Table of contents
The Constituent Assembly of India met in the Constitution Hall, New Delhi, at Ten of the Clock. Mr. President (The Honourable Dr. Rajendra Prasad) entered the Hall along with their Excellencies Lord Mountbatten, Governor-General of India, and Lady Mountbatten.
I shall read out certain messages which have been received.
1.Message from the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom.
My colleagues in the United Kingdom Government join with me in sending on this historic day greetings and good wishes to the Government and the people of India. It is our earnest wish that India may go forward in tranquility and prosperity and in so doing contribute to the peace and prosperity of the world.
2.Message from His Grace the Archbishop of Canterbury.
At this time when India and Pakistan become independent Dominions and take upon themselves the full responsibilities of self-Government, on behalf of the Christian people of this country, I send you my greetings and good wishes. In God’s providence apparently insuperable difficulties have so far been overcome and all the travail of past ages has led up to this moment of fulfilment and hope. I pray that the two Dominions may go forward to a noble future ever growing in justice and peace, in brotherhood and prosperity.
3.Message from Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek, President of the Republic of China.
On this auspicious occasion when the people of India celebrate the Dawn of a new era of freedom, I wish to convey to you and the people of India my warm congratulations on the glorious and monumental achievement in which you and Mahatma Gandhi have played such an eminent and noble part, and which, I am confident, will be a source of inspiration to all peoples striving for independence, equality and progress. Please accept my best wishes for India’s bright and promising future of success and greatness.
4.Message from the Prime Minister of Canada.
It affords me much pleasure to extend to you, and through you to the Government and people of India, the most cordial wishes of the Government and people of Canada on the occasion of the establishment of India as a completely self-governing nation.
5.Message from the Prime Minister of Australia.
I desire to convey the greetings and good wishes of the Government and people of Australia to the Government and people of India on the historic occasion which is being celebrated on the 15th August. The Australian people rejoice in your new status as a free and sovereign nation and warmly welcome your fellow membership in the British Commonwealth of Nations.It is confidently anticipated that your traditions, your ancient culture and the spirit which is animating you in making smooth this period of transition, will ensure the future welfare and greatness of the people of India.
6.Message from the President of the Executive Yuan, Nanking.
On this historic occasion of India’s attainment of her long cherished aspiration I take especial pleasure in extending to you and the Indian people my sincere felicitations. The Chinese people are deeply gratified by the rebirth of another great nation on the Asian continent. India and China with a common frontier of 2,000 miles have enjoyed the closest and most friendly relations in the course of many centuries Our two nations having stood together through the late world war will undoubtedly continue to march forward together toward the common goal of world peace. I send you my warmest wishes for your continued success and for the happiness and prosperity of the Indian people.
7.Message from Dr. Soedarsono on behalf of the Republic of Indonesia.
On the eve of the establishment of the Dominion of India it is a great pleasure to the Republic of Indonesia to express her feelings of heartfelt joy, sympathy and friendship. The Republic of Indonesia looks upon India as her Comrade who in time of danger and distress has helped her and will always help her. She may-as both their nationalism is based upon humanity-hope that in the very near future still tighter bonds will be welded, bonds of comradeship in the struggle for Justice and Peace and for the Freedom and Prosperity of millions who for so long a time have lived in squalor amidst luxury and wealth. The people of India since years led by its eminent Leaders undoubtedly is approaching a better and happier future. India will not only become a land of Justice and Prosperity but at the same time a bulwark of and a guard for peace in Asia. The Government and the People of the Republic of Indonesia send your People, your Government and your Excellency at this great historical moment their deeply felt wishes for Happiness and Prosperity.
8.Message from His Majesty’s Minister in Nepal.
My staff join me in offering warmest congratulations on establishment of Dominion of India and send all good wishes for future happiness and prosperity of State and its people.
9.Message from the Prime Minister and Acting Minister of Foreign Affairs, Oslo.
On this Great Day of National Rejoicing for the Peoples of India I have the honour to transmit to you my very best wishes for the prosperity of your country.
ADDRESS OF H.E. THE GOVERNOR-GENERAL
May I invite your Excellency To address the House?
Mr. President and members of the Constituent Assembly.
I have a message from His Majesty the King to deliver to you today. This is His Majesty’s message:–
“On this historic day when India takes her place as a free and independent Dominion in the British Commonwealth of Nations, I send you all my greetings and heartfelt wishes.Freedom loving people everywhere will wish to share in your celebrations, for with this transfer of power by consent comes the fulfillment of a great democratic. ideal to which the British and Indian peoples alike are firmly dedicated. It is inspiring to think that all this has been achieved by means of peaceful change.Heavy responsibilities lie ahead of you, but when I consider the statesmanship you have already shown and the great sacrifices you have already made, I am confident that you will be worthy of your destiny.I pray that the blessings of the Almighty may rest upon you and that your leaders may continue to be guided with wisdom in the tasks before them. May the blessings of friendship, tolerance and peace inspire you in your relations with the nations of the world. Be assured always of my sympathy in all your efforts to promote the prosperity of your people and the general welfare of mankind.“
It is barely six months ago that Mr. Attlee invited me to accept the appointment of last Viceroy. He made it clear that this would be no easy task-since His Majesty’s Government in the United Kingdom had decided to transfer power to Indian hands by June 1948. At that time it seemed to many that His Majesty’s Government had set a date far too early. How could this tremendous operation be completed in 15 months.
However, I had not been more than a week in India before I realised that this date of June 1948 for the transfer of power was too late rather than too early communal tension and rioting had assumed proportions of which I had no conception when I left England. It seemed to me that a decision had to be taken at the earliest possible moment unless there was to be risk of a general conflagration throughout the whole sub-Continent.
I entered into discussions with the leaders of all the parties at once and the result was the plan of June 3rd. Its acceptance has been hailed as an example of fine statesmanship throughout the world. The plan was evolved at every stage by a process of open diplomacy with the leaders. Its success is chiefly attributable to them.
I believe that this system of open diplomacy was the only one suited to the situation in which the problems were so complex and the tension so high. I would here pay tribute to the wisdom, tolerance and friendly help of the leaders which have enabled the transfer of power to take place ten and a half months earlier than originally intended.
At the very meeting at which the plan of June 3rd was accepted, the Leaders agreed to discuss a paper which I had laid before them on the administrative consequences of partition; and then and there we set up the machinery which was to carry out one of the greatest administrative operations in history–the partition of a sub-continent of 400 million inhabitants and the transfer of power to two independent governments in less than two and a half months. My reason for hastening these processes was that, once the principle of division had been accepted, it was in the interest of all parties that it should be carried cut with the utmost speed. We set a pace faster in fact than many at the time thought possible. To the Ministers and officials who have laboured day and night to produce this astonishing result, the greatest credit is due.
I know well that the rejoicing which the advent of freedom brings is tempered in your hearts by the sadness that it could not come to a united India; and that the pain of division has shorn today’s events of some of its joy. In supporting your leaders in the difficult decision which they had to take, you have displayed as much magnanimity and realism as have those patriotic statesmen themselves.
These statesmen have placed me in their debt for ever by their sympathetic understanding of my position. They did not, for example, press their original request that I should be the Chairman of the Arbitral Tribunal. Again they agreed from the outset to release me from any responsibility whatsoever for the partition of the Punjab and Bengal It was they who selected the personnel of the Boundary Commissions including the Chairman; it was they who drew up the terms of reference, it is they who shoulder the responsibility for implementing the award. You will appreciate that had they not done this, I would have been placed in an impossible position.
Let me now pass to the Indian States. The plan of June 3rd dealt almost exclusively with the ‘problem of the transfer of power in British India; and the only reference to the States was a paragraph which recognised that on the transfer of power, all the Indian States-565 of them-would become independent. Here then was another gigantic problem and there was apprehension on all sides. But after the formation of the States Department it was possible for me as Crown Representative to tackle this great question. Thanks to that farsighted statesman Sardar vallabhbhai Patel, Member in charge of States Department, a scheme produced which appeared to me to be equally in the interests of the States as of the Dominion of India. The overwhelming majority of States are geographically linked with India, and therefore this Dominion had by far the bigger stake in the solution of this problem. It is a great triumph for the realism and sense of responsibility of the Rulers and the Governments of the States, as well as for the Government of India, that it was possible to produce an Instrument of Accession which was equally acceptable to both sides; and one, moreover, so simple and so straight forward that within less than three weeks practically all the States concerned had signed the Instrument of Accession and the Standstill Agreement. There is thus established a unified political structure covering over 300 million people and the major part of this great sub-continent.
The only State of the first importance that has not yet acceded is the premier State, Hyderabad.
Hyderabad occupies a unique position in view of its size, population and resources, and it has its special problems. The Nizam, while he does not propose to accede to the Dominion of Pakistan, has not up to the present felt able to accede to the Dominion of India. His Exalted Highness has, however, assured me of his wish to co-operate in the three essential subjects of External Affairs, Defence and Communications with that Dominion whose territories surround his State. With the assent of the Government, negotiations will be continued with the Nizam and I am hopeful that we shall reach a solution satisfactory to all.
From today I am your constitutional Governor-General and I would ask you to regard me as one of yourselves, devoted wholly to the fortherance of India’s interests. I am honoured that you have endorsed the invitation originally made to me by your leaders to remain as your Governor-General. The only consideration I had in mind in accepting was that I might continue to be of some help to you in difficult days which lie immediately ahead. When discussing the Draft of the India Independence Act your leaders selected the 31st March 1948 as the end of what may be called the interim period. I propose to ask to be released in April. It is not that I fail to appreciate the honour of being invited to stay on in your service, but I feel that as soon as possible India should be at liberty, if you so wish, to have one of her own people as her Governor-General. Until them my wife and I will consider it a privilege to continue to work with and amongst you. No words can express our gratitude for the understanding and co-operation as well as the true sympathy and generosity of spirit-which have been shown to us at all times.
I am glad to announce that “my” Government (as I am now constitutionally entitled and most proud to call them) have decided to mark this historic occasion by a generous programme of amnesty. The categories are as wide as could be consistent with the over-riding consideration of public morality and safety, and special account has been taken of political motives. This policy will also govern the release of military prisoners undergoing sentences as a result of trial by courtsmartial.
The tasks before you are heavy. The war ended two years ago. In fact, it was, on this very day two years ago that I was with that great friend of India, Mr. Attlee in his Cabinet Room when the news came through that Japan had surrendered. That was a moment for thankfulness and rejoicing, for it marked the end of six bitter years of destruction and slaughter. But in India we have achieved something greater what has been well described as “A treaty of Peace without a War”. Nevertheless, the ravages of the war are still apparent all over the world. India, which played such a valiant part, as I can personally testify from my experience in South-East Asia, has also had to pay her price in the dislocation of her economy and the casualties to her gallant fighting men with whom I was so proud to be associated. Preoccupations with the political problem retarded recovery. It is for you to ensure the happiness and ever-increasing prosperity of the people, to provide against future scarcities of food, cloth and essential commodities and to build up a balanced economy. The solution of these problems requires immediate and wholehearted effort and far-sighted planning, but I feel confident that with your resources in men, material and leadership you will prove equal to the task.
What is happening in India is of far more than purely national interest. The emergence of a stable and prosperous state will be a factor of the greatest international importance for the peace of the world. Its social and economic development, as well as its strategic situation and its wealth of resources, invest with great significance the events that take place here. It is for this reason that not only Great Britain and the sister Dominions but all the great nations of the world will watch with sympathetic expectancy the fortunes of this country and will wish to it all prosperity and success.
At this historic moment, let us not forget all that India owes to Mahatma Gandhi the architect of her freedom through non-violence. We miss his presence here today, and would have know how much he is in our thoughts.
Mr. President, I would like you and our other colleagues of the later-Interim Government to know how deeply I have appreciated your unfailing support and co-operation.
In your first Prime Minister Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, you have a world-renowned leader of courage and vision. (Cheers.) His trust and friendship have helped me beyond measure in my task. Under his able guidance, assisted by the colleagues whom he has selected, and with the loyal Co-operation of the people, India will now attain a position of strength and influence and take her rightful place in the comity of nations. (Loud and prolonged cheers.)
*[Your Excellency and members of the Assembly. I request you to communicate to His Majesty the gratitude of this Assembly for the message he has very kindly sent to us today. With the Knowledge that we will have his sympathy and kindness in the task that we are going to take it our hands today, we are confident that we will be able to accomplish it in a proper way.]*
[Mr. President then delivered his speech in Hindustani, the full text of which is published in the Hindustani Edition of the Debates.]
I have to announce that a message of greetings and goodwill has also been received from the French Minister of Foreign Affairs. M. Giraud on behalf of the Government of France and on his own behalf. It is regretted that I do not have the text of the message with me, but it will be inscribed in the records of the Assembly along with the other messages which I have read today.
Your Excellency, may I request you to convey to His Majesty a message of loyal greetings from this House and of thanks for the gracious message which he has been good enough to send us? That message will serve as an inspiration in the great work on which we launch today and I have no doubt that we anticipate with great pleasure association with Great Britain of a different kind. I hope and trust that the interest and the sympathy and the kindness which have always inspired His Majesty will continue in favour of India and we shall be worthy of them.
10. Message from the French Minister of Foreign Affairs
From: Mons. Georges Bidault,
Minister for Foreign Affairs,
To: Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru.
In the name of my Government and in my own I salute the historic date which marks the final accession of India to the ranks of the World’s great free nations devoted to the cause of peace and earnestly desirous of the prosperity of all the peoples of the world. I request your Excellency to accept, on this occasion, the renewed assurances of my very high consideration and of my entire devotion to the cause of friendship between our two countries.
12. Message from the President of the United States of America
NEW DELHI, INDIA
August, 15, 1947.
I have the honour to transmit to you the following message from the President of the United States.
On this memorable occasion I extend to you, to Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru and to the people of the Dominion of India the sincere best wishes of the Government and the people of the United States of America. We welcome India’s new and enhanced status in the world community of sovereign independent nations, assure the new Dominion of our continued friendship and goodwill, and reaffirm our confidence that India, dedicated to the cause of peace and to the advancement of all peoples, will take its place at the forefront of the nations of the world in the struggle to fashion a world Society founded in mutual trust and respect. India faces many grave problems, but its resources are vast, and I am confident that its people and leadership are equal to the task ahead. In the years to come the people of this great new nation will find the United States a constant friend. I earnestly hope that our friendship will in the future, as in the past, continue to be expressed in close and fruitful co-operation in international undertakings and in cordiality in our relations one with the other.
I wish to avail myself of this opportunity of extending my personal congratulations to Your Excellency on your assumption of the post of Governor-General of the Dominion of India and at the same time to convey assurance of my highest consideration.
HENRY T. GRADY.
Governor-General of the Dominion of India.
Let us in this momentous hour of our history, when we are assuming power for the governance of our country, recall in grateful remembrance the services and sacrifices of all those who laboured and suffered for the achievement of the independence we are attaining today. Let us on this historic occasion pay our homage to the maker of our modern history, Mahatma Gandhi, who has inspired and guided us through all these years of trial and travail and who in spite of the weight of years is still working in his own way to complete what is left yet unaccomplished.
Let us gratefully acknowledge that while our achievement is in no small measure due to our own sufferings, and sacrifices, it is also the result of world forces and events and last though not least it is the consummation and fulfillment of the historic traditions and democratic ideals of the British race whose farsighted leaders and statesmen saw the vision and gave the pledges which are being redeemed today. We are happy to have in our midst as a representative of that race Viscount Mountbatten of Burma and his consort who have worked hard and played such an important part in bringing this about during the closing scenes of this drama. The period of domination by Britain over India ends today and our relationship with Britain is henceforward going to rest on a basis of equality, of mutual goodwill and mutual profit.
It is undoubtedly a day of rejoicing. But there is only one thought which mars and detracts from the fullness of this happy event. India, which was made by God and Nature to be one, which culture and tradition and history of millenniums have made one, is divided today and many there are on the other side of the boundary who would much rather be on this side. To them we send a word of cheer and assurance and ask them not to give way to panic or despair but to live with faith and courage in peace with their neighbours and fulfil the duties of loyal citizenship and thus win their rightful place. We send our greetings to the new Dominion which is being established today there and wish it the best luck in its great work of governing that region and making all its citizens happy and prosperous. We feel assured that they all will be treated fairly and Justly without any distinction or discrimination. Let us hope and pray that the day will come when even those who have insisted upon and brought about this division will realise India’s essential oneness and we shall be united once again. We must realise however that this can be brought about not by force but by large heartedness and co-operation and by so managing our affairs on this side as to attract those who have parted. It may appear to be a dream but it is no more fantastic a dream than that of those who wanted a division and may well be realised even sooner than we dare hope for today.
More than a day of rejoicing it is a day of dedication for all of us to build the India of our dreams. Let us turn our eyes away from the past and fix our gaze on the future. We have no quarrel with other nations and countries and let us hope no one will pick a quarrel with us. By history and tradition we are a peaceful people and India wants to be at peace with the world. India’s Empire outside her own borders his been of a different kind from all other Empires. India’s conquests have been the conquests of spirit which did not impose heavy chains of slavery, whether of iron or of gold, on others but tied other lands and other peoples to her with the more enduring ties of golden silk–of culture and civilisation, of religion and knowledge (gyan). We shall follow that same tradition and shall have no ambition save that of contributing our little mite to the building of peace and freedom in a war-distracted world by holding aloft the banner under which we have marched to victory and placing in a practical manner in the hands of the world the great weapon of Non-violence which has achieved this unique result. India has a great part to play. There is something in her life and culture which has enabled her to survive the onslaughts of time and today we witness a new birth full of promise, if only we prove ourselves true to our deals.
Let us resolve to create conditions in this country when every individual will be free and provided with the wherewithal to develop and rise to his fullest stature, when poverty and squalor and ignorance and ill-health will have vanished, when the distinction between high and low, between rich and poor, will have disappeared, when religion will not only be professed and preached and practised freely but will have become a cementing force for binding man to man and not serve as a disturbing and disrupting force dividing and separating, when untouchability will have been forgotten like an unpleasant night dream, when exploitation of man by man will have ceased, when facilities and special arrangements will have been provided for the adimjatis of India and for all others who are backward, to enable them to catch up to others and when this land will have not only enough food to feed its teeming millions but will once again have become a land flowing with rivers of milk, when men and women will be laughing and working for all they are worth in fields and factories, when every cottage and hamlet will be humming with the sweet music of village handicrafts and maids will be busy with them and singing to their tune-when the sun and the moon will be shining on happy homes and loving faces.
To bring all this about we need all the idealism and sacrifice, all the intelligence and diligence, all the determination and the power of organisation that we can muster. We have many parties and groups with differing ideals and ideologies. They are all trying to convert the country to their own ideologies and to mould the constitution and the administration to suit their own view point. While they have the right to do so, the country and the nation have the right to demand loyalty from them. All must realise that what is needed most today is a great constructive effort-not strife, hard solid work-not argumentation, and let us hope that all will be prepared to make their contribution we want the peasant to grow more food, we want the workers to produce more goods, we want our industrialists to use their intelligence, tact and resourcefulness for the common good. To all we must assure conditions of decent and healthy life and opportunities for self-improvement and self-realisation.
Not only have the people to dedicate themselves to this great task that lies ahead but those who have so far been playing the role of rulers and regulators of the lives of our men and women have to assume, the role of Servants. Our army has won undying glory in distant lands for its bravery and great fighting qualities. Our soldiers, sailors and airmen have to realise that they now form a national army on whom devolves the duty not only of defending the freedom which we have own but also to help in a constructive way in building up a new life. There is no place in the armed forces of our country which is not open to our people, and what is more they are required to take the highest places as soon as they can so that they may take full charge of our defences. Our public servants in various departments of Government have to shed their role as rulers and have to become true servants of the people that their compeers are in all free countries. The people and the Government on their side have to give them their trust and assure them conditions of service in keeping with the lives of the people in whose midst they have to live and serve.
We welcome the Indian States which have acceded to India and to their people we offer our hands of comradeship. To the princes and the rulers of the States we say that we have no designs against them. We trust they will follow the example of the King of England and become Constitutional rulers. They would do well to take as their model the British monarchical system which has stood the shock of two successive world wars when so many other monarchies in Europe have toppled down.
To Indians settled abroad in British Colonies and elsewhere we send our good wishes and assurance of our abiding interest in their welfare. To our minorities we give the assurance that they will receive fair and just treatment and their rights will be respected and protected.
One of the great tasks which we have in hand is to complete the constitution under which not only will freedom and liberty be assured to each and all but which will enable us to achieve and attain and enjoy its fulfilment and its fruits. We must accomplish this task as soon as possible so that we may begin to live and work under a constitution of our own making, of which we may all be proud, and which it may become our pride and privilege to defend and to preserve to the lasting good of our people and for the service of mankind. In framing that constitution we shall naturally draw upon the experience and knowledge of other countries and nations no less than on our own traditions and surroundings and may have at times to disregard the lines drawn by recent history and lay down new boundary lines not only of Provinces but also of distribution of powers and functions. Our ideal is to have a constitution that will enable the people’s will to be expressed and enforced and that will not only secure liberty to the individual but also reconcile and make that liberty subservient to the common good.
We have up to now been taking a pledge to achieve freedom and to undergo all sufferings and sacrifices for it. Time has come when we have to take a pledge of another kind. Let no bite imagine that the time for work and sacrifice is gone and the time for enjoying the fruits thereof has come. Let us realise that the demand on our enthusiasm and capacity for unselfish work in the future will be as great as, if not greater than, what it has ever been before. We have, therefore, to dedicate ourselves once again to the great cause that beckons us. The task is great, the times are propitious. Let us pray that we may have the strength, the wisdom and the courage to fulfil it.
HOISTING OF THE NATIONAL FLAG
His Excellency will now give the signal for hoisting the Flag.
(The sound of a gun being fired was heard.)
That is the signal for hoisting the flag over this roof.
The House now stands adjourned till 10 of the Clock on the 20th.
Mahatma Gandhi ki jai.
Mahatma Gandhi ki jai.
Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru ki jai.
Lord Mountbatten ki jai.
The Assembly then adjourned till 10 of the Clock on Wednesday, the 20th August 1947.
*[ ]* English translation of Hindustani speech.