The day 26 November is important for India. It was on this day, the Constitution of India was born in 1949. The previous day, on 25 November, the chairman of the Constitution Drafting Committee Dr B R Ambedkar made a forceful speech for the acceptance of the final draft of the Constitution.
It would be interesting to know that the final draft which was unanimously accepted by the Constituent Assembly, did not contain in the Preamble the two words, ‘socialist’ and ‘secular’, because Jawaharlal Nehru and Dr Ambedkar did not want them in the Preamble.
The debates saw Dr Ambedkar reason out that there was no need to include the term ‘secular’ as the entire Constitution embodied the concept of secular state, which meant non-discrimination on grounds of religion and equal rights and status to all citizens.
On the inclusion of the term ‘socialist’, Dr Ambedkar said it is against the very grain of democracy to decide in the Constitution what kind of society the people of India should live in.
“It is perfectly possible today, for the majority people to hold that the socialist organisation of society is better than the capitalist organisation of society. But it would be perfectly possible for thinking people to devise some other form of social organisation which might be better than the socialist organisation of today or of tomorrow. I do not see therefore why the Constitution should tie down the people to live in a particular form and not leave it to the people themselves to decide it for themselves,” he had said.
His words had influenced the final decision to omit the two words.
It was only during the Emergency imposed by prime minister Indira Gandhi, through the 42nd Amendment introduced in 1976, that the original words in the Preamble ... “Sovereign Democratic Republic” were changed to “Sovereign Socialist Secular Democratic Republic”.
The word ‘socialist’ was added to send a message politically that she stood for the poor. The word ‘secular’ was obviously meant to appease the minorities. India is not secular since the framing of the Constitution, but has always been for thousands of years and will always remain so unlike our neighbours.
Furthermore, the 42nd amendment according to the eminent jurist Durga Das Basu, changed the Constitution “upside down” by inflicting 58 changes in the Constitution through a single amendment.
The irony is, in 1991, the Congress prime minister P V Narashima Rao gave up ‘socialism’ and adopted ‘market economy’, without repairing the damage done earlier to the Constitution, by Indira Gandhi.
Today, when we take our oath of allegiance let us remember this, and celebrate the day, our Constitution was born, namely 26 November 1949.
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