This is the first article in our new series 'Writings on the Indian Constitution', aimed at encouraging deeper engagement with the primary resources on CADIndia through a critical analysis of secondary materials. Read more about our series here.
In its seventy years of history, the Preamble came to be known as an adaptation of the Objectives Resolution that Nehru had proposed and successfully passed in the Assembly. While Ambedkar enjoyed being the ‘Father of the Constitution’, the Preamble’s authorship was primarily attributed to Nehru. Aakash Singh Rathore’s Ambedkar’s Preamble: A Secret History of the Constitution of India challenges this trope.
The book traces the history of the Preamble, its various predecessors and its journey into the final text of the Constitution of India, 1950 through the lens of Ambedkar’s life. Rathore examines the story of ‘four preambles’: a declaration by the Congress Working Committee, 1946; Nehru’s Objectives Resolution; Dr Ambedkar’s Preamble in the Memorandum of State and Minorities; and BN Rau’s Draft Constitution. He argues that the final Preamble bears traces of these drafts and embodies Ambedkar’s vision. The book is arranged into six chapters - each exploring the history of the Preamble through six ‘constitutional concepts’ in a voice derived from Ambedkar’s experiences and aspirations.
The Constitution-making process was not restricted to the plenary debates in the Constituent Assembly, but also was a culmination of the work of several Committees. Among them, the Drafting Committee played a decisive role in shaping the text of the Constitution. Dr Ambedkar was the Chairman of the seven-member Committee.
Rathore observes that not all members attended the Drafting Committee meetings - Ambedkar on the other hand never missed even one. The absence of several members during the Committee meetings and Ambedkar’s evident leadership position, according to Rathore, cast primary drafting responsibility on Ambedkar. He further notes that in cases where the Congress party had no ‘vested interests’, Ambedkar’s ‘word was law’.
A case for Ambedkar as the author of the Preamble is made out in the introductory chapter. What follows next is an exploration of the meanings of ‘constitutional concepts’ of liberty, equality, fraternity, justice, dignity, and nation in the Preamble. The author explores this through the lens of Ambedkar’s personal experiences, writings, speeches, and other contributions.
This book not only unearths the authorship of the Preamble but also attempts to become a biographical work on Ambedkar. This style allows a reader to understand the Preamble in the context of the lived experiences and aspirations of its author, B.R. Ambedkar.