Musings on the Constitution-XXXVIII Narasimhan Vijayaraghavan

Musings on the Constitution-XXXVIII
Narasimhan Vijayaraghavan

Muslim League Leaders in 1946
I do not think it necessary to say one word of my own when the speech of Dr. Syama Prasad says it all.
“The Muslim League should come so that we can meet each other face to face. If there are difficulties, if there are differences of opinion, we do not wish that we should carry only by majority votes. That may have to be done as a last resort, but obviously, every attempt must be made, will be made to come to an agreement as regards the future Constitution of India. But why is the Muslim League being prevented from coming? My charge is that the Muslim League is not coming because of the encouragement it receives from British attitude. The Muslim League has been encouraged to feel that if it does not come, it may be able to veto the final decision of the Constituent Assembly. The power of veto in some form or another has again passed into the hands of the Muslim League, and that is the danger that threatens the future activities of this great Assembly.

Jinnah with Gandhi

Sir, I am not going to discuss in detail, because this is neither the time nor the occasion when I can discuss, the various provisions of the British statements. But, I would certainly say this: that this Constituent Assembly, although it is a British creation for the time being, once it has come into existence, it has the power, if it has the will, to assert its right and to do what is best and proper for the attainment of India’s freedom, for the good of the people of India irrespective of caste, creed or community. (Hear, hear).

Constituent Assembly in Session

We shall give the Cabinet Mission Scheme of May 16th, a chance; genuinely, honestly we shall see if we can come to an agreement with the other parties and elements on the basis of the Scheme on May 16, 1946. But subsequent interpretations, if any, we are not going to accept. Or if any party chooses to deviate from the Scheme and break away, we shall proceed and frame the Constitution as we wish.
There has been considerable difference of opinion with regard to one clause of the Statement of May 16, 1946, and that is with regard to the question of grouping. Now, it is for the Congress to decide, as one of the major parties involved, what interpretation it is going to accept ultimately. If the interpretation as given by His Majesty’s Government is not accepted, and if the Congress considers that the interpretation put upon that portion of the Statement by it (the Congress) is correct, then of course a crisis may come.
That is a question which has to be decided apart from a discussion on this Resolution. In fact, the greater the delay in making a decision on that question, the greater will be the atmosphere of unreality; so far as the proceedings of this House are concerned. But, after that question is decided, supposing the interpretation put by His Majesty’s Government is accepted, whether by a reference to the Federal Court, or not, I need not go into, then we shall go on.

Federal Court
We shall proceed with our work. The Muslim League may come or may not come if it comes, well and good; and even if it does not come, it cannot retard India’s freedom and we must claim to proceed with our business in this Constituent Assembly. I feel, Sir, that if a crisis does come, as I visualise it is likely to come, if our country is to be free, it is not going to be in accordance with constitutional means. In view of the developments that have taken place during the last few days, our task will not be performed so easily. But let me emphasise that whatever has to be done, it has to be done through the agency of this Constituent Assembly and none other. If ultimately we have to function, we shall function on our own responsibility and prepare a constitution which we shall be able to place before the bar of world opinion and satisfy everyone that we have treated the people of India, minorities and all, in a just and equitable manner.
After all, what happened with regard to the South African question? We have today in our- midst, the Hon’ble Mrs. Pandit, who has come back to her motherland after a great victory. But even there she was not supported by our self-constituted trustee- His Majesty’s Government in Great Britain. In fact the vote went against India so far as Great Britain was concerned. But she won. The Indian Delegation won before the bar of world opinion. Similar may be the case with regard to the Constituent Assembly also.

If we take courage in both hands and frame a constitution which will be just and equitable to all, then we shall be able, if need be, to declare this Constituent Assembly as the first Parliament of a Free and Sovereign Indian Republic. (Loud cheers.) We then may be able to form our own National Government and enforce our decision on the people of this land. As I said a few minutes ago, our sanction is not the British people or the British Government. Our sanction is the people of India and therefore we have to make the ultimate appeal to the people of our country

Sir, when we talk about minorities, it is suggested as if the Muslim League represents, the only minority in India. But that is not so. There are other minorities. Coming from Bengal with all her tragic suffering, let me remind the House that Hindus also constitute a minority in at least four Provinces in India and, if minority rights are to be protected, such rights must affect every minority which may vary from Province to Province.
Only last night, Lord Simon made the startling announcement that the Constituent Assembly sitting in Delhi consists of only Caste Hindus. So many false statements have been uttered during the last few days in England that it is difficult to keep count of them all. But who are represented in this House today? There are Hindus; there are some Muslims too. At least there are Muslims from one Muslim province who come as representatives of a Government which is functioning there in spite of the Muslim League. There are the representatives of the Province of Assam which is supposed to be part and parcel of Mr. Jinnah’s Pakistan-to-come.

Muslim League Leaders before Partition
That Province is also officially represented by the majority of the people of that province. You have the Scheduled Castes. All the Scheduled Caste members who have been elected to the Constituent Assembly are here. Even Dr.Ambedkar who may not agree with us in all matters is present here (applause) and I take it it will be possible for us to convert him, or reconvert him and to get him to our side, (renewed applause) when we go to discuss in detail the interests of those whom he represents. There are other Scheduled Caste members also present here. The Sikhs are present here; all of them. The Anglo-Indians are present and so are the Indian Christians. So, how did it lie in the mouth of Lord Simon………… (A Voice: Parsis also are present here.) Yes, last but not least, the Parsees also are present here. So, how did it lie in the mouth of Lord Simon or anybody else… (A Voice: The Tribal representatives are here). Tribal areas and the Adivasis are here represented by my friend Mr. J. Singh. In fact, every element that has been elected to the Indian Constituent Assembly is here barring the Muslim League. The Muslim League represents a section. I take it a large section, may be a very large

(Author is practising advocate in the Madras High Court)

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