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constitution of india as drafted by hindu mahasabha

Updated: 2 days ago

constitution of india as drafted by hindu mahasabha

 

very few would know that hindu maha sabha, of which savarkar was the president ,had drafted a constituion for india, much before the british constituted constituent assembly started the exercise in 1946. as a political outfit rivalling the congress, in the 1939 session of the hindu mahasabha in calcutta, savarkar laid out his vision of the future constitution of india.

 

in such a constitution citizens would have equal rights on the condition they avow and owe an exclusive and devoted allegia to the hindusthani state'.

 

drafting such a constitution was a route for the hindu mahasabha to become both politically acceptable and rival congress. after the end of the second world war, the establishment of the constituent assembly was imminent. to prepare for this momentous development, it was no longer just desirable but also necessary for all political parties to set out their own vision of the constitution on the basis of which india would be a sovereign nation. following savarkar's lead, this is what the mahasabha set to do.

 

it is generally averred and believed that savarkar originated te  word 'hindutava'. he was of firm opinion that hindus are those who considered bharatvarsh as the holy land. obviously it excuded muslims and christians who looked for holy places away from india. under this notion, there would be two classes of citizens in the free india with differring rights. it is also said that he was against partition and creation of a homeland for muslims out of the territory of ndia.

 

with these established ideas about savarkar and, hence, of hindu maha sabha, it is to be anticipated that constitution approved by them would follow these guidelines.

 

however, the reality is different. here we outline the framing of constitution by the hindu maha sabha, of which savarkar was president.

 

constitution of the hindusthan free state

 

the mahasabha entrusted the hard task of drafting the actual provisions of a constitutional document to the bhopatkar satkar nidhi in poona, which functioned as de facto drafting committee. this group set up by laxman bhopatkar, a follower of bal gangadhar tilak and a  prominent leader of hindu mahasabha, set up a committee led by d.v. gokhale, well-known intellectual, support  was provided by n.c. kelkar, a well kown nationalist leader from maharashtra, who had urged savarkar to take up the presidency of the mahasabha in the first place.

 

the constitution that came out of their deliberations optically looked very distinct from the eventual constitution of india. it was relatively shorter, with 111 provisions. it also contained a set of principles that provided the underlying basis for these provisions. semantically, it struck a different chord, referring to india as 'hindusthan' and the constitution as the constitution of the 'hindusthan free state'. the name was a reflection of the study on global constitutions that had been undertaken by the committee. during this study, it emerged that the irish free state should be a model, having managed to free itself from british rule two decades earlier. for the draftsmen, borrowing the title 'free state' would mark a decisive break from any kind of subservience, whether colonial rule or even to the commonwealth, much like the irish free state had managed. the drafters did not make any bones about their borrowed inspiration: after all, in their words, india was 'the last in the british empire to seek emancipation through a democratic and republican constitution.

 

what was also borrowed were the principles on  which the constitution was founded. these principles proclaimed popular sovereignty, individual freedom, justice and peace, and indivisibility of the nation state as the founding tenets of the new nation. the drafters adopted these principles because they were the distillation of 'modern political thought'. undoubtedly, the first three could claim this mantle and had formed the bedrock of all well-meaning twentieth-century constitutions. the fourth principle of the indivisibility of the indian nation state was a reflection of the hindu mahasabha's steadfast opposition to the idea of pakistan and the partition of india. hindusthan was a land which, for savarkar and the mahasabha, was geographically bounded by the himalayas and the great mountains of the north and the indian ocean in the south. the fact that some areas had a muslim majority was irrelevant; their constitution provided adequate safeguards to ensure the protection of all minority communities in the future hindusthan free state. muslims had no reason to worry, let alone press for partition to secure their future.

given the.extent of.borrowing, it is not surprising.that this substance of the constitution of hindustan free state was as colonial.inspired as the eventual constitution of india.the starting point for gokhale and his colleagues much like it was for rau and ambedekar was a study of global constitutions. soviet constitution apart, at the time there was a global consensus on what civilized democracies should enshrine in the constitutional texts? fundamental rights of.was the bedrock of such texts.

while incorporating fundamental rights, the constitution of.this indian free state expressly acknowledge the four freedoms enumerated by president roosevelt as chief inspiation.these was the civil and political freedoms of expression and worship, and the social economic freedom from want and fear. not restrained by legalistic objections of whether the latter would be feasible for the state to provide .the constitution of hindustan free state made the right to receive free education, insurance against unemployment, living wages to every worker, maternity benefits, old age pension and land rights to the tiller guaranteed rights of man and citizen.

unlike those who drafted the constitution of india, the drafters of the constitution of hindustan free state, were not unduly concerned by the practical question of how such rights which required significant state resources will be realized. they were also not as wary of possible claims in court going from nonenforcement.kelkar, the author of a 29 page forward to the 56 page constitution and one of its chief endorser,had himself trained as a lawyer but had really made his career as the editor of kesari and maratta, nationalist publications brought out from pune.he was a long time associate of lokmanya tilak and after his death, reluctant gandhian. later he split with gandhi over the issue of non cooperation. like many he felt that responsive cooperation with the british would be more fruitful of achieving the demands of the national movement. for him, the constitution was an ideal poltical charter to lay out the mahasabha's vision for india. he had no desire to get caught up in the details of how that vision would become reality. as a result is sometimes appear like a wish list.

the most intriguing element where the constitution of the hindustan free state broadly matched  the eventually constitution of india related to the freedom of religion. the constitution of the hindustan free state. provided freedom of conscience, free profession and practice of religion for all. further, it guaranteed to every citizen protection of their culture and language, subject to public order and morality. the state was also prohibited from discriminating against anyone on the basis of their religious belief or status. religious instruction could not be forced on anyone in a school receiving public grants. finally, it was categorically declared that there would be no state religion in the hindusthan free state. this restricted religion to a protected private sphere and foreclosed possibility of a constitutional hindu rashtra.

 

(extracted from 'the colonial constitution" by :argya sengupta"

publishers juggernaut books 2023)

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