Table of contents
The Constituent Assembly of India met in the Constitution Hall, New Delhi, at Eleven of the Clock, Mr. Chairman (The Hon’ble Dr. Rajendra Prasad) in the Chair.
RESOLUTION RE: AIMS AND OBJECTS
Pandit Jawahar Lal Nehru will now move the Resolution which stands in his name.
*[ Mr. Chairman, this Constituent Assembly has not been in session for some days. It has done much formal business, but more is yet to be done. We have been cutting our way and clearing the ground on which we intend to erect the edifice of a constitution. It, however, seems proper that before we proceed further we should clearly understand where we are going and what we intend building. It is apparent that on such occasions details are unnecessary. In building, you will, no doubt, use each brick after mature consideration. Usually, when one desires to construct a building, one must have a plan for the structure that one wishes to erect and then collect the material required. For a long time we have been, having various plans for a free India in our minds , but now, when we are beginning the actual work, I hope, you will be at one with me when I say, that we should present a clear picture of this plan to ourselves, to the people of India and to the world at large. The Resolution that I am placing before you defines our aims, describes an outline of the plan and points the way which we are going to tread.
You all know that this Constituent Assembly is not what many of us wished it to be. It has come into being under particular conditions and the British Government has a hand in its birth. They have attached to it certain conditions. We accepted the State Paper, which may be called the foundation of this Assembly, after serious deliberations and we shall endeavour to work within its limits. But you must not ignore the source from which this Assembly derives its strength. Governments do not come into being by State Papers. Governments are, in fact the expression of the will of the people. We have met here today because of the strength of the people behind us and we shall go as far as the people not of any party or group but the people as a whole–shall wish us to go. We should, therefore, always keep in mind the passions that lie in the hearts of the masses of the Indian people and try to fulfil them.
I am sorry there are so many absentees. Many members who have a right to come and attend the meeting are not here today. This, in one sense, increases our responsibility. We shall have to be careful that we do nothing which may cause uneasiness in others or goes against any principle. We do hope that those who have abstained, will soon join us in our deliberations, since this Constitution can only go as far as the strength behind it can push it. It has ever been and shall always be our ardent desire to see the people of India united together so that we may frame a constitution which will be acceptable to the masses of the Indian people. It is, at the same time, manifest that when a great country starts to advance, no party or group can stop it. This House, although it has met in the absence of some of its members, will continue functioning and try to carry out its work at all costs.
The Resolution that I am placing before you is in the nature of a pledge. It has been drafted after mature deliberation and efforts have been made to avoid controversy. A great country is sure to have a lot of controversial issues; but we have tried to avoid controversy as much as possible. The Resolution deals with fundamentals which are commonly held and have been accepted by the people. I do not think this Resolution contains anything which was outside the limitations laid down by the British Cabinet or anything which may be disagreeable to any Indian, no matter to what party or group he belongs. Unfortunately, our country is full of differences, but no one, except perhaps a few, would dispute the fundamentals which this Resolution lays down. The Resolution states that it is our firm and solemn resolve to have a sovereign Indian republic. We have not mentioned the word ‘republic’ till this time; but you will well understand that a free India can be nothing but a republic.
On this occasion, when the representatives of the Indian States are not present, I desire to make it clear how this Resolution will affect the Indian States. It has also been suggested, and the suggestion may take the form of an amendment laying down that since certain sections of the House are not present, the consideration of the Resolution may be postponed. In my opinion, such an amendment is not in keeping with the spirit of the times, because if we do not approve the first objective that we are placing before ourselves, before our country and before the world at large, our deliberations will become meaningless and lifeless, and the people will have no interest in our work. Our intention regarding the States must be early understood. We do desire that all sections of India should willingly participate in the future Indian Union but in what way and with what sort of government rests with them. The Resolution does not go into these details. It contains only the fundamentals. It imposes nothing on the States against their will. The point to be considered is how they will join us and what sort of administration they will have. I do not wish to express my personal opinion on the matter. Nevertheless I must say that no State can have an administration which goes against our fundamental principles or gives less freedom than obtaining in other parts of India. The Resolution does not concern itself with what form of government they will have or whether the present Rajas and Nawabs will continue or not. These things concern the people of the States. It is quite possible that the people may like to have their Rajas. The decision will rest with them. Our republic shall include the whole of India. If a part within it desires to have its own type of administration, it will be at liberty to have it.
I do not wish that anything should be added to or subtracted from the Resolution. It is my hope that this House will do nothing that may appear in papers, so that, at no time, should people, who are concerned with these problems but who are not present here, be able to say that this House indulged in irregular talk.
I desire to make it clear that this Resolution does not go into details. It only seeks to show how we shall lead India to gain the objectives laid down in it. You will take into consideration its words and I hope you will accept them; but the main thing is the spirit behind it. Laws are made of words but this Resolution is something higher than the law. If you examine its words like lawyers you will produce only a lifeless thing. We are at present standing midway between two ears; the old order is fast changing, yielding place to the new. At such a juncture we have to give a live message to India and to the world at large. Later on we can frame our Constitution in whatever words we please. At present, we have to send out a message to show what we have resolved to attempt to do. As to what form or shape this Resolution, this declaration will ultimately take, we shall see later. But one thing is, however, certain: it is not a law; but is something that breathes life in human minds.
I hope the House will pass the Resolution which is of a special nature. It is an undertaking with ourselves and with the millions of our brothers and sisters who live in this great country. If it is passed, it will be a sort of pledge that we shall have to carry out. With this expectation and in this form, I place it before you. You have copies of it in Hindustani with you. I will therefore not take more of your time to read it one way, or, I will, however, read it in English and speak further on it in that language. ]*
I beg to move:
“(1) This Constituent Assembly declares its firm and solemn resolve to proclaim India as an Independent Sovereign Republic and to draw up for her future governance a Constitution;
(2) WHEREIN the territories that now comprise British India, the territories that now form the Indian States, and such other parts of India as are outside British India and the States as well as such other territories as are willing to be constituted into the Independent Sovereign India, shall be a Union of them all; and
(3) WHEREIN the said territories, whether with their present boundaries or with such others as may be determined by the Constituent Assembly and thereafter according to the Law of the Constitution, shall possess and retain the status of autonomous Units, together with residuary powers, and exercise all powers and functions of government and administration, save and except such powers and functions as are vested in or assigned to the Union, or as are inherent or implied in the Union or resulting therefrom; and
(4) WHEREIN all power and authority of the Sovereign Independent India, its constituent parts and organs of government, are derived from the people; and
(5) WHEREIN shall be guaranteed and secured to all the people of India justice, social, economic and political; equality of status, of opportunity, and before the law; freedom of thought, expression, belief, faith worship, vocation, association and action, subject to law and public morality; and
(6) WHEREIN adequate safeguards shall be provided for minorities, backward and tribal areas, and depressed and other backward classes; and
(7) WHEREBY shall be maintained the integrity of the territory of the Republic and its sovereign rights on land, sea, and air according to Justice and the law of civilised nations, and
(8) this ancient land attains its rightful and honoured place in the world and make its full and willing contribution to the promotion of world peace and the welfare of mankind.”
Sir, this is the fifth day of this first session of the Constituent Assembly. Thus far we have laboured on certain provisional and procedural matters which are essential. We have a clear field to work upon; we have to prepare the ground and we have been doing that these few days. We have still much to do. We have to pass our Rules of Procedure and to appoint Committees and the like, before we can proceed to the real step, to the real work of this Constituent Assembly, that is, the high adventure of giving shape, in the printed and written word, to a Nation’s dream and aspiration. But even now, at this stage, it is surely desirable that we should give some indication to ourselves, to those who look to this Assembly, to those millions in this country who are looking up to us and to the world at large, as to what we may do, what we seek to achieve, whither we are going. It is with this purpose that I have placed this Resolution before this House. It is a Resolution and yet, it is something much more than a resolution. It is a Declaration. It is a firm resolve. It is a pledge and an undertaking and it is for all of us I hope a dedication. And I wish this House, if I may say so respectfully, should consider this Resolution not in a spirit of narrow legal wording, but rather to look at the spirit behind that Resolution. Words are magic things often enough, but even the magic of words sometimes cannot convey the magic of the human spirit and of a Nation’s passion. And so, I cannot say that this Resolution at all conveys the passion that lies in the hearts and the minds of the Indian people today. It seeks very feebly to tell the world of what we have thought or dreamt of so long, and what we now hope to achieve in the near future. It is in that spirit that I venture to place this Resolution before the House and it is in that spirit that I trust the House will receive it and ultimately pass it. And may I, Sir, also, with all respect, suggest to you and to the House that when the time comes for the passing of this Resolution let it be not done in the formal way by the raising of hands, but much more solemnly, by all of us standing up and thus taking this pledge anew.
The House knows that there are many absentees here and many members who have a right to come here, have not come. We regret that fact because we should have liked to associate with ourselves as many people, as many representatives from the different parts of India and different groups as possible. We have undertaken a tremendous task and we seek the co-operation of all people in that task; because the future of India that we have envisaged is not confined to any group or section or province or other, but it comprises all the four hundred million people of India, and it is with deep regret that we find some benches empty and some colleagues, who might have been here, absent. I do feel, I do hope that they will come and that this House, in its future stages, will have the benefit of the co-operation of all. Meanwhile, there is a duty cast upon us and that is to bear the absentees in mind, to remember always that we are here not to function for one party or one group, but always to think of India as a whole and always to think of the welfare of the four hundred millions that comprise India. We are all now, in our respective spheres, partymen, belonging to this or that group and presumably we shall continue to act in our respective parties. Nevertheless, the time comes when we have to rise above party and think of the Nation, think sometimes of even the world at large of which our Nation is a great part. And when I think of the work of this Constituent Assembly, it seems to me, the time has come when we should, so far as we are capable of it, rise above our ordinary selves and party disputes and think of the great problem before us in the widest and most tolerant and most effective manner so that, whatever we may produce, should be worthy of India as a whole and should be such that the world should recognise that we have functioned, as we should have functioned, in this high adventure.
There is another person who is absent here and who must be in the minds of many of us today- the great leader of our people, the father of our Nation (applause)–who has been the architect of this Assembly and all that has gone before it and possibly of much that will follow. He is not here because, in pursuit of his ideals, he is ceaselessly working in a far corner of India. But I have no doubt that his spirit hovers over this place and blesses our undertaking.
As I stand here, Sir, I feel the weight of all manner of things crowding around me. We are at the end of an era and possibly very soon we shall embark upon a new age; and my mind goes back to the great past of India to the 5,000 years of India’s history, from the very dawn of that history which might be considered almost the dawn of human history, till today. All that past crowds around me and exhilarates me and, at the same time, somewhat oppresses me. Am I worthy of that past? When I think also of the future, the greater future I hope, standing on this sword’s edge of the present between this mighty past and the mightier future, I tremble a little and feel overwhelmed by this mighty task. We have come here at a strange moment in India’s history. I do not know but I do feel that there is some magic in this moment of transition from the old to the new, something of that magic which one sees when the night turns into day and even though the day may be a cloudy one, it is day after an, for when the clouds move away. we can see the sun later on. Because of all this I find a little difficulty in addressing this House and putting all my ideas before it and I feel also that in this long succession of thousands of years, I see the mighty figures that have come and gone and I see also the long succession of our comrades who have laboured for the freedom of India. And now we stand on the verge of this passing age, trying, labouring, to usher in the new. I am sure the House will feel the solemnity of this moment and will endeavour to treat this Resolution which it is my proud privilege to place before it in that solemn manner. I believe there are a large number of amendments coming before the House. I have not seen most of them. It is open to the House, to any member of this House, to move any amendment and it is for the House to accept it or reject it, but I would, with all respect, suggest that this is not moment for us to be technical and legal about small matters when we have big things to face big things to say and big things to do, and therefore I would hope that the House would consider this Resolution in this big manner and not lose itself in wordy quarrels and squabbles.
I think also of the various Constituent Assemblies that have gone before and of what took place at the making of the great American nation when the fathers of that nation met and fashioned out a constitution which has stood the test of so many years, more than a century and a half, and of the great nation which has resulted, which has been built up on the basis of that Constitution. My mind goes back to that mighty revolution which took place also over 150 years ago and to that Constituent Assembly that met in that gracious and lovely city of Paris which has fought so many battles for freedom, to the difficulties that Constituent Assembly had and to how the King and other authorities came in its way, and still it continued. The House will remember that when these difficulties came and even the room for a meeting was denied to the then Constituent Assembly, they be took themselves to an open tennis court and met there and took the oath, which is called the Oath of the Tennis Court, that they continued meeting in spite of Kings, in spite of the others, and did not disperse till they had finished the task they had undertaken. Well, I trust that it is in that solemn spirit that we too are meeting here and that we, too, whether we meet in this chamber or other Chambers, or in the fields or in the market-place, will go on meeting and continue our work till we have finished it.
Then my mind goes back to a more recent revolution which gave rise to a new type of State, the revolution that took place in Russia and out of which has arisen the Union of the Soviet Socialist Republics, another mighty country which is playing a tremendous part in the world, not only a mighty country but for us in India, a neighbouring country.
So our mind goes back to these great examples and we seek to, learn from their success and to avoid their failures. Perhaps we may not be able to avoid failures because some measure of failure is inherent in human effort. Nevertheless, we shall advance, I am certain in spite of obstructions and difficulties, and achieve and realize the dream that we have dreamt so long. In this Resolution which the House knows, has been drafted with exceeding care, we have tried to avoid saying too much or too little. It is difficult to frame a resolution of this kind. If you say too little, it becomes just a pious resolution and nothing more. If you say too much, it encroaches on the functions of those who are going to draw up a constitution, that is, on the functions of this House. This Resolution is not a part of the constitution we are going to draw up and it must not be looked at as such. This House has perfect freedom to draw up that Constitution and when others come into this House, they will have perfect freedom too to fashion that constitution. This Resolution therefore steers between these two extremes and lays down only certain fundamentals which I do believe, no group or party and hardly any individual in India can dispute. We say that it is our firm and solemn resolve to have an Independent sovereign republic. India is bound to be sovereign, it is bound to be independent and it is bound to be a republic. I will not go into the arguments about monarchy and the rest, but obviously we cannot produce monarchy in India out of nothing. It is not there. If it is to be an independent and sovereign State, we are not going to have an external monarchy and we cannot have a research for some local monarchies. It must inevitably be a republic. Now, some friends have raised the question: “Why have you not put in the word ‘democratic’ here. Well, I told them that it is conceivable, of course, that a republic may not be democratic but the whole of our past is witness to this fact that we stand for democratic institutions. Obviously we are aiming at democracy and nothing less than a democracy. What form of democracy, what shape it might take is another matter? The democracies of the present day, many of them in Europe and elsewhere, have played a great part in the world’s progress. Yet it may be doubtful if those democracies may not have to change their shape somewhat before long if they have to remain completely democratic. We are not going just to copy, I hope, a certain democratic procedure or an institution of a so-called democratic country. We may improve upon it. In any event whatever system of Government we may establish here must fit in with the temper of our people and be acceptable to them. We stand for democracy, It will be for this House to determine what shape to give to that democracy, the fullest democracy, I hope. The House will notice that in this Resolution, although we have not used the word ‘democratic’ because we thought it is obvious that the word ‘republic’ contains that word and we did not want to use unnecessary words and redundant words, but we have done something must more than using the word. We have given the content of democracy in this Resolution and not only the content of democracy but the content, if I may say so, of economic democracy in this Resolution. Others might take objection to this Resolution on the ground that we have not said that it should be a Socialist State. Well, I stand for Socialism and, I hope, India will stand for Socialism and that India will go towards the constitution of a Socialist State and I do believe that the whole world will have to go that way. What form of Socialism again is another matter for your considerations. But the main thing is that in such a Resolution, if, in accordance with my own desire, I had put in, that we want a Socialist State, we would have put in something which may be agreeable to many and may not be agreeable to some and we wanted this Resolution not to be controversial in regard to such matters. Therefore we have laid down, not theoretical words and formulae, but rather the content of the thing we desire. This is important and I take it there can be no dispute about it. Some people have pointed out to me that our mentioning a republic may somewhat displease the Rulers of Indian States. It is possible that this may displease them. But I want to make it clear personally and the House knows. that I do not believe in the monarchical system anywhere, and that in the world today monarchy is a fast disappearing institution. Nevertheless it is not a question of my personal belief in this matter. Our view in regard to these Indian States has been, for many years, first of all that the people of those States must share completely in the freedom to come. It is quite inconceivable to me that there should be different standard and degrees of freedom as between the people in the States and the people outside the States. In what manner the States will be Parts of that Union that is a matter for this House to consider with ,the representatives of the States. And I hope in all matters relating to the States, this House will deal with the real representatives of the States. We are perfectly willing, I take it, to deal in such matters as appertain to them, with the Rulers or their representatives also, but finally when we make a constitution for India, it must be through the representatives of the people of the States as with the rest of India. Who are present here. (Applause). In any event, we may lay down or agree that the measure of freedom must’ be the same in the States elsewhere. It is a possibility and personally I should like a measure of uniformity too in regard to the apparatus and machinery of Government. Nevertheless, this is a point to be considered in co-operation and in consultation with the States. I do not wish, and I imagine this Constituent Assembly will not like, to impose anything on the States against their will. If the people of a particular State desire to have a certain form of administration, even though it might be monarchical, it is open to them to have it. The House will remember that even in the British Commonwealth of Nations today, Eire is a Republic and yet in many ways it is a member of the British Commonwealth. So, it is a conceivable thing. What will happen, I do not know because that is partly for this House and partly for others to decide. There is no incongruity or impossibility about a certain definite form of administration in the States, provided there is complete freedom and responsible Government there and the people really are in charge. If monarchical figure-heads are approved by the people of the State, of a particular State, whether I like it or not, I certainly will not like to interfere. So I wish to make it clear that so far as this Resolution or Declaration is concerned, it does not interfere in any way with any future work that this Constituent Assembly may do, with any future negotiations that it may undertake. Only in one sense, if you like, it limits our work, if you call that a limitation, i.e., we adhere to certain fundamental propositions which are laid down in the Declaration. Those fundamental propositions, I submit, are not controversial in any real sense of the word. Nobody challenges them in India and nobody ought to challenge them and if anybody does challenge, well, we accept that challenge and we hold our position. (Applause).
Well, Sir, we are going to make a Constitution for India and it is obvious that what we are going to do in India, is going to have a powerful effect on the rest of the word, not only because a new free independent nation comes out into the arena of the world, but because of the very fact that India is such a country that by virtue, not only of her large size and population, but of her enormous resources and her ability to exploit those resources, she can immediately play an important and a vital part in world affairs. Even today, on the verge of freedom as we are today, India has begun to play an important part in world affairs. Therefore, it is right that the framers of our Constitution should always bear this larger international aspect in mind.
We approach the world in a friendly way. We want to make friends with all countries. We want to make friends in spite of the long history of conflict in the past, with England also. The House knows that recently I paid a visit to England. I was reluctant to go for reasons which the House knows well. But I went because of a personal request from the Prime Minister of Great Britain. I went and I met with courtesy everywhere. And yet at this psychological moment in India’s history when we wanted, when we hungered for messages of cheer, friendship and co-operation from all over the world and more especially from England, because of the past contact and conflict between us, unfortunately, I came back without any message of cheer, but with a large measure of disappointment. I hope that the new difficulties that have arisen, as every one knows, because of the recent statements made by the British Cabinet and by others in authority there, will not come in our way and that we shall yet succeed in going ahead with the co-operation of all of us here and those who have not come. It has been a blow to me, and it has hurt me that just at the moment when we are going to stride ahead, obstructions were placed in our way, new limitations were mentioned which had not been mentioned previously and new methods of procedure were suggested. I do not wish to challenge the bona fides of any person, but I wish to say that whatever the legal aspect of the thing might be, there are moments when law is a very feeble reed to rely upon, when we have to deal with a nation which is full of the passion for freedom. Most of us here during the Past many years, for a generation or more have often taken part in the struggle for India’s freedom. We have gone through the valley of the shadow. We are used to it and if necessity arises we shall go through it again. (Hear, hear). Nevertheless, through ill this long period we have thought of the time when we shall have an opportunity not merely to struggle, not merely to destroy, but to construct and create. And now when it appeared that the time was coming for constructive effort in a free India to which we looked forward with joy, fresh difficulties are placed in our way at such a moment. It shows that, whatever force might be behind all this, people who are able and clever and very intelligent, somehow lack the imaginative daring which should accompany great offices. For, if you have to deal with- any people, you have to understand them imaginatively; you should understand them emotionally; and ‘of course, you have also to understand them intellectually. One of the unfortunate legacies of the past has been that there has been no imagination in the understanding of the Indian problem. People have often indulged in, or have presumed to give us advice, not realising that India, as she is constituted today, wants no one’s advice and no one’s imposition upon her. The only, way to influence India is through friendship and co-operation and goodwill Any attempt at imposition, the slightest trace of patronage, is resented and will be resented. (Applause). We have tried, I think honestly, in the last few months in spite of the difficulties that have faced us, to create an atmosphere of co-operation. We shall continue that endeavour. But I do very much fear that that atmosphere will be impaired if there is not sufficient and adequate response from others. Nevertheless, because we are bent on great tasks, I hope and trust, that we shall continue that endeavour and I do hope that if we continue, that we shall succeed. Where we have to deal with our own countrymen, we must continue that endeavour even though in our opinion some countrymen of ours take a wrong path. For, after all, we have to work together in this country and we have inevitably to co-operate, if not today, tomorrow or the day after. Therefore, we have to avoid in the present anything which might create a new difficulty in the creation of that future which we are working for. Therefore, so far as our own countrymen are concerned, we must try our utmost to gain their co-operation in the largest measure. But, co-operation cannot mean the giving up of the fundamental deals on which we have stood and on which we should stand. It is not co-operation to surrender everything that has given meaning to our lives. Apart from that, as I said, we seek the co-operation of England even at this stage which is full of suspicion of each other. We feel that if that co-operative is denied, that will be injurious to India, certainly to some extent probably more so to England, and to some extent, to the world at large. We have just come out of the World War and People talk vaguely and rather wildly of new wars to come. At such a moment this New India is taking birth-renascent, vital, fearless. Perhaps it is a suitable moment for this new birth to take place out of this turmoil in the world. But we have to be cleared at this moment, we, who have this heavy task of constitution building. We have to think of this tremendous prospect of the present and the greater prospect of the future and not get lost in seeking small gains for this group or that. In this Constituent Assembly we are functioning on a world stage and the eyes of the world are upon us and the eyes of our entire past are upon us. Our past is witness to what we are doing here and though the future is still unborn, the future too somehow looks at us, I think, and so, I would beg of this House to consider this Resolution in this mighty prospect of our past, of the turmoil of the present and of the great and unborn future that is going to take place soon. Sir, I. beg to move. (Prolonged Cheers).
Shri Purushottam Das Tandon will second the Resolution.
Mr. Chairman, I fully support the Resolution moved by my brother Pandit Jawahar Lal Nehru. Today’s session of the Constituent Assembly is an historical occasion. After centuries such a meeting has once more been convened in our country. It recalls to our mind our glorious past when we were free and when assemblies were held at which the Pandits met to discuss important affairs of the country. It reminds us of the Assemblies of age of Asoka. We have dim impressions of those days before our eyes. We are also reminded of Assemblies of other, countries such as, America, France and Russia. Our Constituent Assembly will be remembered with those others which met to frame the constitutions of other free nations. We have met here to frame a constitution which will show to the world that India is determined to live honourably not in isolation but as a part, of the world. It will co-operate with other countries and help them in their difficulties and assist them in all those affairs which make for the general progress of the world. We hope that what we are doing today will be a historic event which will be, counted those great events which have helped in the progress of the world.
India has been under the sway of the British for the last 150 years. We do not wish to go into things against which we have continuously raised our voice ever since the advent of the British Raj. We will not at present speak of the injuries done to India during this one and a half century. They not only deprived us of our freedom but also created disunity among us. We are not to go into these things today. We, however, cannot ignore the struggle and sacrifices of our leaders. In the beginning our leaders demanded freedom by passing resolutions with explanations and submitting them to the Government. We were subjected openly to high-handedness and the Government were everywhere openly favouring the British. We earnestly appealed to our rulers to treat us with justice. Our leaders referred them to their high ideals, to the ideals of Burke and Mill. They were steeped in British ideals and they hoped that the British would do them justice and give them freedom. That time is now gone. Our experience has shown us that freedom cannot be had by requests and appeals and that drastic steps are unavoidable. The pages, of our history show that new movements were started and open opposition began to be offered to the British. The movement of 1905-6 helped our country to ascend a few rungs higher on the ladder of progress. At that time our brave Bengali leaders and youths did act which will be written in golden letters in our history. We forged ahead. Our national leader, Mahatma Gandhi appeared in the field of politics and changed the methods of our struggle. He taught us new ways and we started afresh. British laws were not only openly defied but were also openly contravened without minding the dire consequences which were likely to follow such action. Thousands of our people broke the laws and went to jails. The pictures of those, who gave their lives of lingered for years in prisions, stand before our eyes. The more recent movement–the movement of 1942 is, in fact, the creator of this Assembly. This movement played a most important role in making the British Government call this Constituent Assembly. It opened a new field for our further advance. The eyes of the British Government were opened and the world was confronted with the fact that the British Government could no longer stay in India. Other countries did not help us openly. We have, however, to admit that in addition to the expression of our strength, which is the Main thing which will carry us towards-our goal, we were helped by powers which are today engaged in uniting the world. The world has seen, that oppression perpetrated in its remotest corner, has far-reaching repercussions involving the oppressor’s country and its neighbours. This has been proved by the last two world wars. Now the great leaders of the world are thinking of the means to save the world from the ravages of a third world war. They desire to make it a paradise, to turn it into a place where no more wars will be fought, no more human blood will be shed, where no great distinction will exist between the rich and the poor, where everybody will get food and amenities, where people will be allowed to live according to their ideas, where every child has a right to be educated, where ideals will become noble and nobler and where spiritual ties will grow between the sons of man. Wise people are trying to bring out laws which will extricate the world from the slough in which it is at present wallowing and which will give equal rights to all countries. The time is swiftly changing and world forces are contributing towards these new ideas. We, too, living in this world cannot escape them. We ardently welcome the new forces which have always been the basis of our high hopes. It can be particularly said about India that its people have always considered the whole of mankind as one family and the whole world as one country. The best people among us never made any distinction between the people of the world. Many foreigners came to our country. We received them with open arms. We never practiced the policy, which some countries have adopted against the people of our country. Our history shows that we welcomed all those who came from other countries and gave them whatever help they needed, assisting them to stay in our country. How did the people of England first come to this country? They found here protection and refuge. There have been quarrels and strifes; but on the whole our history shows that we have always protected human rights. We do not consider it right to divide brother from brother nor do we make any distinction in their political rights. We have no doubt, had and still have shortcomings; and we cannot ignore them.
Our past history urges us to go forward. We have to reach the point where we may place the ideal of equality not only before our own country but before the world at large. On this historical occasion it is quite, natural that our thoughts dwell on our past history and to the events which occurred in our country. On our struggles, our sacrifices and help that we have received from other nations which have brought us here together and we must take strength from them. We have come here to frame a constitution which will give our country peace and tranquillity. We aim at giving equality to each and every in-habitant of our motherland.
The Resolution placed before you today has equality as its underlying theme. The different sections of the country have been given autonomy and India as a whole remains one with full sovereignty. We shall stand united in affairs which demand our unity. The one important thing in the Resolution is the recognition of India as a free country. Our country is one and yet we shall give full freedom to its various sections to have for themselves whatever administration they liked. The present division of our country into provinces may change. We shall do justice to all communities and give them full freedom in their social and religious affairs.
There is an amendment to the Resolution asking for a postponement of its consideration until such time as the Muslim League joins the Assembly. We should not ignore the fact that for every action there is a proper time. If we postpone the Resolution today, when will it again come before us? We are not certain as to when the League would come in. We have gathered together today; should we disperse without doing anything? Should we not have at least an objective for our future proceedings? Should we go away after merely appointing a Procedure Committee? Our brethren advise us to postpone the consideration of the Resolution to some other time. If they wanted not to do anything in the absence of the Muslim League, why have they met here at all?
We do want the Muslim League to co-operate with us; but can we contribute to the present aims and aspirations of that body? We shall try our utmost not to hurt the cause of the Muslim League; and, I point out to you, that the Resolution takes note of this fact. There are many of us who are against giving residuary powers to the provinces. Personally, I would oppose the grant of residuary powers to the provinces in the best interests of my country, especially in view of the conditions prevalent in the provinces owing to this Hindu-Muslim problem. We all know what has happened in Bengal and in other provinces. Residuary powers and political rights, which may conduce to unity and progress in the country, should lie with the Central or Federal Government. The Resolution, however gives residuary powers to the provinces so that the Muslim League may not say that we have done in their absence what as we pleased. Moreover, the State Paper issued by the Cabinet Mission, which is the foundation of the Constituent Assembly, also said that the residuary powers should go to the provinces. We accepted it in the hope that this will enable the Muslim League to work with us. We went as far as we could to make the Muslim League co-operate with us; nay, I would rather say, we want farther than was needed, because the Muslim League aims at certain objectives which are absolutely against our objectives and this will cause a lot of trouble in the future. For the sake of securing Muslim League’s co-operation we have been accepting many things against our ideals. We should now put a stop to that and should not ignore our fundamental principles for the sake of coming to an agreement with the Muslim League. I am opposed to the postponement of the Resolution, and I am sure, the House realises the importance of this Resolution. Constituent Assemblies in other countries began with their objectives before them. If you postpone this Resolution, what will the world think? When they hear of this Resolution they would think that India was going to be free; that the fight of ‘Quit India’ against the British started by Indians in 1942, was being won. This Resolution will lend a great importance to your cause of freedom, and its postponement I think, is not expedient.
There are other amendments to the Resolution. It has been clearly pointed out in the Resolution that power shall entirely vest in the people. Some members suggest to substitute ‘working people’ for ‘people.’ I am opposed to this. The word ‘people’ means all the people. I am myself a servant of the farmers. To work with them is my highest glory. The term ‘people’ is comprehensive and contains all the people. It is, therefore, my opinion that no adjective should be attached to it. There are amendments asking for universal compulsory education and so on. These are petty matters. Times have changed. Provincial Governments have enacted laws to enforce these things. For the nonce we should concentrate on larger issues. All these amendments are non-essential and should not be moved.
As I have already said we have got this of making a constitution after passing through many ordeals. We obtained some privileges in 1935. We continued the fight until we came to 1942. Now, as a result of these struggles, we have gathered here to frame a constitution and we do not yet know what will be the result of our efforts. Our path is still full of obstructions. Our friends in London send us their advice. Sir Stafford Cripps, while speaking of certain principles, advises us to accept the formula that the majority should frame its own constitution, while the minority should also have the right to have its safeguards against any obstructions from the majority. I am sorry to say though Sir Stafford professes to help us, his real aim is to erect obstacles in our way. The history of our relations with the British show that Hindu-Muslim differences are purely a British creation.
The differences on which the British harp upon have been created by them. They were not in existence before their advent. Hindus and Muslims had a common civilization and lived amicably. Can the British say that the situation now obtained in India is not of their creation and is not backed by them? Those who are opposing us under the instigation of the British are our brethren and we certainly desire their co-operation; but in order to have them on our side, we cannot sacrifice these basic principles to which we have been wedded till now and which go to make a nation. Sir Stafford warns us of civil war and advises us to co-operate with each other to avoid it. No patriot would like civil war and shedding the blood of his own countrymen. Congress has always tried to unite all the sections of the population to fight for the freedom of their country. Our leaders have never indulged in communal bickerings. Congress is the only body in which Hindus, Muslims, Parsees, Jains and Buddhists can unite. In politics it refuses to recognize any difference on account of religion. To say that such and such sections be separated from the country on religious basis, is no religion but pure politics–politics which destroy the unity of a country. We ask Sir Stafford and other British leaders: “If a hundred years or, for that matter, twenty years ago, the right of separate elections were given to different sects of your country what sort of Government you would have had today?” Again, we ask America: “if the right of separate elections was given to different communities and Christian sects of your country, would you have had the same form of government as you now have? Would you not have had continuous civil wars in your countries?” The possibility of civil war in our country has been created by the British Government. The British Government is playing the old game. The Cabinet’s Statement shows the same mentality. The interpretation given by them stresses the point that the different groups of the Indian Federation shall have full power to frame whatever constitution they liked for them. They say, as they said before, that a province will have full option to remain in a group or not; but at the same time they qualify this statement with conditions which preclude the possibility of a province using that right. You tell a province that it was free to remain in a group or not but at the same time you say that all the people of a group should join together to frame its constitution. The North-West Frontier Province will have to attach itself to the Punjab, Sind and Baluchistan, and Assam to Bengal. Their constitutions will be framed by ‘B’ and ‘C’ groups. The group consisting of Punjab, Sind and Baluchistan will frame constitutions for N.W. F. Province and Bengal for Assam. Is it honest? You say that a province has the right to go out of a group but you frame a constitution that precludes its going out of it. In the Cabinet Mission’s Statement, it was clearly said that a province will have option to join a group. The option to go out is given at the end of the Statement. The meaning of the first part is that at the time of the formation of groups a province will have free option to be in the group or not. We understood it as such and so the Congress accepted it; but now it is said that a province has no option ,even at the time of formation of groups to remain out of its group not does it have the right to frame its constitution. It will be framed by the delegates of the whole group. This means that we should accept the division of India and deliver the N.W. F. Province and Assam into the hands of persons who openly assert that they are out to divide India into two parts. If civil war is unavoidable, let it come. We cannot be coerced to do a wrong thing by threats of civil war. It is quite possible that civil war may occur in a comer of India and we may have to fight the British, too. They threaten us with civil war; but the fact is that they are sowing the seeds of civil war among us. They wish that we should fight so that they may rule over us. I feel pained when I say these things. I have a great regard for the British people. They are far advanced in the field of politics and they are wise and freedom-loving. We have learnt many things from them. I have not a trace of hatred in my mind for them. I was happy that a new era had dawned in England, that the Government had passed to the Labour Party who would reverse the old policy. For the last hundred years the policy of the British Government had been one of selfishness and cunning towards countries, while in their own country they are very liberal and have a great regard for each other. For the benefit of their own people they consider it expedient to coerce and exploit other people. It was expected that with the advent of this new government and the defeat of the old Tories their policy would be entirely reversed and the foreign policy of England would be based on honesty but I am disappointed to see that some of the recent statements aimed only at creating a breach among the people of India.
I admit that the Congress had come into the Assembly by accepting the Cabinet Mission’s Proposals but I want to point out that Constituent Assembly after meeting may adopt an altogether a different course. In France people met on the invitation of King Louis. When they saw they could not do what they wanted to do, they began their own procedure. The King who had called them for granting him money, seeing their intentions, wanted to disperse them but they refused to disperse. Our Constituent Assembly has met on the invitation of the British Government but we are free to carry on the work as we please. Some of us were against the Congress participation in this Assembly. They were afraid of British tactics. The Congress, however, had full confidence in itself. My humble voice was also for coming into the Assembly I believed in the power and determination of my colleagues. The occasion was not to be lost. If we could not succeed on account of obstructions from the British Government we shall at least show the world the sort of constitution we want. Our Chairman in his speech made many good points. I was elated to hear him say that we would not subject ourselves to limitations laid down by the British Government.
In this House we cannot accept the British Government’s proposals to divide India into sections and to give that right of framing constitution for provinces into the hands of persons who are bent upon dividing India. I do not like to say these things but I feel it my duty to say that the British Government shows a lack of honesty in assertions which it makes on behalf of the Muslim League.
Somebody has rightly said that the League was the British Government’s Front (morcha). Pandit Nehru said the other day in the Congress that the League members who had come in the Interim Government were acting as the King’s Party. The fact is that the League is being duped by the British Government. They are our countrymen and our brethren and we are always prepared to come to an agreement with them. Today the British are using them as their morcha from behind which they are throwing arrows upon us. We know the British arrows and We have to protect ourselves. In the Constitution that we would frame, we would try to save ourselves from these arrows. In doing so, if we have to fight the British and their proteges, we are prepared to do so. We are sure we will surmount all obstacles. It is the time of our trial. When success comes nearer a host of difficulties crop up. When yogis begin to ascend higher in their yogas they are beset by apparitions, spectres and evil spirits. They threaten them and try to dupe them. We are nearer the success and many evil spirit have arisen to make us deviate from our purpose. It is our duty that we should neither fall to their machinations or should we feel afraid of them.
In framing the Constitution we should remember that whatever plans, of progress we make, we should never yield to the proposal of dividing India. India should remain one. Thus protecting our past civilization, we may proceed forward and take the greatest part in bringing peace to the world.
The Resolution has been moved and seconded. I have received notice of a large number of amendments. I think I have got more than 40 amendments already before me and therefore I do not think it necessary to give any more time for giving notice of more amendments. I think all who wanted to put in amendments have already done so taking into consideration the number of amendments.
It is now 1 o’clock and I think we may rise. But before we rise, I desire to point out to the House that from the next day, I may have to do the unpleasant duty of imposing some sort of time-limit on the speakers. This being the first day, I did not like to interfere and I allowed the speakers to have full time.
Tomorrow being, Saturday, I would not like that the House should meet. It is not as if I am laying down a rule that we shall not meet on Saturdays. We are not meeting this Saturday for the reason that we are meeting in the Rules Committee and I want the Committee’s work to be finished as soon as possible. So to allow the Members of the Committee full time tomorrow, we are not meeting here. We meet on Monday, and on Monday we shall meet in the afternoon from 3 o’clock, not in the morning. The House stands adjourned to 3 o’clock on Monday.
The Assembly then adjourned till 3 P.M. on Monday, the 16th December, 1946.
*[ ]*English translation of Hindustani speech