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HVK Archives: "The Constitution of India and National Unity" - L K Advani

"The Constitution of India and National Unity" - L K Advani - The Telegraph

Posted By Ashok V Chowgule (ashokvc@giasbm01.vsnl.net.in)
Wed, 19 Feb 97 21:44:30 EST

Rambhau Mhalgi Annual Memorial Lecture
President, Bharatiya Janata Party

"The Constitution of India and National Unity"

Tilak Smarak Bhavan, Pune
July 18, 1996

Organised by
Rambhau Mhalgi Prabodhini

'The Constitution of India and National Unity'

I am extremely grateful to the Rambhau Mhalgi Prabodhini for
inviting me here today for this function organised to commemorate
the 75th birth anniversary of Shri Rambhau Mhalgi. I had the
opportunity of working closely with him in Parliament where we both
represented the Bharatiya Jana Sangh. As a political activist, he
embodied idealism, integrity of character and dedicated service of
the people, but he was also an exemplary parliamentarian. It is,
indeed, rare these days to find persons who retain these qualities
even while being in the thick of public life.

I, therefore, commend the Prabodhini for keeping alive the memory
of such a great politician and parliamentarian through its
multifarious activities and, especially, by instituting an annual
lecture that bears his name. It is a fitting way of fostering
intellectual debate on issues which formed the core of Shri
Mhalgi's life and work.

It is especially necessary to remember people like Shri Mhalgi
today when the standards of parliamentary work and governance have
fallen precipitously. I often feel hesitant when young people come
to me and express a desire to see the functioning of Parliament
from visitor's gallery. They come with such heightened expectations
of watching the activities of the highest and haloed body of Indian
democracy, but what they actually see there disillusions them no
end. It often seems that, while formal training is required to
qualify for most other professions, no training or adherence to
professional norms is needed in the case of parliamentarians.

A member of Parliament has three-fold duties to discharge. As a
member of the highest law making body of the land, he has to acquit
himself as an alert, studious and painstaking legislator. Secondly,
as representative of the constituency that has elected him to
Parliament he has to nurse that constituency diligently and see to
it that the legitimate developmental needs of his constituency
are duly attended to. Lastly, both inside Parliament and outside,
the member's conduct and performance must subserve the cause and
ideology which his party seeks to promote.

I have had the privilege of serving in a parliamentary career
spanning over 25 years, which has just come to a close. I can think
of very few parliamentarians who have discharged all the above
mentioned three functions so ably and conscientiously as Shri
Mhalgi. He was indeed a model parliamentarian in every respect.

Two-Nation theory leads to Partition

The theme for this year's memorial lecture is: "The Constitution of
India and National Unity".

India became independent in August 1947. It was a great moment in
the history in the history of the nation. Unfortunately, freedom
was accompanied by partition of the country. A matter of even
greater regret was the fact that division had been forced on the
nation by the protagonists of the two-nation theory.

India's leadership agreed to the formation of Pakistan, but India
did not accept the two-nation theory. While framing free India's
Constitution, the Constituent Assembly remained steadfastly
committed to the credo which had inspired the entire freedom
movement, namely, that since times immemorial India has been one
country, and that all Indians irrespective of creed, caste or
language are one people. The basis of our unity, we believe, is our

Lokmanya Bal Gangadhar Tilak was born in Maharashtra; Maharshi
Arvind Ghosh hailed from Bengal; Mahatma Gandhi belonged to
Gujarat; T. Prakasam was from Andhra Pradesh. But the exertions of
these of the freedom movement, their tapasya, was for Bharatmata.

Why Union, not Federation

In this context, a significant discussion took place in the
Constituent assembly when the issue of the country's appellation
was being considered. Should India be described as a Union of
States or as a Federation of States? The original Draft of the
Constitution had referred to it as a Federation of States.
Subsequently, this draft was rephrased and the world 'Union' was

Spelling out the rationale for the change in the Draft, Dr. B.R.
Ambedkar, the principal architect of the Constitution, observed:

"Some critics have taken objection to the description of India in
Article 1 of the Draft Constitution as a Union of States. It is
said that the correct phraseology should be a Federation of
States. It is true that South Africa which is a unitary State is
described as a Union. But Canada which is Federation is also called
a Union. Thus the description of India as a Union, though its
Constitution is federal, does no violence to usage. But what is
important is that the use of the word 'Union' is deliberate. I do
not know why the word 'Union' was used in the Canadian
Constitution. But I can tell you why the Drafting committee has
used it.

"The Drafting Committee wanted to make it clear that though India
was to be a federation, the federation was not the result of an
agreement by the States to join in a federation and that the
federation not being the result of an agreement no State has the
right to secede from it.

"The Federation is a Union because it is indestructible. Though the
country and the people may be divided into different States for
convenience of administration the country is one integral whole,
the people a single people living under a single imperium derived
from a single source.

"The Americans had to wage a civil war to establish that the States
have no right of succession and that their Federation was
indestructible. The Drafting Committee thought that it was better
to make it clear at the outset rather than to leave it to
speculation or to dispute." (Emphasis added)

Ambedkar cautions against stress on diversity

'Unity in diversity' is said to be the hallmark of Indian
nationalism. The phrase, I think, would apply to any nation as vast
as ours.

Introducing the Draft Constitution, Dr. Ambedkar cautioned that
when diversity created by division of authority in a dual polity
goes beyond a certain point, it is capable of producing chaos. He

"The Draft Constitution has sought to forge means and methods
whereby India will have federation and at the same time will have
uniformity in all basic matters which are essential to maintain
unity of the country. The means adopted by the draft Constitution
are three:

1. A single Judiciary
2. Uniformity in fundamental laws, civil and criminal; and
3. A common All-India Civil Service to man important posts."

Prior to the attainment of independence all of us made a conscious
attempt to underline unity. After the achievement of independence
it is diversity which is being emphasized. Sometimes this emphasis
goes to very dangerous lengths. Even though the Constitution itself
mandates a Uniform Civil Code, successive Congress Governments have
refused to enact such code.

Many federal constitutions, as for example, that of the United
States recognise dual citizenship -- one of the Federal Union and
the other of the States. Often, therefore, there is a diversity in
the rights of citizens of different states. This is not unnatural
in situations where a federation has emerged from contract between
the federating states. In India, the historical background has been
totally different. Even when in ancient times the country was
divided into many kingdoms a common culture gave to the country a
sense of unity and oneness. The Constituent Assembly was alive to
this fact.

One People, One Culture

Those who watched the recent Lok Sabha debate on Shri A.B.
Vajpayee's confidence motion (May 27 and 28, 1996) may have noted
the criticism levelled against the BJP because of its belief that
ours is one country, that the ninety-five crore people living here
constitute one nation, and that they all share one culture. The
lives and works of all our seers from Adi Sankara to Swami
Dayananda to Swami Vivekananda to Yogi Arvind to Mahatma Gandhi
provide eloquent testimony for this concept of one country, one
nation , one culture.

Let us take the example of Adi Sankara. It seems almost
unbelievable today a man who lived only for 32 years could journey
through the length and breadth of this country nearly a millennium
ago preaching his philosophy of Advaita (non-dualism) and yet find
time to write numerous wonderful works on religion and philosophy.
He was not content with propagating his views in and around his
native village of Kaladi in Kerala, but made it his life mission to
set out on a pilgrimage from India's southernmost state to Kashmir
in the north, Gujarat in the west and Orissa in the east,
establishing maths (temples and seats of learning) in all four
corners of our land and thus further reinforcing the sense of
India's essential oneness.

This belief that India is One Nation, One People and One Culture
was held not only by our ancient seers, but also by all those who
fought for our independence, who created our Constitution and who
dreamed and strove for India's all-round progress. Going through a
Government of India publication of Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru's
speeches I was pleasantly surprised to read a speech Panditji
delivered in October 1961 at an AICC session held in Madurai.
Identifying the main factor which had kept India one united country
over millennia, Pandit Nehru observed:

"India has for ages past, been a country of pilgrimages. All over
the country you find these ancient places, from Badrinath,
Kedarnath and Amarnath, high up in the snowy Himalayas down to
Kanyakumari in the south.

"What has drawn our people from the south to the north and from
north to the south in these great pilgrimages?. It is the feeling
of one country and one culture and this feeling has bound us
together. Our ancient books have said that the land of Bharat is
the land stretching from the Himalayas in the north to the Southern

"This conception of Bharat as one great land which the people
considered a holy land has come down the ages and has joined us
together, even though we have had different political kingdoms and
even though we may speak different languages. This silken bond
still keeps us together in many ways." (Emphasis added)

Pandit Nehru did not use the word Hindu. But his Madurai speech
clearly spelt out the Hindu's age-old identification with this
country and its ancient culture as the substratum for national
unity. Anything that weakens this substratum, we hold, weakens
national unity. Unfortunately, a perverse interpretation of
secularism, and considerations of electoral expediency and vote
bank politics, have made the country's leadership ignore this
'silken bond' of one country and one culture which Pandit Nehru
spoke about.

Gurudev Rabindranath Tagore was even more explicit in emphasising
the oneness of India's culture and its Hindu roots. In his essay on
'Nationalism', he wrote:

"India has all along been trying to experiment in evolving a social
order within which all people could be held together, while fully
enjoying the freedom to maintain their differences. The tie has
been as loose as possible, yet as close as circumstances permitted.
This has produced something like a United States of Social
Federation whose common name is Hinduism." (Emphasis added.)

Homeland theory is dangerous

A few years back Government set up the Sarkaria Commission to
report on Central-State relations and to make recommendations in
that regard. A memorandum submitted to the Commission by the Punjab
Government said:

"....... with the reorganisation of the States on a linguistic
basis these are no longer mere administrative subdivisions of the
country with their boundaries for the most part a historical
legacy. These are now deliberately reorganised homelands of
different linguistic cultural groups. These groups are, in fact,
growing into distinct nationalities".

I regard this 'Homeland Thesis' as a very dangerous thesis. If the
'two-nation theory' led to the partition of India, acceptance of
this multi-nation theory can lead to the balkanisation of the

I am happy that the Sarkaria Commission categorically rejected this
thesis and affirmed that "the whole of India is the home land of
every citizen of the country", an affirmation to which Jammu and
Kashmir State would appear to be a regrettable exception.

Temporary Article 370 sought to be made permanent:

In the Constituent Assembly itself, speaking on behalf of the
Government, Shri. Gopalswami Ayyangar had expressed regrets that
while all other princely states had been fully integrated with the
rest of the country, an exception was being made with respect to
Jammu and Kashmir by incorporating Art. 370 in the Constitution.

The Congress Parliamentary Party had strongly opposed Art. 370. In
the Constituent Assembly, a strong protest was made by Maulana
Hasrat Mohani who described the Article as being discriminatory
against the people of Jammu and Kashmir. Shri Ayyangar who was
piloting the provision admitted that the article was discriminatory
but took pins to emphasis that this arrangement was temporary, and
that before long Jammu and Kashmir would become as fully integrated
with the Union as the other States. The tragedy is that today the
solemn assurance given to the Constituent Assembly is being
violated for reasons of political expediency and the temporary
provision is sought to be made permanent.

In this context I may refer to a memorandum submitted to the
Sarkaria Commission by the CPI (M), whose philosophy vis-`-vis
Indian nationhood goes far beyond Jinnah's two-nation theory or
Sheikh Abdullah's three-nation theory. Marxists have always been of
the view that India is a multi-nation state. No wonder they had
favoured the formation of Pakistan.

Marxists question bonafides of Constitution makers:

Criticising the unitary bias evident in the Constitution, the
Marxist memorandum questioned the very bonafides of India's
Constitution makers. They wrote:

"The Constitution that was framed after independence reflected the
needs of the capitalist path of development which required a
unified, single homogenous market. It reflected the needs of the
big capitalists allied with landlords...."

The above analysis that the Constitution's unitary bias owes to the
fact that its framers had the interests of the big landlords and
the capitalists is preposterous and perverse. It is a typical
instance of the distorted view one is bound to get even of major
historical events if one insists on seeing them only through the
tainted glasses of ideological dogma.

Through the deliberations of the Constituent Assembly one would
easily see that the while this distinguished body fully appreciated
that Indian society was multi-hued, and was not unichrome, they
were at the time acutely conscious of the cultural unity which
underlay this diversity. The political document they gave to the
people sought to underline this unity and emphasise one nationhood.

Greater powers for States

It is my feeling that at the time the Constitution was being framed
the Constitution makers did not envisage clearly the quantum of
burden that in course of time would come upon the States with
respect to their developmental duties. The resources given to
States are extremely meager, and also inelastic. The resources
allocated to the Centre are enormous. The result of the present
apportioning is that States are all the while dependent upon
central subventions even to carry out their primary responsibility
of building the State's social, industrial and service
infrastructure which is a pre-requisite for rapid socio-economic
development. I think that there is a strong case for devolution of
greater powers in favour the States. The Sarkaria Commission's
recommendations must be implemented without delay.

Decentralisation, Yes; Regionalisation, No:

In some quarters a lot of concern is being expressed these days
over the growth of regional parties. I see no reason why any one
should be alarmed over this. Concern about a State's development or
welfare is a legitimate concern and if in any State, national
parties are not able to measure up to the aspirations of the
people, State parties are bound to flourish.

However, while this decentralisation of powers is desirable,
regionalisation of perspective is not. Nor can regional chauvinism
be condoned. All political parties, regional or All India, must,
therefore, consciously inculcate in their support base a national

Compromise on Kashmir will jeopardise national unity:

Western observers who keep on giving gratuitous advice to us on
Kashmir, and suggesting various kinds of remedies to us as to how
we should deal with the problem -- from conferring grater autonomy
on the State, to letting it have a plebiscite and decide whether to
remain with India or go with Pakistan or become independent --
generally understand the problem just as a bone of contention
between India and Pakistan. New Delhi these days seems inclined to
buy their first proposal. The Rao Government publicly expressed its
willingness to make any concession to the militants "short of
azadi". The Deve Gowda Government in its declared Common Minimum
Programme has talked of giving "maximum autonomy" to J&K State.

We must, however, realise that our handling of the problem would
have a bearing on the country's unity. As I have already observed,
the case for greater devolution of powers in favour of the States
is sound. But to do so only in the case of Jammu and Kashmir
State, and that too in the wake of these five agonising years of
violence and subversion would mean putting a premium on insurgency.
A compromise in Kashmir would have a domino effect on the whole
country, and give a fillip to disruptive forces all round.

Dr. Rajendra Prasad's sage counsel

>From the perspective of national unity, I hold that India's
Constitution has been reasonably well designed. If, nevertheless,
after five decades of independence, the country finds its unity
gravely threatened by separatism and subversion, by terrorism and
violence, the fault lies not with the Constitution, but principally
with the manner in which those at the helm have been operating the

On 26 November, 1946, when the Constitution was formally adopted by
the Constituent Assembly, Dr. Rajendra Prasad, President of the
Assembly, made a moving valedictory speech in the course of which
he observed:

"If the people who are elected are capable, and men of character
and integrity, they would be able to make the best even of a
defective Constitution. If they are lacking in these, the
Constitution cannot help the country. After all, the Constitution,
like a machine, is a lifeless thing. It acquires life because of
the men who control it and operate it and India needs today nothing
more than a set of honest men who will have the interest of the
country before them."

We may think in terms of making changes and amendments in the
Constitution as can make the Constitution more effective in
preserving national unity, but we must always remain mindful of the
profound wisdom contained in Dr. Rajendra Babu's counsel.

Thank you.

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