Parliament speech delivered by Dr B R Ambedkar on 17th Dec. 1946 from the book “The Hindu Raj Today, Yesterday and Tomorrow” by S. K. Biswas, Chapter 7, Page No. 135
Not just, it was a one way traffic. Dr. Ambedkar fought his brilliant ever battles of statesmanship in the Constituent Assembly itself in favour of the Muslims. Dr. Ambedkar delivered his maiden speech in the Constituent Assembly while deciding the fate of our Nation in favour of and to protect the interests of the Muslims only.
The Constituent Assembly started its work of writing free India’s Constitution on 9th December, 1946. In all 296 members were entitled to take part in the inaugural session. But only 207 attended, the absentees were mainly the Muslim League members who had boycotted the Constituent Assembly. Only 4 Musalmans who got elected in the Constituent Assembly on Congress tickets attended the inaugural function. In such circumstances on 13th December, 1946, the Hon’ble Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru mover the resolution regarding the aims and objects of the Constitution as under:
- This Constituent Assembly declares its firm and solemn resolve to proclaim India as an Independent Sovereign Republic and to draw up for her future governance a Constitution;
- Wherein the territories that now comprise British India, the territories that now form the Indian States, and such other parts of India as are outside British India and States as well as such other territories as are willing to be constituted into the independent Sovereign India, shall be a Union of them all; and
- Wherein the said territories, whether with their present boundaries or with such others as may be determined by the Constituent Assembly and thereafter according to the law of the Constitution, shall possess and retain the status of autonomous units, together with residuary powers, and exercise all powers and function of government and administration, save and except such powers and functions as are vested in or assigned to the Union, or as are inherent or implied in the Union or resulting therefrom; and
- Wherein all power and authority of the Sovereign Independent India, its constituent parts and organs of government, are derived from the people; and
- Wherein shall be guaranteed and secured to all the people of India justice, social, economic and political; equality of status, of opportunity, and before the law; freedom of thought, expression, belief, faith, worship, vocation, association and action, subject to law and public morality; and
- Wherein adequate safeguards shall be provided for minorities, backward and tribal areas, and depressed and other backward classes; and
- Whereby shall be maintained the integrity of the territory of the Republic and its sovereign rights on land, sea and air according to justice and the law of civilised nations; and
- This ancient land attains its rightful and honoured place in the world and make its full and willing contribution to the promotion of world peace and the welfare of mankind. “
(This was followed by speeches by Pandit Nehru, Purishottam Das Tondon and the Chairman, Dr. Rajendra Prasad. The Assembly the adjourned till 16th December, 1946)
On the 16th December, it was Dr. M. R. Jayakar (Bombay: General) who moved an amendment to this resolution that, “This Assembly declares its firm and solemn resolve that the Constitution to be prepared by this Assembly for the future governance of India shall be for a free and democratic Sovereign State; but with a view to securing, in the shaping of such a Constitution, the cooperation of the Muslim League and the Indian States, and thereby intensifying the firmness of this resolve, this Assembly postpones the further consideration of this question to later date to enable the representatives of these two bodies to participate, if they so choose in the deliberation of this Assembly. “Dr. Jayakar who was known for his gift of peace making, moved this amendment on good faith. But this irritated the Congress bosses and voices arose from the Congress groups heckling Dr. Jayakar as an obstructionist. The sweet, flowing, persuasive Jayakar sat down never to rise again in the House. His amendment now became a royal battle.
With a view to saving the inflammable situation, Chairman of the Assembly invited Dr. Ambedkar who belonged to and represented the Untouchables of India. It was a matter of high magnitude. The authority and infallibility of a leader Pandit J.L. Nehru was in question. It was the move of Congress, to whom the Assembly seems to have belonged to, was in question. And the challenge came from an honourable and eminent Congress member only.
Dr. Ambedkar (Bengal: General), however, very plainly but decisively supported the move of Dr. Jayakar. He with his unlimited command over language, vast experience of surroundings, a boiled fighter-diplomat and a child of adversity stated:
“Mr. Chairman, I am indeed very grateful to you for having called me to speak on the Resolution. I must however, confess that your invitation has come to me as a surprise. I thought that as there were some 20 or 22 people ahead of me, my turn, if it did come at all, would come tomorrow. I would have preferred, that as today I have come without any preparation whatsoever. I would have liked to prepare myself, as I had intended to make a full statement on an occasion of this sort. Besides you have fixed a time limit of 10 minutes. Placed lunder these limitation, I do not know how I could do justice to the Resolution before us. I shall however do my best to condense in as few words as possible what I think about the matter.
…….Now I come to the first part of the Resolution, which includes the first four paragraphs. As I said from the debate that has gone on in the House, this has become a matter of controversy. The controversy seems to be centred on the use of the word ‘Republic’, it is centred on the sentence occurring in paragraph 4 “the sovereignty is derived from the people “. Thereby it arises from the point made by my friend Dr. Jayakar yesterday that in the absence of the Muslim League it would not be proper for this Assembly to proceed to deal with this Resolution. Now, Sir, I have got not the slightest doubt in my mind as to the future evolution and the ultimate shape of the social, political and economic structure of this great country. I know today we are divided politically, socially, and economically. We are a group of warring camps and I may go even to the extent of confessing that I am probably one of the leaders of such a camp. But, Sir, with all this, I am quite convinced that given time and circumstance nothing in the world will prevent this country from becoming one. (Applause): With all our castes and creeds I have hot the slightest hesitation that we shall in some form be a united people (cheers). I have no hesitation in saying that not withstanding the agitation of the Muslim League for partition of India some day enough light would dawn upon the Muslims themselves and they too will begin to thin that a United India is better even for them(Loud cheers and applause).
So far as the ultimate goal is concerned, I think none of us need have any apprehensions. None of us need have any doubt. Our difficulty is not about the ultimate future. Our difficulty is how to make the heterogeneous mass that we have today take a decision in common and march on the co-operative way which leads us to unity. Our difficulty is not with regard to the ultimate, our difficulty is with regard to the beginning. Mr. Chairman, therefore, I should have thought that in order to make a thought, in order to induce every party, every section in this country to take on to road it would be an act of greatest statesmanship for the majority party even to make a concession to the prejudices of people who are not prepared to march together and it is for that, that I propose to make this appeal. Let us leave aside slogans, let us even make a concession to the prejudices of our opponents, bring them in, so that they may willingly join with us on marching upon that road, which as I said, if we walk long enough, must necessarily lead us to unity. If I, therefore, from this place support Dr. Jayakar’s amendment, it is because I want all of us to realise that whether we are right or wrong, whether the position that we take in consonance with out legal rights, whether that agrees with the Statement of May 16th or December 6th, leave all that aside. This is too big a question to be treated as a matter of legal rights. It is not a legal question at all. We should leave aside all legal considerations and make some attempt, whereby those who ate not prepared to come, will come. Let us make it possible for them to come, that is my appeal.
In the course of the debate that took place, there were two questions which were raised, which struck me so well that I took the trouble of taking them down on a note paper. The one question was, I think, by my friend, the Prime Minister of Bihar who spoke yesterday in this Assembly. He said, how can this Resolution prevent the league from coming into the Constituent Assembly? Today my friend, Dr. Syama Prasad Mookherjee, asked another question. Is this Resolution in consistent with the Cabinet Mission proposed? Sir, I think they are very important questions and they ought to be answered and answered category . I do maintain that this Resolution whether it is intended to bring about the result or not, whether it is a result of cold calculation or whether it is a mere matter of accident is bound to have the result of keeping the Muslim League out. In this connection, I should like to invite your attention to paragraph 3 of the Resolution, which I think is very significant and very important. Paragraph 3 envisages the future Constitution of India. I do not know what is the intention of the mover of the Resolution. But I take it that after this Resolution is passed, it will act as a sort of a directive to the Constituent assembly to frame a Constitution in terms of para 3 of the Resolution. What does paragraph 3 speak of? Paragraph 3 says that in this country there shall be two different sets of polity, one at the bottom, autonomous Provinces or the States or such other areas as care to join a United India. These autonomous units will have full power. They will have also residuary powers. At the top, over the Provincial Units, there will be a Union Government, having certain subjects for legislation, for execution and for administration. As I read this part of the Resolution, I do not find any reference to the idea of grouping, and intermediary structure between the Union on the one hand and the provinces on the other. Reading this para, in the light of the Cabinet mission’s Statement or reading it even in the light of the Resolution passed by the Congress at its Wardha session, I must confess that I am a great deal surprised at the absence of any reference to the idea of grouping (hear, hear). I like strong united centre, (hear, hear ) much stronger than the Centre we had created under the Government of India Act, 1935. But, Sir, these opinions, these wishes have no bearing on the situation at all. We have travelled a long road. The Congress Party, for reasons best known of itself consented, if I may use that expression, to the dismantling of a strong Centre which had been created in this country as a result of 150 years of administration which I must say , was to me a matter of great admiration and respect. But having given up that position, having said that we do not want a strong centre, and having accepted that there must be or should be an intermediate polity, a sub-federation between the Union Government and the Provinces I would like to know why there is no reference in para 3 to the idea of grouping. I quite understand that the Congress Party, the Muslim League and His Majesty’s Government are not ‘ad idem’ on the interpretation of the clause relating to grouping. But I always thought that, I am prepared to stand correct if it is shown that I am wrong, at least it was agreed by the Congress Party that if the Provinces which are place within different groups consent to form a Union or Sub-federation, the Congress would have no objection to that proposal. I believe I am correct in interpreting the mind of the Congress Party. The question I ask is this. Why did not the Mover of this Resolution make reference to the idea of a Union of Provinces or grouping of Provinces on the terms on which he and his party was prepared to accept it ? Why is the idea of Union completely affected from this Resolution? I find no answer. None whatever.
I therefore say in answer to the two questions which have been posed here in this Assembly by the Prime Minister of Bihar and Dr. Syama Prasad Mookherjee as to how this Resolution is inconsistent with the statement of May 16th or how this Resolutions going to prevent the Muslim League from entering this Constituent Assembly, that here is para 3 which the Muslim League is bound to take advantage of and justify its continued abstention. Sir, my friend Dr. Jayakar, yesterday, in arguing his case for postponing a decision on this issue put his case, if I may say so, without offence to him, somewhat in a legalistic manner. The basis of his argument was, have you the right to do so? He read out certain portions from the Statement of the Cabinet Mission which related to the procedural part of the Constituent Assembly and his contention was that the procedure that this Constituent Assembly was adopting in deciding upon this Resolution straightaway was inconsistent with the procedure that was laid down in that paper. Sir, I like to put the matter in a somewhat different way. The way, I like to put it is this, I am not asking you to consider whether you have the right to pass this Resolution straightaway or not. It may be that you have the right to do so. The question I am asking is this. Is it prudent for you to do so? Is it wise for you to do so? Power is one thing; wisdom is quite a different thing and I want this House to consider this matter from the point of view, namely, whether it would be wise, whether it would be statesmanlike, whether it would be prudent to do so at this stage. The answer that I give is that it would not be prudent, it would not be wise. I suggest that another attempt may be made to bring about a solution of the dispute between the Congress and the Muslim League. This subject is so vital, so important that I am sure it could never be decided on the mere basis of dignity of one party or the dignity of another party. When deciding the destinies of nations, dignities of people, dignities of leaders and dignities of parties ought to count for nothing. The destiny of the country ought to count for nothing. The destiny of the country ought to count for everything. It is because I feel that it would in the interest not only of this Constituent Assembly so that it may function as one whole, so that it may have the reaction of the Muslim League before it proceeds to decision that I support Dr. Jayakar’s amendment-we must also consider what is going to happen with regard to the future, if we act precipitately. I do not know what plans Congress Party, which holds this House in its possession, has in its mind? I have no power of divination to know what they are thinking about. What are their tactics, what is their strategy, I do not know. But applying my mind as an outsider to the issue that has arisen, it seems to me there are only three ways by which the future will be decided. Either there shall have to be surrender by the one party to the wishes of the other-that is one way. The other way would be what I call a negotiated peace and the third way would be open war. Sir, I have been hearing from certain members of the Constituent Assembly that they are prepared to go to war. I must confess that I am appalled at the ideal that anybody in this country should think of solving the political problems of this country by the method of war. I do not know how many people in this country support that idea. A good many perhaps do and the reason why I think they do, is because most of them at any rate a great many of them, believe that the war that they are thinking of, would be a war on the British. Well, Sir, if the war that is contemplated, that is in the minds of people, can be localised, circumscribed , so that it will not be more than a war on the British, I probably may not have much objection to that sort of strategy. But will it be a war on the British only? I have no hesitation and I do want to place before this House in the clearest terms possible that if was comes in this country and if that was has any relation to the issue with which we are confronted today, it will not be a war on the British. It will be a war on the Muslims. It will be a war on the Muslims of which is probably worse, it will be a war on a combination of the British and Muslims. I cannot see how this contemplated war be of the sort different from what I fear it will be. Sir, I like to read to the House a passage from Burke’s great speech on Conciliation with America. I believe this may have some effect upon the temper of this House. The British people as you know were trying to conquer the rebellious colonies of the United States, and bring them under their subjection contrary to their wishes. In repelling this idea of conquering the colonies this is what Burke said :
“First, Sir permit me to observe, that the use of force alone is but temporary. It may subdue for a moment; but it does not remove the necessity of subduing again; and a nation is not governed which is perpetually to be conquered. “My next objection is its uncertainty. Terror is not always the effect of force and an armament is not a victory. If you do not succeed, you are without resource for, conciliation failing, force remains; but, force failing, no further hope of reconciliation is left. Power and authority are sometimes brought by kindness; but they can never be begged as alms by an impoverished and defeated violence…”
“A further objection to force is that you impair the object by your very endeavours to preserve it. The thing you fought for is not the thing which you recover; but depreciated, sunk, wasted and consumed in the contest.”
These are weighty words which it would be perilous to ignore. If there is anybody who has in his mind the project of solving the Hindu-Muslim problem by force, which is another name of solving it by war, in order that the Muslims may be subjugated and made to surrender to the Constitution that might be prepared without their consent, this country would be involved perpetually conquering them. The conquest would not be one and for ever. I do not wish to take more time than I have taken and I will conclude by again referring to Burke. Burke has said somewhere that it is easy to give power, it is difficult to give wisdom. Let us prove by our conduct that if this Assembly has arrogated to itself governing powers it is prepared to exercise them with wisdom. That is the only way by which we can carry with us all sections of the country. There is no other way that can lead us to unity. Let us have no doubt on that point.(Speech concludes)
It is very difficult to resist the temptation of quoting the mammoth and brilliantly revealing speech. The resolution launched by Panit Nehru was successfully hurdled. May be, because of this daring act of offence Dr. Jayakar was dropped from the Assembly in July next year and Dr. Ambedkar who ceased to be a member of the Constituent Assembly from the 23rd of June 1947, as a consequence upon the partition of India in particular Bengal, wherefrom he go himself elected was re-elected in the Assembly before the 14th July, 1947 when the Assembly was to sit next time. For this Dr. Rajendra Prasad requested Mr. B. G. Kher the then Prime Minister of Bombay, on 30th June, 1947, to elect Dr. Ambedkar immediately.
The presence and participation of Dr. Ambedkar in the framing of the Constitution of India was so indispensable and important that the members of the Constituent Assembly and leaders of the Nation could not think even a day, what to talk about a session, without Dr. Ambedkar in the Assembly’s deliberations. There was no other member in the Assembly so senior, qualified and equipped as Dr. Ambedkar was. None in the Constituent Assembly was associated for such a protracted period as Dr. Ambedkar in the process of framing of the Constitution of India from so early stages. Dr. Ambedkar started contributing in the fathering of the Constitution of the country from the year 1928 by his working with the Simon Commission. This Commission eventually turned into the Round Table Conference which gave the Communal Award 1932 and the Government of India Act, 1935. Constituent Assembly was responsible to give it its final shape. On 29th August, 1947 he was unanimously elected as the Chairman of the Drafting Committee by its seven members, which was up only on the previous day. Therefore, Dr. Rajendra Prasad very rightly wrote to direct the then P.M. of Bombay Province:
“Apart from any other consideration we have found Dr. Ambedkar’s work both in Constituent Assembly and the various committees to which he was appointed to be of such an order as to require that we should not be deprived of his services. As you know, he was elected from Bengal and after the division of the province he was ceased to be a member of the Constituent Assembly commencing from the 14th July 1947 and it is therefore necessary that he should be elected immediately.”
For his brilliant contribution in framing the Constitution of India, which is the largest ever written Constitution on the Earth, Dr. Ambedkar was conferred with the highest degree in the Law faculty, the LL.D by the Colombia University of U.S.A.