India's Preamble doesn't have any terms or concepts which have helped sustain this civilization since its birth.
Ever since the CAA bill was passed, the Constitution of India has been in focus as never before. Some call it a ‘Holy Book’ whilst others hold it in their hands and swear by it. Many read the Preamble publicly as if to imply it is sacred.
So what is the Preamble?
“WE, THE PEOPLE OF INDIA, having solemnly resolved to constitute India into a SOVEREIGN SOCIALIST SECULAR DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC and to secure to all its citizens.
JUSTICE, social, economic and political;
LIBERTY of thought, expression, belief, faith and worship;
EQUALITY of status and opportunity; and to promote among them all
FRATERNITY assuring the dignity of the individual and unity and integrity of the Nation;
IN OUR CONSTITUENT ASSEMBLY this 26th day of November 1949, do HEREBY ADOPT, ENACT AND GIVE TO OURSELVES THIS CONSTITUTION.”
The words in red ‘Socialist and Secular’ ‘and integrity’ in the line on Fraternity were in 1976 by the 42nd amendment.
Before looking what the preamble seeks to secure for Indian citizens, note that the first draft of the Constitution prepared by Sir B N Rau had a marginal note giving references to the corresponding provisions in other constitutions or in the Government of India (GOI) Act 1935 for e.g. –
“Clause 12 (1) Right to Equality: Equal opportunities for all citizens in matter of employment under the State. (Cf. Government of India Act 1935, ss 275 and 298).” 1
“Clause 15 Right to Freedom: Liberty to exercise the following rights subject to public order and morality i.e. speech and expression, assemble peacefully without arms, to form associations or unions, move freely throughout the territories of the federation. (Cf. Irish Constitution, Art 40 (6). Constitution of Danzig, Art 75).” 2
“Clause 16 Protection of life and liberty and equality before law: No person shall be deprived of his life or personal liberty without due process of law, not shall any person be denied equality before law within the territories of the Federation. (Cf U.S.A Constitution (1868), Art XIV, S. I, Irish Constitution Arts 40(1) and 40(4).” 3
In fact, the Drafting Committee was criticised for preparing a constitution borrowed from western ones to which Dr Ambedkar, whilst addressing the Constituent Assembly on 4 November 1948, said (excerpts),
“It is said that there is nothing new in the draft Constitution, that half of it has been copied from the GOI Act of 1935 and the rest of it has been borrowed from the constitutions of other countries. One likes to ask whether there can be anything new in a constitution framed at this hour in the history of the world.” 4
Let us now look at the source of key words in the Preamble.
SECULAR – the word is European in origin and not defined in the Constitution. It cannot mean equal respect of all religions because the Constitution does not provide equal human rights to all and scriptures of some religions do not accept that there are various pathways to God-realization.
LIBERTY – “The source for the concept of liberty, Article 21 protection of life and personal liberty, might be Clause 16 of the first draft of the Constitution which gives the reference of U.S. and Irish. (Cf U.S.A Constitution (1868), Art XIV, S. I, Irish Constitution Arts 40(1) and 40(4)).” 5
EQUALITY – The source of article 14, equality before law, lies in the American and Irish Constitutions. 6
The constitution was framed seventy years ago when the situation in India was different and the Western model was the only democratic model Indians could look up to. Based on our experiences, learnings and evolution it is perhaps a good time to revisit the Preamble.
Human thought and interaction are at the core of improving society. Therefore, if our approach changes to what citizens must do, how they must conduct themselves, what could their thought process be we might come closer to achieving what is said in the current preamble ie justice-equality-socialism. Changing the preamble in no ways changes the basic structure of the Constitution. Even if some believe it does, we must evaluate if change is for the better. Spiritually speaking, change is the essence of life – a rolling stone gathers no moss.
In a way, the Supreme Court motto, यतो धर्मस्ततो जयः Yato Dharmah Tato Jayah, Where there is Righteousness (Dharma), there is Victory (Jaya), has inspired me to suggest a new preamble.
The proposed preamble could start with “WE, THE PEOPLE OF INDIA, shall STRIVE to live by and follow – Dharma, Divinity, Samman, Sahayak, Daya, Swatantra Soch, Ekagrata, Deshbhakti and Anushashan.”
An annexure to the proposed preamble could explain the meaning of each word so that every Indian citizen can relate to and understand what the preamble expects of them.
The word, Dharma comes from the Sanskrit root word dhri, which means “to hold, keep or maintain.
Simply put, it means to support, nurture, duty, sewa and righteousness in all interactions with fellow citizens.
Vipassna Guru Shri S. N. Goenka wrote,
“When India became independent, the Indian government prepared its constitution, which stated that the constitution and government would be Dharma-nirpeksh, meaning non-Dharmic. This was a blunder. How can any government be non-Dharmic? It has to be Dharmic, meaning it will give importance to right conduct. Actually, the constitution should have stated that it is non-sectarian, not non-Dharmic. The English word ‘secular’ was wrongly translated as Dharma-nirpeksh.”
Divinity – Every Indian accepts that the divinity that exists in them exists in every other human being.
Simply put, the God that exists in me exists in you. Thus at a spiritual level, all men and women are equal. Sri Aurobindo wrote,
“No inequality in the single virat purusa (Cosmic Spirit) of which each was a necessary part.”
Samman means respect.
We shall respect every fellow citizen and communicate in a manner by which another’s self-respect or Atma-Samman is not hurt.
Sahayak Swabhav means helping nature. We shall seek to help every fellow being in a selfless way and contribute to their well-being.
Daya means compassion. We shall help the poor and less fortunate in every possible way.
Swatantra Soch means independent thinking.
Maharshi Aurobindo said,
“Our first necessity, if India is to survive and do her appointed work in the world, is that the youth of India should learn to think, – to think on all subjects, to think independently, fruitfully, going to the heart of things, not stopped by their surface, free of prejudgments, shearing sophism and prejudice asunder as with a sharp sword, smiting down obscurantism of all kinds as with the mace of Bhima…” India’s Rebirth
Ekagrata means concentration. We shall concentrate on every action, with the resources that we have, and perform such that our productivity increases and leaves a positive impact on all that we do, for the benefit of the nation.
Anushasan means discipline.
Desh Bhakti means patriotism. Our actions will strengthen the unity, integrity, security of and democracy in India.
In every endeavour, we the people of India, a Sovereign Democratic Righteous Republic, shall break free from man-made distinctions of religion, sex, caste and economic status. Our aim is equal human rights for every Indian citizen. These concepts are universal in nature, easy to understand and can be translated into all Indian languages.
Hope this article starts a healthy debate on what the new Preamble to India’s Constitution could be.
References / Footnotes
1. The Framing of India’s Constitution’ (Volume 3) Editor B. Shiva Rao.
4. The Framing of India’s Constitution’ (Volume 4) Editor B. Shiva Rao. Pg 427
5. The Framing of India’s Constitution’ (Volume 3) Editor B. Shiva Rao.
6. The Constitution of India by P.M. Bakshi.