Forgotten fathers of the Constitution
Say Constitution and the first image that conjures before the mind is that of Dr BR Ambedkar- the chief of the drafting committee of the Constitutent Assembly.
Say Constitution and the first image that conjures before the mind is that of Dr BR Ambedkar- the chief of the drafting committee of the Constitutent Assembly. Jog the mind a bit and you are likely to remember that others like Jawaharlal Nehru, Sardar Patel, Dr Rajendra Prasad, Maulana Azad etc were also a part of the history chapters that tell us about how our Constitution, the lengthiest and probably the most complicated one in the world, was written. They were truly, the founding fathers of our Republic.
But there were others too. You don’t think that the 395 articles in 22 parts, 14 schedules and 94 amendments and a total of 117,369 words were written by just a handful of intelligent men and women, do you? It was worked upon by 205 elected and nominated Indians from across the country. As India completes 60 years of being governed in letter and spirit by the Constitution, here is a quick look at the forgotten luminaries who have got lost in the annals of history despite their contribution in its formation.
Benegal Narsing Rau: The most eminent jurist of his time, Rau not only played a key role in drafting the Constitution of India but also that of Burma. He was appointed an advisor to the Constituent Assembly and though was not part of the Committee itself, he was next to Amedkar in his role. Rau, who was knighted in 1938 for revising the entire Indian statutory code, was responsible for the democratic structure of the Constitution and prepared the final draft. He went on to represent India at the UN Security Council and was a judge at the International Court of Justice in The Hague. He was a combination of hard work, humility, search for perfection and erudition.
Saiyad Mohammed Saadulla: Representing Assam, Saadulla was a member of the Muslim League. He was an eminent member of the steering and drafting committees which worked under Rajendra Prasad and Ambedkar respectively. He became the premiere of Assam twice and was knighted by the British in 1928.
Dr Sachchidananda Sinha: An eminent Congress man, Sinha was chosen to preside over the first session of the Constituent Assembly and his name was suggested by Acharya Kruplani. In his inaugural address, he asked the members to deeply study prominent Constitutions of the world, especially the American one- a source from where eventually the Indian Constitution borrowed a lot, including the principle of separation of powers. He inspired those present by invoking Iqbal and concluding with a quote from the Bible: Where there is no vision, the people perish.
M A Ayyangar: He represented Madras and was a prominent member of the steering committee. He was the first Deputy Speaker of the Lok Sabha and was handpicked by Nehru to fill in the void left by the demise of the first Speaker GV Mavalankar. He was a member of the first elected council in India and was known for his phenomenal memory, Sanskrit knowledge and a keen interest in culture. He also became the Governor of Bihar in 1962.
N Gopalswami Ayyangar: An able administrator, Ayyangar was a member of the rules, business, drafting and several other committees. He was a lawyer-politician who represented Madras in the Constituent Assembly. Ayyangar played a key role in the exposition of Article 370 and was responsible for closing the differences between Sardar Patel and Sheikh Abdullah.
Alladi Krishnaswami Ayyar: A highly learned advocate who was thrice the Advocate Gneral of Madras, Sir Alladi was personally asked by Nehru to come on board the drafting committee. His contribution was vast- ranging from how far the fundamental rights be untouched to the defining of the privileges of the Parliament. Such was the respect and awe for his that some of his words were included verbatim in the Constitution.
G Durgabai: A criminal lawyer by profession and a feminist by virtue (she founded what is today the Andhra Mahila Sabha), she was a member of the steering and rules committees. An early participant in the Freedom struggle, Durgabai made contribution in drafting and enacting the Hindu Code Bill. She worked to include provisions for protection of women and children against exploitation in the Constitution.
T T Krishnamachari: A Representative from Madras, he was also a member of the drafting committee. TTK as he is more popularly known in Chennai debated rigorously on uncontrolled freedom to individual. He was actually an eminent member of the state Assembly and was sent to the Constituent Assembly to attend the its debates. Later, he became a part of it. TTK went on to become Union Finance Minister twice and opposed the idea of a single official language- Hindi- for the whole of India.
H C Mookerjee: A representative of Bengal apart from being the former Vice-Chancellor of Calcutta University and a prominent Christian, Mookerjee was vice-president of the Constituent Assembly and Chairman of the minority rights sub-committee and provincial constitution committee. He began with suggesting reservation for the upliftment of minorities in all fields including political but, after Partition, changed his suggestion and limited it to provision for preservation of the language and culture of minorities. This has been interpreted to open educational institutes and other institutions by minority communities.
K M Munshi: Representing Bombay, Munshi was one of the most prominent members of the Assembly who was a member of 11 committees- largest number for any 1 member- including the rules, steering and advisory committees. The principle of granting every person equal protection of laws was a result of Munshi and Ambedkar’s joint effort. He was also a votary of a strong Centre, leading to a structure which is Federal and at the same time Parliamentary in nature. He is the founder of the Bhartiya Vidya Bhavan which is one of the leading educational institutes in India today. He also founded the Swatantra Party.
N Madhava Rau: A representative of Orissa, he served as a constitutional adviser to the eastern states eventually becoming a member of the drafting committee.
B Pattabhi Sitaramayya: He fought Subhash Chandra Bose for Congress presidency and lost even when Gandhi withdrew his nomination. Sitaramayya was the chairman of the House Committee and was a member of the rules, states, union subjects and provincial constitution committees. He was a votary of the Directive Principle that asked states to raise the level of nutrition and standard of living of citizens. It was on his recommendation that Constituent Assembly agreed to incorporate Articles 239 and 240 in the Constitution to
allow Part-C states functioning through a Chief Commissioner or Lieutenant Governor (like Delhi).
These and many other members are not known till date but their contributions made the Constitution of India a sturdy document that runs the largest democracy in India. But, as Kuladhar Chaliha, an assembly member from Assam said, it was an advantage since they `could look into [the drafting of the constitution] dispassionately and produce the one that was necessary.`
On the occasion of India’s 60th Republic Day, society must make an effort to remember these forgotten fathers of the Constitution.