It’s difficult to imagine a book on constitutional matters being an emotional experience. But that is what Madhav Khosla’s The Indian Constitution is. In fact, reading it somehow brought to mind a conversation with an elderly uncle, who once described to me what it was like to be there on the evening of August 15, 1947, when he had tears of joy streaming down his face, as he joined the multitudes of hopeful, newly freed citizens on the streets. In that sense, the book is a small antidote for our cynical and depressing times.
In 1946, Khosla tells us, three hundred people came together from various parts of India, various sections of society and various ideological positions to form the Constituent Assembly and embark on an extraordinary human endeavour: the drafting of a constitution for our new-born nation. As Jawaharlal Nehru, one of the key players, noted at the time, “I tremble a little and feel overwhelmed by this mighty task”. And well he might. The assembly was perhaps one of the most diverse bodies of its kind in history until then, and its participants often disagreed vehemently on the very basic principles, yet they worked large-heartedly towards accommodation and consensus. Three years later they delivered one of the world’s great political texts: a document both magnificent in its vision and intricate in its detailing, and which seeks to reconcile the conflicting pulls of individual liberty and a strong state. Yet, when Dr Ambedkar presented it, as chairman of the drafting committee, he had the humility to say that the members had merely done the best they could, given their human limitations.
The book is essentially a guided tour of the Constitution for the average informed citizen, explaining its architecture and key themes. This is done over the course of four compact chapters: Separation of Powers, Federalism, Rights and Goals, and Changing the Constitution. Khosla touches thought-provokingly on the key themes, ranging from the doctrine of separation of powers, especially between Parliament and the judiciary, to the asymmetrical nature of the Constitution, urged on by the doctrine of inequality.
It obviously took a masterly grasp of the Constitution on Khosla’s part to pull it all off so succinctly. He is a gifted and idealistic PhD scholar of political theory at Harvard, and his book is essential reading for all those who chatter about politics, whether at cocktail parties or on TV channels. But more than that, it should perhaps be compulsory reading for the occupants of a certain circular building on Delhi’s Parliament Street, if nothing else, to remind them politely of the towering idealism and vision of their predecessors.
Thank you to all those who have taken the trouble to read the article and share their thoughts. Out of the arguments made here, there are two that perhaps need answering. So here they go.
1. The first part of the article compares outcomes (relative percentages of population of the religions concerned) irrespective of the process that led to those outcomes - whether immigration, relatively faster population growth or conversions. This was for two reasons. One, to put the figure of 2.3 per cent in "numerical perspective", as the article itself explained. The second reason was that outcomes are ultimately what the crux of debate is about. The rest of the article in any case dealt with process - or conversions in this case, from both a contemporary and historical perspective.
2. Some commenters have tried to cast doubts on the reliability of Census 2001. Those who do this should bear in mind that Census 2001 was conducted by a BJP government. Considering the extreme importance that BJP gives to this issue, it would be reasonable to expect that IF it had perceived a problem with the methodology that was distorting the numbers, it would have fixed it. As the article mentioned, BJP or BJP-supported governments have been in power for 10 of the last 40 years, or about a quarter of the time, and the only reasonable conclusion one can arrive at is that any misreporting of numbers, real or perceived, would be marginal and hence, not of importance.
To all other arguments made, my answer is the following: Please read the article again, with particular focus on the quotations of Vivekananda and Monier Williams, and the history of the missionary efforts in Bengal and their outcome.
I was a post independence generation and I had the spirit of India as I the author says.But it has been lost among the youth of today who are only interested in welath and in the creation fo wealth.They adore wealthy people.
This change of culture is going to be the end of this great country.In the meanwhile politicians who are nothing but crooks are only enjoying.Constitution cannot be enforced in this kind of atmosphere and it is going to be a very bad and sorrowful end to this great country.
It is not the constitution itself, but in its implementation ( read - judiciary ) that is at the core of the failure of Indian democracy.
If the Constitution is the upholder of the law, and the Supreme Court the function of the Constitution, then economic activity is what seems to be what gives the law direction. We want to live, without the censure of law, but we respect the law, nonetheless. It's pretty obvious, that economic activity is a situation, where the producer is as important, or otherwise as the shop floor operator, or the owner of the small grocery store. It's not that we want no one to be responsible, but we want to experience freedom in our lives, unfortunately, we are, and we are living already what we want to experience. How the political, will survive, is the question. They have no choice, but to promote this, because it appears, they have to, in the situation.
> "....should perhaps be compulsory reading for the occupants of a certain circular building on Delhi’s Parliament Street, if nothing else, to remind them politely of the towering idealism and vision of their predecessors."
Perhaps we have a better Constitution than we deserve!
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