Reverend Jerome D’souza was a Constituent Assembly member elected from the Madras province: he was a Jesuit priest, writer and an educationist.
Rev. D’souza was born on 6th August 1897, in the town of Moolki, Mangalore. He received a degree in English literature at the University of Madras. Subsequently, he taught for a while at St. Joseph’s College in Tiruchirappalli before deciding to enter the Society of Jesus on 29th May, 1921. He was ordained as a priest in 1931 in Belgium.
C. Rajagopalachari held the Reverend in high regard and was impressed by his powerful oratory skills. During Rev. D’souza’s tenure in Loyola College in 1942, Rajagopalachari proposed his name to the Madras legislative assembly.
In 1946 he was elected to the Constituent Assembly where he made interventions on the issues of national language and separate electorates for minorities.
“I say, if we do not, find some kind of contentment in the cultural climate, of our land as expressed by the spirit, the genius, the music and the rhythm, and variety of vocabulary, of the national language, then, we shall not feel at home, we shall feel we are strangers, as it were under a decree of banishment imposed upon us, not physically, but in the intellectual and cultural sense.”
Rev. D’souza advocated for not proving constitutional protection to Christian Harijans. This stance was different from what most of the Assembly members from religious/cultural minorities argued for.
According to him, the enforceability of fundamental rights obviated the need for Christians to have special seats in legislation for preserving minority rights. He was a staunch supporter of integrating the Christian population with the general electorate and believed it would foster communal harmony. Once there is support from other communities and a sense of political homogeneity they all could work together to secure justice in matters where the Christian community still faced difficulties.
With a command over multiple languages such as French, Spanish, English and Dutch and a knack for negotiation and oration, he was involved in various activities on behalf of the Nehru government. He led a UN delegation for India at its annual session.
In his later years, Rev. D’souza went back to his educationist roots and established the Indian Social Institute. He passed away 41 years ago on 12th August 1977. The Government of India honoured him on his birth centenary by issuing a postal stamp of two-rupee denomination on December 18, 1997.
(Aparajita Kaul, studying 3rd year B.A LLB from NALSAR, authored this post.)