As a school student, I remember quickly flipping the first few pages of my textbooks and jumping to the actual subject lessons. I wondered why did they “waste” so many pages in the same old unimportant stuff like the national anthem and the preamble to the constitution. Well it was only after my civics textbook told me, did I learn what the word preamble meant. Not that it interested me! But today when I study the preamble from a very different perspective that I am overwhelmed with the philosophy it puts forth. It is only after understanding that philosophy that I am able to appreciate its beauty. In this article, I shall attempt to share this realization which might help some of us to look at not just the preamble, but also the entire constitution and thereby our polity and our country as a whole in a different perspective.
When the constitution was being framed, Nehruji passed the ‘Objectives Resolution‘ in the constituent assembly. This document acted as a guide to the framers about the principles and values that would be implemented through the constitutional provisions. In short, it gave the philosophical framework of our constitution. This document was later added to the constitution in the form of our preamble. Hence the preamble basically acts as a vision document or preface to our elaborate constitution.
We, the people of India…
The preamble begins with these powerful words. I use the word powerful because it gives me an identity – both individual and collective. Yes, and it gives this power to that every citizen who calls this country her own! It is one of the most forceful reminders to any despotic or imperialist tendencies that might hover around. It clarifies that this country belongs to democracy, to the people! The other power these words give me is my identity of being Indian which stands tall and strong and connects me to that every person who calls herself an Indian! This is regardless of my caste, religion, sex or race! When I intend to locate myself on the political atlas I can proudly say that no dictator, no king, no imperial power but my own people have adopted this rule book for themselves.
Along with this power, it reminds me of my duties also. If we the people have solemnly resolved to make our country in a certain way, it is our responsibility to make it that way. How many of us are actually aware of the duties that we as citizens should fulfill? Yes, we expect the administrators to work clean but don’t hesitate to slip in a few bucks to the traffic police when caught breaking traffic rules! Are we simply here to enjoy this power or are we actually going to be the responsible citizens who have framed such a constitution for themselves?
Sovereign Socialist Secular Democratic Republic…..
These words describe how “we the people” want our country to be. When we are sovereign it means, we are not just free but empowered to take our own decisions. This word may not seem to appeal to us today because we have not known what it must have been to be a colony of an imperial power. But this very ability for a country to govern itself was the most sought-after dream back then.
The word socialist was added to the preamble by the 42nd Constitutional Amendment. However, India during its freedom struggle was not just fighting the British. It was also going through an internal churning to break the shackles of class discrimination. But Indian type of socialism is beyond class discrimination. Often called Gandhian socialism, the Indian variant has more to do with empowerment of the grassroots levels. Self-governing villages have been the system in India ever since the Vedic times and making self-governance a part of the modern Indian polity was must. It also laid down that despite the global wave of opening up of economies and capitalism becoming dominant, India will not forget its welfare obligation.
There is a lot of clamour going about the next term. However, without getting into any of the controversies I wish to put light upon the philosophical context of the term. India is the birthplace of various religions and the cradle of a composite and accommodative culture. Hence becoming a theocratic state with one national religion was rejected. It was easily possible for us to completely negate the relation of state with religion. This is the western brand of secularism. But here again, we decided to balance the sword at its tip. We adopted the Indian brand of secularism which gave equal protection to ALL the religions instead of NO religion. It was a daring task to adopt such a provision because India had numerous religions coexisting, developing and even propagating at the same time. There was all the possibility of debates and misunderstandings in future. But still, there was a faith in “we the people” that we shall open-mindedly accept all the faiths and allow each of them the space to flourish without hurting the other. Are we standing true to that faith in us is to be pondered upon?
The word Democracy is easily used in politics. But can we imagine a nation in 1947, ruled by the British for over 200 years and self governance being a totally new experiment, with 70% or more illiteracy, still under shackles of caste discrimination, patriarchy and multiple dividers and when very few nations of the world gave voting rights to women to adopt universal adult suffrage !! This was an overwhelming aspiration. A nation that was never a single country was suddenly brought at a completely equal level. India became the largest democracy in the world. Not just then, even today it is the largest and one of the most successful democracies of the world.
The beauty of the word democracy and the rest of the preamble have a lot more in store for us. The remaining part would be covered in part 2 of this article in the next week. Till then keep thinking upon this little piece of document ….