Republic Day celebration and BR Ambedkar’s legacy

NEW DELHI: The legacy of the architect of the Indian Constitution, B R Ambedkar, was celebrated on Tuesday with a special tableau on the occasion of 67th Republic Day.

The tableau by the Social Justice and Empowerment Ministry had a figurine of Ambedkar holding the Constitution in one hand and the other arm outstretched.

Commemorating Ambedkar’s 125th birth anniversary, the tableau showcased Parliament House, a replica of a grand memorial to him at his birthplace Mhow in MP, and a scene of handing over of the Constitution by him to the first President Rajendra Prasad. It also highlighted the untouchability against which doughtily fought.

One side of the tableau also showed an image of the 125th year commemorative coin in Ambedkar’s honour, while its back side featured an image of a commemorative postage stamp.

The Indian Constitution drafted by the committee chaired by Ambedkar came into effect on January 26, 1950.

Earlier in the day, while greeting the people on Republic Day, Prime Minster Narendra Modi paid his tributes to Ambedkar and other framers of the Constitution.

Editor’s Addition from PRAVEEN DAVAR

As political parties vie with each other to celebrate grandiosely the 125th anniversary of B.R. Ambedkar, or inherit his legacy, it is an appropriate occasion to assess his contribution as a nation builder, especially as the architect of the Constitution of India. In a recent biography of Ambedkar, the author Narender Jadhav states that “Dr Ambedkar was not simple leader of untouchables, not even only a leader of oppressed people of India, he was a national leader, period. He made outstanding contribution as an economist, sociologist, anthropologist, educationist, journalist as an authority on comparative religion, as a policymaker and administrator, and a parliamentarian, besides, a jurist who became the principal, architect of the Indian Constitution.”

The author concludes his magnum opus by identifying Gandhi, Nehru and Ambedkar as the “trinity of makers of Modern India”. Gandhi as supreme commander of India’s freedom struggle and its moralist idealist; Nehru as the international voice and architect of modern Indian nation state, and Ambedkar as a social democrat and principal architect of the Indian constitution.

Though Ambedkar’s whole life was devoted to the uplift of the dalits and oppressed classes, surmounting most difficult hurdles, it was his role in the making of the Constitution which is seen as his crowning achievement. But while giving him his due it is also important that the contribution of others in making of India’s magna carta is not erased from memory.

The groundwork for the drafting of the Constitution had been prepared by B.N. Rau, the constitutional adviser. He prepared for the members of the Constituent Assembly handbooks of extracts from other constitutions and notes of his own on various aspects of a constitution for India. There was no aspect that he left uncovered, though the flesh and blood of the Constitution had to be supplied by political decisions. The Constitution borrowed largely from the Government of India Act, under which India was governed and which was the basis of transfer of power, and from the American, Australian, and Irish constitutions.

According to Jawaharlal Nehru’s biographer S. Gopal Nehru’s major contribution was in settling the general lines on which the Constitution was to be drawn up. He drafted and moved in December 1946 the objectives resolution, stipulating that India would be an independent sovereign republic, free to draw up her own constitution.

Rajendra Prasad, who before becoming the first President of India, was the president of the Constituent Assembly, in his final and concluding address to the Assembly recalled the steps the Constitution making had gone through: “The method which Constituent Assembly adopted in connection with the Constitution was first to lay down its ‘terms of reference’ as it were in the form of an Objectives Resolution which was moved by Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru in an inspiring speech and which constitutes now the Preamble to our Constitution. It then proceeded to appoint a number of committees to deal with different aspects of the constitutional problem� Several of these had as their chairman either Pandit Nehru or Sardar Patel to whom thus goes the credit for the fundamentals of our Constitution� they produced reports which were considered by the assembly and their recommendations were adopted as the basis on which the draft of the Constitution had to be prepared. This was done by B.N. Rau, who brought to bear on his task a detailed knowledge of Constitution of other countries and an extensive knowledge of the conditions of this country as well as his own administrative experience. The assembly then appointed the drafting committee which worked on the original draft prepared by B.N. Rau and produced the Draft Constitution.”

In April 1948, Ambedkar in a speech at a public meeting revealed that 250 clauses of the 1935 Act had been embodied into the new Constitution. This meant that nearly four-fifth of the Constitution was based on the 1935 Act. Let us also not forget that the resolution on Fundamental Rights at the Congress session in Karachi (1931) under the presidentship of Sardar Patel, and earlier, the Nehru report (1928) under the chairmanship of Motilal Nehru, had many clauses incorporated in the 1935 Act. Even though the Nehru report was rejected by the Muslim League, its letter and spirit formed part of the Karachi resolution.

Ambedkar was a member of Viceroy’s executive council during the sunset years of the British Raj. Despite the fact he had bitterly opposed the Congress, especially Mahatma Gandhi during the freedom struggle, it was at Gandhi’s insistence that he was made the chairman of the drafting committee of the Constitution after being inducted as the country’s law minister.

Also, Ambedkar paid glowing tributes to the role of other members: “There were in the drafting committee men bigger, better and more competent than myself such as my friend Sir Alladi Krishnaswamy Iyer. I am grateful to the Constituent Assembly for reposing in me so much trust and confidence and to have chosen me as their instrument and given me this opportunity of serving the country. The credit that is given to me does not really belong to me. It belongs partly to Sir B.N. Rau, the constitutional adviser to the Constituent Assembly, who prepared a rough draft of the Constitution for the consideration of the drafting committee. A part of the credit must go to the members of the drafting committee without whose ingenuity to devise new formulae and capacity to tolerate and accommodate different points of view, the task of framing the Constitution could not have come to a successful conclusion. Much greater share of the credit must go to S.N. Mukherjee, the chief draftsman of the Constitution. His ability to put the most intricate proposals in the simplest and clearest legal form can rarely be equaled� without his help, this Assembly would have taken many more years to finalise the Constitution.”

How many of Ambedkar’s followers today will repeat their icon’s words uttered, in all humility, 65 years ago? But for his heroic struggle and iron will the dalits would have taken much longer to become equal and empowered citizens of India. All parties believing in egalitarianism and social justice have an equal claim to the legacy of Bhimrao Ramji Ambedkar. No single party enjoys this monopoly today.