In the previous piece, this author had contended that the use of (a) “ancient land” to refer to this country in the Objectives Resolution of January 22, 1947 by the Constituent Assembly, and (b) “Bharat” in Article 1 as a synonym for “India”, was proof that the framers of the Constitution were conscious of the civilizational heritage and legacy of the Republic of India/Bharat. Given that no provision of the Constitution can be understood in its entirety without reference to its specific history, it becomes important to examine whether this author’s contention is supported by the history of Article 1.
While the history of the drafting of the Constitution deserves a separate discussion, for the purposes of the specific issue at hand, let us start from the point where the Draft Constitution prepared by the Drafting Committee was taken up for debate by the Constituent Assembly for the first time on November 15, 1948. The Draft Article 1 of the Draft Constitution read as follows:
1. (1) India shall be a Union of States.
(2) The States shall mean the States for the time being specified in Parts I, II and III of the First Schedule. (3) The territory of India shall comprise-
(a) The territories of the States;
(b) The territories for the time being specified in Part IV of the First Schedule; and
(c) Such other territories as may be acquired.
The said Article was considered and discussed by the Constituent Assembly on November 15, 1948, November 17, 1948, September 17, 1949 and September 18, 1949. On the first of the said dates, Shri M. Ananthasayanam Ayyangar drew the attention of the Assembly to the amendments proposed to the Draft Article 1. The said amendments called for the substitution of “India” with either Bharat, Bharatavarsha or Hindustan, with Bharatavarsha being proposed by Shri Lokanath Misra. A similar amendment was moved by Shri Shibban Lal Saxena. Shri Ayyangar was of the view that the consideration of the said amendments must be deferred until a consensus was arrived at, which was accepted by the Assembly.
When the matter was taken up on November 17, 1948, Pandit Govind Ballabh Pant again wanted them deferred on the ground that the members of the Assembly had “not been able to reach unanimity on this important point”. Another member, Shri Seth Govind Das, while supporting the substitution of India with Bharat, too was of the view that the decision must be taken unanimously since it related to the very naming of the country and affected how the rest of the world perceived the country. Dr. Ambedkar too threw his weight behind the decision to defer the issue once again and accordingly the matter was postponed for future consideration.
The next time the issue of naming was taken up for significant discussion by the Assembly was on September 17, 1949 i.e. after close to a year of its introduction. Dr. Ambedkar brought up the Draft Article 1 at the fag end of the session on the said date as follows:
Sir, I move:
That for clauses (1) and (2) of article 1, the following clauses be substituted:-
(1) India, that is, Bharat shall be a Union of States.
(2) The States and the territories thereof shall be the States and their territories for the time being specified in Parts I, II and III of the First Schedule
This time Maulana Hasrat Mohani wanted the discussion to be adjourned to the next day citing paucity of time to discuss such a cardinal provision. His primary objection was with respect to the use of “Union of States” since he favoured the concept of a republic as opposed to a Union of States. After a lot of back and forth on the issue of adjournment, the matter was finally adjourned to the next date. This effectively meant that the question of the naming of the country was taken up meaningfully only on September 18, 1949, which was the date on which the Article was finally adopted.
On September 18th when the question was taken up, Shri H.V. Kamath proposed Bharat and Hind as alternatives to India. Following were the two alternatives presented by him on the issue of naming, apart from amendments to Clause (2) of Draft Article 1:
“That in amendment No. 130 of List IV (Eighth Week), for the proposed clause (1) of article 1, the following be substituted :–
‘(1) Bharat or, in the English language, India, shall be a Union of States.› « or, alternatively,
«That in amendment No. 130 of List IV (Eighth Week), for the proposed clause (1) of article 1, the following be substituted :
‹(1) Hind, or, in the English language, India, shall be a Union of States.› «
When Shri Kamath started tracing the historical origins of the name Bharat, Dr. Ambedkar cut him short citing paucity of time and the pending legislative business of the Assembly. On being pressed further by the President of the Assembly to choose between Bharat and Hind, Shri Kamath chose Bharat and objected to the phrase “India, that is, Bharat” since he felt it was “clumsy” for use in the Constitution. To support his position, Shri Kamath referred to the fourth Article of the Irish Constitution which read as follows:
“The name of the State is Eire, or, in the English language, Ireland.”
Shri Brajeshwar Prasad too moved a similar amendment endorsing the replacement of India with Bharat, which read as follows:
‘(1) India, that is, Bharat is one integral unit.’ “
Shri Seth Govind Das broadly preferred Bharat to India and relied on the Vedas, the Upanishads, the Vishnu Purana, the Brahma Purana and the works of the Chinese monk and traveller Hiuen Tsang to make his case for Bharat. Shri Kala Venkata Rao supported Shri Das citing the Rig Veda and the Vayu Purana, with the geographical metes and bounds of Bharat being identified as follows:
“It means that land that is to the south of the Himalayas and north of the (Southern ocean) Samundras is called Bharat.”
Shri B.M.Gupta, Shri Ram Sahai and Shri Kamalapathi Tripathi too favoured the use of Bharat and insisted that Bharat be used before India in Article 1 if Dr. Ambedkar insisted on retaining India in Article 1. Shri Tripathi’s contentions in this regard are in perfect sync with the spirit of decoloniality and the reclamation of self-identity. Following are a few relevant excerpts:
“Sir, I am enamoured of the historic name of “Bharat”. Even the mere uttering of this word, conjures before us by a stroke of magic the picture of cultured life of the centuries that have gone by. In my opinion there is no other country in the world which has such a history, such a culture, and such a name, whose age is counted in milleniums as our country has. There is no country in the world which has been able to preserve its name and its genius even after undergoing the amount of repression, the insults and prolonged slavery which our country had to pass through. Even after thousands of years our country is still known as ‘Bharat’. Since Vedic times, this name has been appearing in our literature. Our Puranas have all through eulogised the name of Bharat.
For us, this name is full of sacred remembrances. The moment we pronounce this name, the pictures of our ancient history and ancient glory and our ancient culture come to our minds…. We are reminded that thousands of years ago, the leaders and thinkers of this country moulded a great nation and extended their culture to all the four corners of the world and achieved for themselves a position of prestige.”
Shri Har Govind Pant was in favour of Bharatvarsha and was keen on doing away with India altogether since he felt that clinging to India was proof of the colonialised mindsets of those who were attached to it. Once again, Dr. Ambedkar expressed his impatience with the discussion on the said issue, and his impatience was met considerable resistance from other members of the Assembly. Finally, when Shri Kamath’s proposed amendment to Article 1 was taken up for voting, it was negatived 38 to 51, and Dr. Ambedkar’s amendment was finally adopted which retained “India, that is, Bharat” in Article 1.
Notwithstanding the adoption of Dr. Ambedkar’s version, it is abundantly clear from the debates that the members of the Constituent Assembly were acutely aware of the civilizational significance of the use of Bharat, its identity and its geographical spread as evidenced by Bharat’s indigenous epistemology. Therefore, the debates only strengthen this author’s contention that the use of Bharat in Article 1 of the Constitution as the synonym for India underscores the Constitutional fact that India/Bharat is an Indic civilizational state.
J. Sai Deepak is a practising Advocate before the Supreme Court of India and the High Court of Delhi.