ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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‘Right to Represent’ versus ‘Right to Representation’

Holding the executive accountable, a constitutional respon­sibility, seems to be set aside again in the recently concluded monsoon session of Parliament. A political, institutional and moral deficit is glaring as pressing concerns of the people such as the devastating impact of the second wave,...

Language Issue in Constituent Assembly Debates

The issue of the national language was one of the most contentious and passionately debated ones by members of the Constituent Assembly. The significance of this debate lies in the way the members imagined India as a nation, articulated regional and linguistic identities, and sought to build unity of purpose to lay the foundations of modern India. The debates revealed a divide between North and South India, and took on communal undertones too. The eventual choice of Hindi could be pushed through due to the numerical strength of the supporters of the language. This paper will unravel the varying standpoints of participants in this debate.

Forgetting Partition

History’s silence resonates in the textual silence of the Indian Constitution on the immense scale of violence and exodus accompanying the partition of the subcontinent, despite the contemporaneity of partition and constitution writing. Clearly discernible on a closer reading of the Constituent Assembly's debates are implicit influences of partition on key constitutional decisions, such as citizenship, political safeguards for religious minorities and provisions creating a strong central tendency in the union. The constitutional memory of partition, as a freak occurrence for which the "outsider" was to be blamed, resembles the understanding of official historiography. Behind these common registers of memory lie powerful nationalist narratives of identity and unity, which indicate a deep and abiding connection between constitutional amnesia and nationalism.

Naming the Muslim

The mob attack on a Muslim family and lynching of Mohammad Akhlaq Saifi at Dadri in December last year along with the Jawaharlal Nehru University sedition cases in early February have shifted the rhetoric and discourse of conceiving the Muslim in India. From the category of “religious minority,” which was passionately argued about throughout the periods of the Constituent Assembly debates, the Muslim question today is being increasingly constituted by “names” and food habit. The implications are far from merely rhetorical or symbolic.

Rights versus Representation

In the name of democracy, the constituent assembly of India adopted certain specific individual and collective rights to religion. Democracy, however, is not just about rights; another integral component of democracy is representation. This essay argues that the granting of a range of individual and collective religious rights to the minorities was used, in the constituent assembly, to justify the refusal of their demand for more adequate mechanisms of representation, for instance, for proportional representation or for reserved seats in the legislatures.

Secularism in the Constituent Assembly Debates, 1946-1950

Secularism, it has been argued, failed to stem the spread of communalism in India, because its marginalising and contempt of religion bred a backlash on which communalism thrived. This article contends that this 'contempt for religion' was marginalised in the course of the secularism debates in the Constituent Assembly. The dominant position on secularism that a 'democratic' Constitution find place for religion as a way of life for most Indians triumphed over those who wished for the Assembly to grant only a narrow right to religious freedom, or to make the uniform civil code a fundamental right. These early discussions on religious freedom also highlight a paradox - it is precisely some of the advocates of a broad right to religious freedom who were also the most vociferous opponents of any political rights for religious minorities.
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