Chapter 1

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Introduction


"Britain," observes Pearl Buck, "is a democracy fighting for its empire"1. Nothing could be more complex than this phenomenon in human history, because democracy and imperialism are essentially incompatible. But Britain has been practising such double faced morality all the time, and it is idle to expect that she would ‘Quit India’ with good grace. Be that as it may, I have no manner of doubt that India will win her political freedom before long, despite Britain’s desire ‘to hold her own’. In his ‘Shape of Things to Come,’ HG Wells visualises that the British grip on India will relax to nothing after ‘a brief convulsive phase of firmness’. I earnestly believe that this convulsive phase which has been so conspicuous during the last three years, is now at the fag end and that the present gloom and darkness will soon yield to the glorious dawn of independence. Without freedom to a big and ancient Asiatic country like India, world peace is a sheer impossibility. A slave India will be an ever growing menace to international harmony and goodwill. The world therefore cannot afford to deny her ‘the freedom to be free’2.
 
The question naturally arises: ‘what kind of constitution shall free India have? Shall we imitate some of the western constitutions like those of Switzerland, the United States or Russia? Or shall we try to evolve a swadeshi constitution based on our national genius, culture and traditions?
 
India is a very ancient land. A study of her past constitutional development would indicate that she had enjoyed almost all the possible varieties of political organisation many years before Christ. At a time when Europe and the New World had not even come within the pale of civilisation, India had experimented with monarchy, autocracy, democracy, republicanism and even anarchy. In his ‘Hindu Policy’, KP Jayaswal tells us of the Bhaujya Swarajya, Vairajya Rashtrika, Dvairajya and Arajaka constitutions in ancient Indian. Some of these types have, perhaps, not been tried in other countries at all. India, therefore, may be regarded as an ancient laboratory of constitutional development. To manufacture for her a mixture of western constitutions, which are yet in the melting pot, will be not only a great insult to India but will also betray gross ignorance of sociological science. For, constitutions are always in the nature of organic growth; it is most unscientific to foist on a country a system of administration foreign to its own genius. Administrative systems cannot and should not be transplanted. In the words of Sir John Marriott, ‘constitutions are not exportable commodities’3 Each nation has its unique culture and civilisation which may be called its ‘soul’. This uniqueness must be evolved and preserved in all phases of national life. Virile and natural diversity is life; dull and imitative uniformity is death.

Let me not be misunderstood. I do not mean to suggest that we should be blind to the experiences of other nations and develop a kind of narrow nationalism. Far from it. But it is high time for us to realise that our sense of ‘inferiority complex’ must go, and instead of always looking to the West, we should cultivate the habit of looking within. We have aped the West for long; let us now be proud of our Indian culture and institutions in the rights spirit.

I go a step further. The type of decentralised democracy that India had carefully evolved and maintained for centuries in the form of village republics was not a relic and survival of tribal communism; it was a product of mature thought and serious experimentation. The kind of local self-government that our country had developed in her numberless village communities stood the test of centuries of political storms and is still capable of being organised into an ideal form of democratic administration. I do not suggest that the old system of local administration should be re-introduced exactly in the ancient form. Several modifications will have to be incorporated to suit modern conditions of civic life.

Let us cast a glance at the history of constitution making in India during the twentieth century. I need not mention the constitutional reforms introduced by the British Government in 1909, 1919 and 1935. In spite of the definite opinion of British constitution makers that constitutions cannot be imported, these reforms were unhesitatingly exported from England to India. They bore no relation to the spirit of renaissance in this country. Mahatma Gandhi was the first leader who directed his attention towards the evolution of an indigenous culture and civilisation. His Hind Swaraj that was written in 1908 contained the basic ideals on which the future Constitution of India should be based. We, then, come across the Congress-League Scheme of 1916. Although it incorporated no special principles and was in line with the British Parliamentary system, the joint scheme was an earnest attempt to frame a satisfactory constitution acceptable to both the Hindus and the Muslims. Deshbandhu CR Das and Dr Bhagavandas prepared an ‘Outline Scheme of Swaraj’ after the Gaya Congress in 1922. But Dr. Annie Besant accomplished real pioneering work by placing before the country, in consultation with many prominent Indian leaders, ‘The Commonwealth of India Bill’ in 1924-25. Although Dr Besant wanted India to remain within the British Empire as a self-governing dominion, she upheld the ideal of the ancient village panchayat system as the basis of our future constitution. Later, in 1928, was published the report of the All Parties Conference, popularly known as the Nehru Report. The new constitution of the Aundh State that was framed in 1939 under the guidance of Gandhiji was another landmark in the history of constitutional development. It established panchayat raj in the state on completely democratic lines. The latest effort in constitution making is the well-known report of the Conciliation Committee under the chairmanship of Sir Tej Bahadur Sapru.

It is desirable, however, to frame a Constitution with the background of Indian traditions. Unfortunately, most of our leaders have not cared to study the ancient Indian institutions. Gandhiji along has been laying stress on this aspect of national reconstruction. I, therefore, consulted him regarding the advisability of drawing up a swadeshi constitution for swaraj. He fully appreciated the need for such a constitution and kindly agreed to give me the necessary guidance. I decided to call the constitution the ‘Gandhian Constitution’ because Gandhiji more than anybody else, symbolises and upholds Indian culture and traditions. Moreover, I have discussed with him almost all the details of the constitution and every attempt has been made to represent his views correctly. I cannot, however, hold Gandhiji responsible for every word or thought. The ultimate responsibility is entirely mine.

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