an “Independent Sovereign Republic”, guaranteed its citizens justice, equality and freedom, and assured that “adequate safeguards shall be provided for minorities, backward and tribal areas, and Depressed and Other Backward Classes … ”

1945 26 July Labour Government comes into power in Britain
1945 December-January General Elections in India
1946 16 May Cabinet Mission announces its constitutional scheme
1946 6 June Muslim League accepts Cabinet Mission’s constitutional scheme
1946 16 June Cabinet Mission presents scheme for the formation of an Interim Government at the Centre
1946 2 September Congress forms Interim Government with Nehru as the Vice-President
1946 13 October Muslim League decides to join the Interim Government
1946 3-6 December British Prime Minister, Attlee, meets some Indian leaders; talks fail
1946 9 December Constituent Assembly begins its sessions

1947 29 January Muslim League demands dissolution of Constituent Assembly
1947 16 July Last meeting of the Interim Government
1947 11 August Jinnah elected President of the Constituent Assembly of Pakistan
1947 14 August Pakistan Independence; celebrations in Karachi
1947 14-15 August At midnight India celebrates Independence
1949 December Constitution is signed

Few Members of Constituent Assembly
Jaipal Singh Munda (1903 – 1970) was a Munda tribal man, who captained the Indian field hockey team to clinch gold in the 1928 Summer Olympics in Amsterdam. He is well known for his sportsmanship and political skills. As a member of the Constituent Assembly of India he actively campaigned for the rights of the scheduled tribes. He said in the constituent assembly - "if there is any group of Indian people that has been shabbily treated it is my people. They have been disgracefully treated, neglected for the last 6,000 years. … The whole history of my people is one of continuous exploitation and dispossession by the non-aboriginals of India punctuated by rebellions and disorder, and yet I take Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru at his word. I take you all at your word that now we are going to start a new chapter, a newchapter of independent India where there is equality of opportunity, where no one would be neglected."
Pandit Raghunath Vinayak Dhulekar was a prominent Indian freedom fighter from Uttar Pradesh who took an active part in the Quit India movement and held many responsible positions in Indian politics such as Constituent Assembly. In 1946 Presented a bill to make Hindi, the national language. Bill was passed in constituent assembly with an addition that it Hindi will become the national language after 15 years (in 1965). But Hindi never became the national language after the protests in Tamil Nadu (Anti Hindi Agitation of 1965).

Add to your vocabulary
Fervent : having or showing great warmth or intensity of spirit, feeling etc. Eg: Mahatma fervently opposed to the idea of partition.

source : Themes in Indian History 3 - Chapter 6