Would you like to believe some narrative pedaled by someone or judge for yourself?

21st century is opening up newer sources of info. Thanks to info technology.

The job of motivated narrative peddlers is becoming challenging by the day, but they are at it with unforeseen ferocity.

I came across amazing info about the history of constitutions of India at www.constitutionofindia.net.

Please underline history of constitutions and NOT history of constitution.

As is well known, India became independent from British rule on 15th August 1947 (in name only, as this essay will also show). And India promulgated its constitution on 26th January 1950.

Here are the foundations of the India’s constitution, chronologically arranged from 1895- 1950. In one word, the constitution of India has been the mixture of British decisions and documents and the aspirations of a whole host of leaders of India of those times, majority of whom were more guided by their pound of flesh (communal interests) than national interest. It is now your call.

The Constitution of India Bill 1895, also referred to as Swaraj Bill,  was written during the emergence of Indian nationalism and increasingly vocal demands by Indians for self-government –  albeit within the British Empire. The author of the document remains a mystery; Annie Besant seems to suggest that the document was influenced was Bal Gangadhar Tilak – who was the force behind calls for ‘Swaraj’.

The Indian Councils Act 1909 was introduced by the British government in India as a step towards including Indians in government. It is also referred to as the Morley-Minto reforms named after the two British officials who played a key role in its drafting: Lord Minto and Lord John Morley, who were the Viceroy and Secretary of State of British India respectively in 1905-10.

The Congress- (Muslim) League Scheme 1916, also known as the Lucknow Pact, was a document jointly drafted by the Indian National Congress and the All India Muslim League. The document proposed separate electorates and proportional representation for minorities, especially Muslims, at the provincial and federal legislatures. Mohammad Ali Jinnah was one of the architects of this pact.

The Government of India Act 1919 was the codified version of the Montag-Chelmsford reforms – named after Edwin Charles Montague and Lord Chelmsford, who held positions of the Secretary of State and Viceroy of British India respectively. The Act was sold to the Indians as ‘a step in the progressive realisation of responsible government in India as an integral part of empire’.

The Revolutionary (Declaration), 1925 was a 4-page document. It was written by Ram Prasad Bismil. The document aimed to establish (through ‘organised and armed revolution’) a ‘Federal Republic of the United States of India’. It called for a Constitution to be framed, and the resulting Constitutional republic would be based on principles that included: universal adult suffrage, nationalisation of major industries, right to recall elected representatives and group rights.

The Commonwealth of India Bill 1925 was first drafted by the ‘National Convention’ in April 1924 in the context of the Indian nationalist movement that believed it was time for Indians to be governed by a Constitution framed by Indians. The Convention, with Tej Bahadur Sapru as the Chairman, consisted of 256 members, majority of whom were legislators and ex-legislators with some representation from the Home Rule League, 1921 Club, and the India Women’s Association. The Convention sat again on December 1924 in Bombay and submitted an amended draft of the Bill to a sub-committee appointed by the All Parties Conference, 1925 of which Annie Besant was the Chairwoman. This sub-committee made a number of amendments and these were considered by the National Convention in April 1925.

Moti Lal Nehru Committee Report, 1929. The committee was appointed by All party Conference, on 19 May 1928. Some of the notable members of this Committee were: Motilal Nehru (Chairman), Sir Ali Imam, Tej Bahadur Sapru and Subash Chandra Bose. M.R. Jayakar and Annie Besant joined the Committee later. Jawaharlal Nehru, Motilal Nehru’ son, was appointed the secretary to the Committee. The Committee was given the brief ‘to consider and determine the principles of the Constitution of India along with the problem of communalism and issue of dominion status.’ The All Parties Conference included the All India Liberal Federation, All India Muslim League, Sikh Central League and others. The Moti Lal Nehru report stated: ‘1. India shall have the same constitutional status in the community of nations, known as the British Empire, as the Dominion of Canada, the Commonwealth of Australia…’. 

Jawahar Lal Nehru rose to prominence from that moment.

 (A Comment: Do you see how communal groups were there in the All Party Conference? And they wanted the committee to deal with the problem of communalism. In peek in the history shows each group wanted its share. Who was for India, then, except by lip service. You may notice that B R Ambedkar is no where so far. But as you will see below, he came on the scene much later in 1932, 1944 with his own  communal group under the name Scheduled Castes.)

(A comment: In 1928, Indian leadership demanded dominion status and not complete Independence. Only when the India’s demand for dominion status was rejected by British that, in reaction, Puran Swaraj (Complete Independence) was demanded.)

The Irwin Declaration, 1929 regarding the status of India in the British empire. It attempted to clarify to its British and Indian audiences that the intention of the British government was to facilitate India attaining dominion status in the future. However, there was no mention of any timeline.  

The Indian National Congress passed the historic ‘Purna Swaraj’ – (total independence) resolution, 1929 – at its Lahore session. A public declaration was made on 26 January 1930 – a day which the Congress Party urged Indians to celebrate as ‘Independence Day’. The declaration was passed due to the breakdown of negotiations between leaders of the freedom movement and the British over the question of dominion status for India.

(A Comment: From the above you may see the significance of January 26, the date on which Indian Constitution was promulgated.)

The Karachi Resolution, 1931 was a passed by the Indian National Congress at its Karachi session. It reiterated the Congress Party’s commitment to ‘Purna Swaraj’ or ‘complete independence’. In addition to fundamental rights which protected civil liberties, the Resolution for the first time put forward a list of socio-economic principles/rights that the Indian state had to adhere to. These included: protections for industrial workers, abolishing of child labour, free primary education and protections for agricultural labour. The Resolution also, which seems to be a Gandhian influence, prohibited intoxicating drinks and drugs.

The Session was conducted in the shadow of three major events. First, Mahatma Gandhi had just been released from prison following his Salt Satyagraha. Second, the Gandhi-Irwin pact had just been concluded which had brought the civil disobedience movement to an end. And third, the British government had, a week before the session, executed Bhagat Singh, Sukhdev and Rajguru in connection with the Kakori Conspiracy case.

The Poona Pact 1932 was an agreement between B.R. Ambedkar and M.K. Gandhi on the political representation of the Depressed Classes (a loose term that referred to Dalits/Untouchables/Scheduled Castes).

The Government of Indian Act, 1935 was passed by the British parliament and came into effect in 1937. It was based on a report by a Joint Select Committee, led by Lord Linlithgow, set up the two houses of the British parliament. The report, in turn, was the result of the Joint Committee’s scrutiny of the ‘White Paper’ – a scheme of constitutional proposals – prepared by the British government close on the heels of the Round Table conferences.

M.N Roy’s Constitution of Free India:  A Draft, 1944 was published. It was endorsed and released for public discussion by the Radical Democratic Party of which M.N. Roy was an important member.

The Working Committee of the All India Scheduled Castes Federation (SCF), founded by B R Ambedkar, in 1944, passed a series of resolutions ‘outlining the safeguards for the untouchables in the new Constitution’. B.R Ambedkar, who founded the Federation, organised these resolutions under the heading ‘Political Demands of the Scheduled Castes’ as an appendix to his book ‘What the Congress and Gandhi have done to the Untouchables’ published in 1945.

B.R. Ambedkar submitted States and Minorities, previously published in 1945 as a standalone book, to the Sub-Committee on Fundamental Rights of the Constituent Assembly of India in 1947. The Sub-Committee, of which B.R. Ambedkar was a member, was tasked by the Assembly to draw up a list of Fundamental Rights for the Constitution of India.

The Gandhian Constitution of Free India was published in 1946. Unlike what the title suggests, M.K. Gandhi did not write the document. Shriman Narayan Agarwal, a Gandhian economist, drafted it based on Gandhi’s ideas. Gandhi wrote a foreword to the document in which he said that the constitution was “based on his [Agarwal’s] study of my writings” and is not “inconsistent with what I would like to stand for.

The Constitutional Proposals of the Sapru Committee commonly referred to as the Sapru Committee Report was published in 1945 to resolve issues pertaining to minorities that had plagued Indian political and constitutional discourse.

Outline of a New Constitution was a paper prepared by B.N. Rau in January 1946. B N Rau was employee of the British Government in India.

The Cabinet Mission Plan was a statement made by the Cabinet Mission and the Viceroy, Lord Wavell, on May 16, 1946, that contained proposals regarding the constitutional future of India in the wake of Indian political parties and representatives not coming to an agreement. The members of the Cabinet Mission were: Lord Penthick-Lawrence, Secretary of State for India, Sir Stafford Cripps, President of the Board of Trade, and A.V Alexander, First Lord of Admiralty.

Preliminary Notes on Fundamental Rights, 1946, prepared by B N Rau.

Manipur State Constitution Act, 1947.

The Indian Independence Act 1947 was legislation passed by the British parliament that legally set up the two independent dominions of India and Pakistan. The Act codified British withdrawal from and the partition of India. In 1950, the Constitution of India came into effect and India transformed from an independent dominion to an independent constitutional republic. 

The Draft Constitution of the Indian Republic in 1948, prepared by Socialist party of India.. In the foreword, Jayprakash Narayan argued that the deliberations in the Assembly had ‘failed to enthuse the country’ and the Assembly’s Draft Constitution was conservative and did not reflect the revolutionary mood of the country.

For preparing constitution of India, a constituent Assembly was constituted. It had 299 members. Dr Rajendra Prasad was the Chairman of the Constituent Assembly. The constituent committee had appointed a drafting committee.

The Drafting Committee had seven members: Alladi Krishnaswami Ayyar, N. Gopalaswami; B.R. Ambedkar, K.M Munshi, Mohammad Saadulla, B.L. Mitter and D.P. Khaitan. Dr B.R Ambedkar was the Chairman of the Drafting Committee. 

On 21st February 1948, the Drafting Committee submitted the Draft Constitution of India to the President of the Constituent Assembly. Fourth months earlier, the Committee had received a Draft Constitution prepared by the Assembly’s constitutional adviser – B.N. Rau. Rau’s Draft reflected the decisions taken by the Assembly on the reports of various Committees that were tasked with drawing up constitutional provisions on specific parts of the Constitution. The Drafting Committee, between October 1947 and February 1948, scrutinised, tweaked and added to Rau’s Draft and what emerged from this process was the Draft Constitution of India, 1948.

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