This is what the Preamble to the Indian Constitution says:
WE, THE PEOPLE OF INDIA, having solemnly resolved to constitute India into a SOVEREIGN, SOCIALIST, SECULAR DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC and to secure to all its citizens:
JUSTICE, social, economic and political;
LIBERTY of thought, expression, belief, faith and worship;
EQUALITY of status and of opportunity
While much of the debate in the past few decades has focused on the addition of the words “socialist” and “secular”, what has been missed out is the importance of three words which can guide us on the journey ahead. These are justice, liberty and equality. In the rest of this series, I will discuss how a reinterpretation of these objectives can lay the foundation for India’s future prosperity.
I have been a strident critic of the Indian Constitution. While its length and legalese render it almost unreadable for the ordinary Indian, what is more appalling is its origin. Here is what I have written:
India’s pre-1947 poverty was crafted by the British and their invading predecessors. India’s post-1947 poverty was handcrafted by the composers of the 1950 Constitution. A Constituent Assembly of elitist Leftists led by their patron saint Jawaharlal Nehru concentrated powers in a Central government – exactly as the 1935 Government of India Act passed by the UK Parliament did. 242 of 395 Articles in the 1950 Constitution were copied verbatim from the 1935 Act which was designed to subjugate the people and deny them freedom. The fate of Indians – and those unborn – was decided in those crucial years between 1947 and 1950.
The continuing Colonial Constitution (with its 100+ amendments which chipped away the few remaining freedoms that Indians enjoyed) has concentrated ever-increasing power in the hands of a few at the top of government – just the way the British ruled and controlled Indians. If we did not have freedom before 1947, it is impossible to argue that we have freedom now – because the rules have not changed.
I am not the only person critical of the Constitution. Its primary author, Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar, was under no illusions about the document drafted. The Quint quotes Dr. Ambedkar (speaking in the Rajya Sabha on two separate occasions):
… Sir, my friends tell me that I have made the Constitution. But I am quite prepared to say that I shall be the first person to burn it out. I do not want it. It does not suit anybody.
… The reason is this: We built a temple for god to come in and reside, but before the god could be installed, if the devil had taken possession of it, what else could we do except destroy the temple? We did not intend that it should be occupied by the Asuras. We intended it to be occupied by the Devas. That’s the reason why I said I would rather like to burn it.
Indians revere the Constitution – even though none bar a few have actually read it. (At 145,000 words, it is not for the faint-hearted.) Let us use the three objectives set in the Preamble as the guiding principles for India’s new direction in a fragile, uncertain world.