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Indian Independence: Constitutional and Religious Development

Constitution of individual freedoms, "subject to public interest"

December 1946-November 1949 India's lengthy constitutional drafting process was primarily aimed at preserving country's freedom and national unity and establishing a democratic state that would eliminate entrenched social and economic oppression and inequality, especially caste, and ensure freedom and equality for its citizens.

August 15, 1947, day India achieved independence, Chairman of Constituent Assembly, Rajendra Prasad, explained this in his Mission Challenge speech: “ Our vision is to have a constitution in which will of people can be expressed and enforced, not only securing individual freedom, but reconciling and subordinating that freedom to common good".

How to reconcile individual freedom with a vision of common good for 340 million people of India, who at time were guiding constitutional process.

Indian Independence: Constitutional and Religious Development

Whose will it be mutual benefit? The issue came to fore early in constitutional debate, when Parliament debated citizenship: legal framework that determines who belongs to or will be excluded from state and, more broadly, from common good.

In first April 1947 debate on citizenship, it was defined very broadly: "Anyone born in Commonwealth or naturalized under its laws and subject to it Those who govern are citizens of Union< /strong>".

However, this provision was objected to on grounds that definition of citizenship in India was too broad, and some members insisted that citizenship should be linked to descent.

Indian Independence: Constitutional and Religious Development

After dissatisfaction and debate among members of Parliament, issue of citizenship was referred to two successive subcommittees for consideration and revision, however June 3, 1947 proclaimed division of subcontinent into India and Pakistan and split on August 15, 1947 years created a new context for question of who belonged to new regime.

Two years later, in August 1949, Articles of Citizenship, which were finally submitted to Parliament for final deliberation, consisted of six Articles which provided for a single citizenship for all of India.

But together they did not define a unified concept of state membership, instead they proposed a mixed structure consisting of universal and sectarian elements.

The first article states that birth, lineage, and residence are criteria for citizenship at start of Constitution, which in principle provides a broad basis for inclusion in state, while other two articles establish a dividing line in constitution.

Indian Independence: Constitutional and Religious Development

Inclusion or exclusion conditions are provided for persons who immigrated from Pakistan to Indian territory, as well as for persons who left India for Pakistan when partition was looming and violence began, but subsequently returned to India.

Those who arrived in India before July 19, 1948 were automatically considered citizens, while those who immigrated after that date had to be registered as citizens, mostly Hindus and Sikhs.

With exception of those returning to India with government-issued resettlement, article refers to "one person" of immigrants and does not mention a specific group or community, however, vast majority of people in this specific category are Muslim.

In a liberal and inclusive constitutional framework, this provision broadly defines scope and prospects for Muslims to become citizens of a new state in their original homeland.

Indian Independence: Constitutional and Religious Development

Thus, although citizenship clause does not mention religion, creed or caste, as he puts it, tension between liberalism and national ideas" has existed since formation of republic and is reflected in constitutional solution of issue".

The authors argue that at independence, scope of membership in state and common good was broad and all-encompassing. As we have seen, since 1980s, ancestry-based ethno-ethnic factors have become increasingly dominant as a result of current democratic discontent in India.

At time of revision of Constitution of India, common good of all India and its availability in terms of distribution of national resources, economically material, political and symbolic, were primarily based on allowing a society characterized by multiple divisions that were not easily reconciled, it is contrary to religious divisions.

India is made up of many countries based on language, caste, class, occupation and religion > The composition of competing and evolving minority groups with advent of democracy, especially universal suffrage, has witnessed demands for a constitutional convention by many and varied organizations.

Indian Independence: Constitutional and Religious Development

For example, they demand that they be recognized as a "backward" or "racial"individual minority or social group, and in Constitution similar to all countless communities in India "tribal and social groups” work together to achieve political, economic or religious security.

For example, Coalition of Backward and Small Hindu Intermediate Castes wrote to Speaker of Parliament: "The new constitution will undoubtedly protect the interests of small communities".

Although Hindus themselves may well be considered a community, however, the Hindu community is a heterogeneous community, consisting of several primary and secondary communities with separate social organic structures having different social, religious and professional standards, grouped together only under common federal name for Hindus".

These social realities, together with dialectically strong and diverse group demands, lead to a constitution that governs relationship between people and state, providing space for social fragmentation and coexistence of conflicts.

Indian Independence: Constitutional and Religious Development

Thus, Constitution establishes individual rights at its core, and at same time, it provides reservations for serving in legislatures, public offices, and educational institutions . institutions< /strong>Community rights for Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes, recognizing their long history of injustice and oppression.

In addition to fundamental rights, constitution includes a chapter on public policy guidelines that cannot be enforced in court, but directs Government of India to effectively promote social and economic rights:The well-being of people, including nutrition, health, education and environment, as well as to allocate material resources of community "to best of our ability to serve common good.

Although they are not judicial, they give marginalized and electorally vulnerable groups opportunity to seek redress in court.

Fundamental Rights and Public Policy Guidelines are "finalized to reflect the interests of indigenous peoples", for example, including caste exclusion practices and local rural institutions.

Indian Independence: Constitutional and Religious Development

Instead of adopting a single national language to strengthen national unity and mask India's deep linguistic diversity, Constitution includes its multilingualism, which is spoken by only about 40% of population, and is regulated as "official language of Union". Language", English will continue to be used for all official purposes for 15 years.

The Constitution also recognizes official dialects that states of Federation may use for their internal use. This decision was made after much debate and public pressure. Over years, conflicts over language have continued, and English is still widely used. for an official purpose.

The authors argue that while "concept of a secular state" is clearly seen as "foundation" of our "new constitution", it does not clearly define secularity.

The issue of religious freedom and relationship between religion and state is inextricably linked with principle of equality and, indirectly, with caste system.

Indian Independence: Constitutional and Religious Development

According to Judge Ramaswami, "The Constitution" has chosen secularism as a tool to establish an egalitarian social order and, as such, aims to promote transformation.

As another Supreme Court Justice, Kinnapahong, explained: "Secularism cannot be separated from pursuit of social and economic justice."

He elaborated: "The wall between religion and state also exists in India's constitutional secularism, but there are several doors, all one way, from side of state to side of religion, but absolutely do not open other way< /strong> ".

However, there are different notions of equality in Constitution from which it can be deciphered, which has led to conflicting decisions over years: all religions are treated equally, differential treatment is allowed to remedy inequalities, and this is reported by liberal opinion that differences are treated unacceptable.

Gautam Bhatia captures basic tension between these notions: "How should a constitution that guarantees freedom of religion for individuals and communities oppose demands of its constituents?

Indian Independence: Constitutional and Religious Development

Thus, Constitution provides framework within which citizenship, rights, equality, liberty and < strong> >secularism coexist.

Thus, on one hand, this gives extremely heterogeneous inhabitants of India opportunity to put forward competing claims from state regarding their personal rights and common interests and be included in a single nation.

On other hand, since constitution does not define a unified view of state membership, equality, or secularism, these principles may be applied, interpreted, and viewed inconsistently, or even contrary to common good that these democratic principles are. designed to be maintained.

The Constitution also contains emergency provisions allowing government under "state of emergency" to limit freedoms it grants to Indians as sovereign representatives of people, in certain cases, as we shall see, these provisions are actually used to justify pursuit of common good by authoritarian means.

Indian Independence: Constitutional and Religious Development

Thus, in evolving dynamics of Indian politics, policies and legislation related to fundamental principles of democracy will constantly be challenged and give rise to different visions of common good in a changing environment.

But for democracy to work, first of all, different people of India must believe that they can be part of common good and have a voice in it, which happened at independence with introduction of universal adult suffrage.

The will of people for a diverse and multinational country

The Constitutional Convention adopted universal adult suffrage at start of constitutional debate in April 1947, and secretariat of Convention realized that preparations for first elections would be difficult and difficult, so beginning in September 1947 More before adoption of Constitution, first lists of voters were drawn up on basis of adult suffrage.

Creating Indian voters and recruiting more than 173 million people under independence is a comprehensive all-India effort to turn Indians into sovereign agents by giving them right to vote in their common interest.

The registration of all adult Indians in New South Wales as potential voters resulted in massive participation in democracy, in which case a number of civic organizations were formed across country to ensure their inclusion on list. position above.

Indian Independence: Constitutional and Religious Development

In addition to securing their right to vote, some of these organizations have stated goal of promoting "goodwill and cooperation among different communities" or "general welfare" of all citizens.

Furthermore, electoral roll was drawn up to unite all adult Indians as equal individuals to empower their government regardless of their deep differences in caste, class, religion or language.

The first draft of electoral register was prepared before promulgation of constitution in January 1950 and before constitution was adopted in order to vote in a hierarchical and unequal society such as India, procedural equality Indians a concrete sense of collective identity as equal voters striving for common good, Indians became voters before they became citizens.

The introduction of universal suffrage for mass voters, effectively "personalization" of Indians, has not prevented maintenance of social structures with diverse and contested group identities.

Indian Independence: Constitutional and Religious Development

Ironically, successful implementation of universal suffrage has opened up greater opportunities for people to see themselves as a distinct minority deserving direct representation, a dynamic that fully matured before and during India's first elections.

Political parties use different mechanisms for selection process of candidates at central, state, district and even county levels, and although there are mechanisms in ticket race, people actively participated in selection of candidate competition, effectively confirming their powers.

In run-up to elections, multi-faceted groups, sometimes from marginalized sections of society, are directly involved in selection of candidates, putting pressure on political parties, expressing their expectations and demanding representation.

Phuleswara Prasad, a fisherman from Bihar and a member of Bihar Fishermen's Federation, seeks parliamentary tickets and appeals to Central Assembly of Congress. The committee assured that it had support of "all" fishermen in Bihar.

Indian Independence: Constitutional and Religious Development

He wrote: "Our constitution is well thought out and takes into account schedules and depressed sections of society, and I look forward to becoming a worthy representative of one of these unfortunate classes for locals, especially for benefit of fishermen."< /p>

Shortly thereafter, secretary of Congress Parliamentary Committee replied to Prasad, promising that party's national committee would consider his proposal. The disadvantage of recording is that it is often difficult to keep track of what ultimately happened.

For example, under pressure from Delhi Milkers Association, results can be confirmed. They were able to ensure that their candidates were selected and eventually elected.

The participation of marginalized groups in selection of candidates and their attempts to influence process demonstrates a broad understanding and understanding of importance of power coming from people and their elected offices.

Indian Independence: Constitutional and Religious Development

While representative structures are common, this powerful social pressure from below paradoxically leads parties to sometimes perpetuate colonial practices and distribute tickets in an effort to ensure adequate representation of "minority".

Thus, authors argue that communal and caste politics are not simply result of parties creating "vote banks" from above.

This dynamic intensified in subsequent elections and, as we will see in second part of this article, extended to other political areas besides elections, although it gradually became a matter of deepening democracy. but it also contributes to frustrating efforts to achieve an inclusive common good.

Democracy in India is largely supported by a constitution based on different and potentially conflicting ideas, namely common good of deeply divided peoples and conflicting regimes. There is a wide range of rights and benefits that different people compete for.

Indian Independence: Constitutional and Religious Development

But it also creates problems, as procedural political equality in form of one woman, one man and one vote creates social and economic expectations and creates a fluid arena for identity claims. The viability and longevity of Indian democracy depends on ability of its democratic policies to accommodate and adjust these demands and aspirations.


Commentary on Constitution 1790-1860

"Basic Rights"

Justice and Constitution

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