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Making of the Indian Constitution

The cartoon of BR Ambedkar which created a parliamentary furore was sketched by cartoonist Shankar, as he was popularly called.

Even though some reports suggest that this was a 1950's cartoon, it was probably before January 26th 1950, when the Indian Constitution was adopted by the Indian Constituent Assembly. ToI suggests that this was a 1948 cartoon.  |  Copyright - Children's Book Trust; source and courtesy - outlookindia.com  |  Click for source image.

Even though some reports suggest that this was a 1950’s cartoon, it was probably before January 26th 1950, when the Indian Constitution was adopted by the Indian Constituent Assembly. ToI suggests that this was a 1948 cartoon. | Copyright – Children’s Book Trust; source and courtesy – outlookindia.com | Click for source image.

The school textbook cartoon of BR Ambedkar which created a furore in parliament on Friday was sketched by cartoonist Keshav Shankar Pillai.

Shankar, as he was popularly called, later founded the publishing house, Children’s Book Trust, in 1957. He made cartoons for newspapers and his magazine, Shankar’s Weekly, started in 1948. The government of India honoured him with Padma Shri in 1956, Padma Bhushan in 1966 and Padma Vibhushan in 1976.

The controversial cartoon was probably first published in 1948 and has been a part of NCERT’s (National Council Of Educational Research And Training) Class XI textbook in Tamil Nadu since 2006. The cartoon is credited to Children’s Book Trust.

It shows Ambedkar, a Dalit leader and creator of the Indian Constitution, seated on a snail with ‘Constitution’ written on it and India’s first prime minister, Jawaharlal Nehru, whipping the snail. (via Shankar made the Ambedkar-Nehru cartoon in 1950s – Hindustan Times).

What would Babasaheb Ambedkar tell his 'followers'?  |  Cartoon by Surendra; May 11, 2012; source & courtesy - thehindu.com  |  Click for larger image.

What would Babasaheb Ambedkar tell his ‘followers’? | Cartoon by Surendra; May 11, 2012; source & courtesy – thehindu.com | Click for larger image.

Up to speed

In a short period of less than 30 months, India wrote and implemented its constitution. It has been been a rather pliable constitution getting amended a number of times – and yet has been upheld and respected by all the extensions of the State.

Unlike Pakistan.

Now … or when?

After the boycott of the Simon Commission, from 1927, and the death of Lala Lajpat Rai (Nov 17, 1928), it was clear (especially to the British) that their days were numbered. Britain enacted The Government of India Act, first in 1919 and then in 1935. Some Indians have claimed the Indian Constitution is nothing original – based on the Government of India Act, 1935, by the British Raj.

This a claim not even worth examining, since this Government of India act, 1935, has been in public domain for more than 75 years. Pakistan had as much right to it as India did.

Why could Pakistan do nothing with it.

Documents do not make a country work! People do!! (Cartoon by Sabir Nazar; Courtesy - www.dailytimes.com.pk.).

Documents do not make a country work! People do!! (Cartoon by Sabir Nazar; Courtesy – http://www.dailytimes.com.pk.).

Get up … and get on!

In fact Pakistan’s Constituent Assembly dragged this Constitution-making exercise till October 1956.

Cut back to 1956 Pakistan.

Remember that 1956 was also the year when Pakistan became a republic – and the first constitution of Pakistan was adopted. Governor General Sahibzada Sayyid Iskander Ali Mirza (a Shia Muslim from Bengal, direct descendant of Mir Jaffer) became the first President of the Pakistani Republic.

Two years later, in October 1958, President Iskander Mirza staged a coup d’état and dismissed the constitution. Shortly afterwards General Ayub Khan deposed Iskandar and declared himself president. These shenanigans started the tradition of Army rule in Pakistan.

To an emerging Pakistan, after a 9 year struggle to write a constitution, two years later, the Army declared that the Constitution was worthless piece of paper. Another Constitution was written in 1962, and then a third.

The Shankar cartoon that was included in school textbooks which raised a furore in the Indian Parliament  |  Source and courtesy - outlookindia.com  |  Click for source image.

The Shankar cartoon that was included in school textbooks which raised a furore in the Indian Parliament | Source and courtesy – outlookindia.com | Click for source image.

Looking back

In the last 250 years, just 6 countries succeeded with Republican democracy without a significant breakdown in the first 50 years. Of the six, Sri Lanka (pop. 200 lakhs) Switzerland (pop. 80 lakhs), Israel (pop. 75 lakhs) and Singapore (pop. 50 lakhs) are tiny countries to generate any valuable data, models, norms or precedents. In any other day, age and society, the republican-democracy model would have been laughed off – and not studied by millions.

America became one of the first successful republican democracies – from 1789, when George Washington became the first elected President of USA. 70 years later, the strains were showing – North versus South. America was on the verge of Civil War – the main cause of which was the desire of the Southern states to remain independent (due to tariff issues) or at best as a loose confederation – not a federal union (actually slavery was a side issue).

Israel, (propped up by massive US aid) is another country which has been a republican democracy for more than 50 years. Switzerland (with guaranteed neutrality from the European powers) is another in modern history to survive 50 years of republican democracy.

The reason why India’s Republican Democracy works is because Indian genius has made it work. It is the commitment to make the system work, which is why the system is working.

Though some may cavil about how well (?) it works!

Coming to this cartoon, Shanker’s Weekly was a permanent fixture in subscriptions at my home, till its demise in the 1970s. Though respected in its time, it hardly made money.


India’s ‘success’ – Another Round of Hosanas to Great Britain

August 9, 2010 6 comments

Indians are in love with their colonial past. Colonial buildings are getting gold-plated. Colonialists contemptuous of India are getting memorials.

Why did the Great British document not protect the Pakistanis, Patelbhai?

Why did the Great British document not protect the Pakistanis, Patelbhai?

India romances of the Raj

It will shortly be 63 years of British departure from India. Indians seems to be in love with their colonial past. Colonial buildings are getting gold-plated. Colonialists who had contempt for India are getting memorials.

Colonial legacies like Indian railways, the biggest pile of steel scrap in the world in 1947, after modernization, renovation, expansion of 60 years is now being credited to the British. Indians are tripping over each other to account for the British contribution to Indian success.

Even where not due.

The British gift

Aakar Patel, a columnist for Mint newspaper (a JV between Hindustan Times and WSJ), a newspaper editor who has written a few books, writes,

The ritual murder of Pakistani polity by the Pakistani army (Democracy in Pakistan By Olle Johansson, Sweden; courtesy - blackcommentator.com.).

The ritual murder of Pakistani polity by the Pakistani army. (Democracy in Pakistan By Olle Johansson, Sweden; courtesy – blackcommentator.com.). Click for larger image.

India has a constitution; Pakistan has editions. These are the various Pakistani constitutions: 1935 (secular), 1956 (federal), 1962 (dictatorial), 1973 (parliamentary), 1979 (Islamic), 1999 (presidential), 2008 (parliamentary). Why do they keep changing and searching? Muslims keep trying to hammer in Islamic bits into a set of laws that is actually quite complete. This is the Government of India Act of 1935, gifted to us by the British.

Kashmiris have it, and perhaps at some point they will learn to appreciate its beauty. (via What ails Kashmir? The Sunni idea of ‘azadi’ – Columns – livemint.com).

Aakar Patel implies that the Indian Constituent Assembly counts for nothing. The Constituent Assembly, which included at least 50% of the Indian political leadership and their work over  25,000 man-hours, amount to nothing, follows from Aakar Patel’s ‘thinking’. Or the Indian contribution to the making of the Government of India Act of 1935, itself.

Aakar Patel’s operating credo seemingly is “all credit to the British”. Deficiency in self-esteem, Mr.Patel. Or just plain, healthy contempt for all Indians? Patelbhai’s obsession with crediting the British, completely escapes my understanding.

Apart from being factually incorrect.

Documents do not make a country work! People do, Mr.Patel!! (Cartoon by Sabir Nazar; Courtesy - www.dailytimes.com.pk.).

Documents do not make a country work! People do, Mr.Patel!! (Cartoon by Sabir Nazar; Courtesy – http://www.dailytimes.com.pk.).

Illogical hai, Patelbhai

Not just incorrect. Illogical too!

The same British, gave the same document to the Pakistan also. To India and to how many other colonies in the world, I have never counted.

This ‘gift of the British’ to us Indians is a public document. If it’s value is so apparent, why have others not been able to take advantage of it,  मान्यवर पटेल-भाई manyavar Patelbhai? The wonder is not any document. It is in making it work.

Aakar Patel cannot see the contradiction.

Talk is cheap

Not only incorrect and illogical. Immaterial too!

What matters to Indians are not declarations of belief – but hard, real actions. In the words of Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan, ‘what counts is conduct, not belief’. American declaration of independence talked of ‘all men are created equal’ and promptly became the biggest importer of slaves in the history of the world.

For how long will our glitterati, chatterati, papparazzi, intelligentsia, cognoscenti, continue with this bilge.

Look at the British record

For a realistic assessment of the British ‘capability’ to govern, let us look at British misrule in Britain itself – in this post.

How could super-power Britain spiral down to bankruptcy, in less than 70 years, after WWII. If their ideas of governance and administration were so good, why could they not save themselves from this slide in fortunes? British ‘capabilities’ in areas of technology, industrial management, academia stands naked and exposed.

The problem with British polity! (Cartoon by Morten Moreland; courtesy - timesonline.co.uk.).

The problem with British polity! (Cartoon by Morten Moreland; courtesy – timesonline.co.uk.).

Let us keep this aside, completely, the subject of British misrule in India in this post.

British misrule in India has been the subject of countless writers, journalists, analysts. Equally there have been numerous ‘studies’ about British ‘contribution’ to India’s progress.

It is the British mindset itself that may need examination to understand this decline!


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