Why Ambedkar didn’t want the ‘S’ words in the Constitution – Aravindan Neelakandan


B. R. Ambedkar

Aravindan NeelakandanIn 1976 during that darkest hour of Indian democracy—the Emergency—when India was spiralling down into an abyss of fascism under a socialist Congress’s rule, the 42nd Amendment was made, which slipped “secular” and “socialist” into the Preamble. – Aravindan Neelakandan

On 15 November 1948 at the Constituent Assembly debate in Parliament, a member, Prof K. T. Shah from Bihar moved an Amendment to the original Preamble statement. He insisted that the words, “Secular, Federal, Socialist” be inserted into the statement. In a detailed reply, B. R. Ambedkar justified why he did not include the words “secular” and “socialist” in the Preamble:

Sir, I regret that I cannot accept the amendment of Prof. K. T. Shah. My objections, stated briefly are two. In the first place the Constitution, as I stated in my opening speech in support of the motion I made before the House, is merely a mechanism for the purpose of regulating the work of the various organs of the State. It is not a mechanism where by particular members or particular parties are installed in office. What should be the policy of the State, how the Society should be organised in its social and economic side are matters which must be decided by the people themselves according to time and circumstances. It cannot be laid down in the Constitution itself, because that is destroying democracy altogether. If you state in the Constitution that the social organisation of the State shall take a particular form, you are, in my judgment, taking away the liberty of the people to decide what should be the social organisation in which they wish to live. 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. This is one reason why the amendment should be opposed.

Then Ambedkar remarked:

The second reason is that the amendment is purely superfluous.

However, in 1976 during that darkest hour of Indian democracy—the Emergency—when India was spiralling down into an abyss of fascism under a socialist Congress’s rule, the 42nd Amendment was made, which slipped “secular” and “socialist” into the Preamble. In other words, it was the addition of the words, the very words explicitly rejected by the main architect of the Constitution, which was sacrilegious; it was certainly against the spirit and sanctity of the Constitution. If anything, we need to undo this attack on the original draft of the Constitution and restore the original draft of Ambedkar. That would take into account the freedom of generations to come as well as the future of evolution of our social institutions, not caring for the frivolous fashion statements of political rhetoric shorn of substance. – Swarajya, Jan 28, 2015

» Aravindan Neelakandan is a contributing editor at Swarajya. This article is an abridgement of the original article in Swarajya.

Indira Gandhi, whose Indian National Congress government enacted the 42nd Amendment in 1976, during the Emergency.
Warning sign in New Delhi during Indira Gandhi's dictatorship (1975 to 1977)


 

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One Response

  1. Secularism in India means anti-Hindu activities.

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