A cartoon from HT published on 24 January showing Chairman of the Drafting Committee (and later Law Minister) BR Ambedkar holding an infant Republic of India while Mother India lays in bed exhausted from labour. Around him stand Dr. Rajendra Prasad and Nehru, looking anxiously. Image source: Link
A constitution is a political document, framing the aspirations of a people. Far from being a record of the already-achieved, it is effectively a charter of aims and desires, of what a nation strives to be. Jawaharlal Nehru famously said at the dawn of Independence: ‘We have to build the noble mansion of free India where all her children may dwell.’ The constitution of India was meant as the blueprint for that house of freedom, as reflected in its Preamble. The men and women who shouldered the responsibility to shape the destiny of this new-born nation strove to shun narrowness of thought and ideas, to vacate extreme positions and to chart a course through discussion, debate, cooperation, compromise and tolerance. At every point, interlocutors were treated in good faith and the effort was to exercise good judgment and to bring everyone on board. These are valuable lessons in themselves for us to learn and to teach our students – future leaders and decision-makers. When they are part of the core cluster of forms of political association that are the inheritance of India’s project of constitution-making, it is even more important for us to understand and engage with them. And to engage with, moreover, the document that these vital political conventions gave rise to — the Indian constitution.