The 9th of December 2020 marks the 74th anniversary of the first meeting of the Constituent Assembly. The Constituent Assembly met for the first time on this day in 1946 where Dr Sachidananda Sinha was elected as the temporary chairman. The remarks that were made by the Chairman then encapsulates perfectly so much that is wrong with the founding principles of the Indian State.
In his address, Dr Sachidananda Sinha mentioned that the Muslim League had opposed the formation of such an Assembly until the adoption of the resolution demanding a separate Islamic state. Even then, the Muslim League demanded that two Constituent Assemblies be formed, one each for the two independent states that it had proposed.
Dr. Sachidananda Sinha stated, “But until the adoption of the resolution on Pakistan, in March 1940, by the Muslim League, that political organization had not favoured the idea of a Constituent Assembly as a proper and suitable method for framing a constitution for this country. After the adoption of that resolution, however, the attitude of the Muslim League seems to have undergone a change in favour of the idea of a Constituent Assembly-one for the areas claimed by the League for a separate Muslim State, and the other for the rest of India.”
“Thus it may be stated that the idea of a Constituent Assembly, as the only direct means for the framing of a constitution in this country, came to be entertained and accepted by the two major political parties in 1940, with this difference that while the Congress desired one Constituent Assembly for India, as a whole, the Muslim League wanted two Constituent Assemblies, in accordance with its demand for two separate States in the country,” he added.
In the same speech, however, the temporary Chairman of the Constituent Assembly went on to glorify a man who was one the pioneers of the creation of Pakistan and one of the most significant proponents of the two-nation theory. He said, “Let us not forget to justify the pride of the great Indian poet, Iqbal, and his faith in the immortality of the destiny of our great, historic, and ancient country, when he summed up in these beautiful lines:
Yunan-o-Misr-o-Roma sabmit gaye jahan se,
Baqi abhi talak hai nam-o-nishan hamara.
Kuch bat hai ke hasti mit-ti nahin hamari,
Sadion raha hai dushman daur-e-zaman hamara.
It means: “Greece, Egypt, and Rome, have all disappeared from the surface of the Earth; but the name and fame of India, our country, has survived the ravages of Time and the cataclysms of ages. Surely, surely, there is an eternal element in us which had frustrated all attempts at our obliteration, in spite of the fact that the heavens themselves had rolled and revolved for centuries, and centuries, in a spirit of hostility and enmity towards us.””
Quite clearly, even after Mohammed Iqbal made it clear his ideological orientation, a politician as consequential as the temporary Chairman of the Constituent Assembly of India glorified such a man. It should have been clear how dangerous this man was and yet, Dr. Sachidananda Sinha could not look past the fact that he was a poet and might have spun together a few pretty words sometime.
This soft spot for poets and ‘intellectuals’, no matter how dangerous their ideas are, has continued to haunt India ever since independence. The minute that someone exhibits his poetic inclinations, all his crimes are forgiven and dangerous ideas whitewashed. There has been a shift of late but our intellectual fraternity continues to remain caged in the prisons of the past. One only need take a look at the manner in which the ‘intellectual’ fraternity continues to stand by Varavara Rao despite his vile zealotry.
It also demonstrates that the fascination and the soft spot that the Secular establishment of independent India has for Pakistan is not a new phenomenon. It is something that has was engraved into the national character of the Indian Republic by the men and women who led India at the time. It is also precisely why the ‘Aman ki Aasha’ nonsense still held credibility for so many years after independence.
Even after multiple wars, which India inevitably won, Pakistan was treated with an atrocious degree of kindness which, frankly, it was not worthy of. And it stems from the fact ever since independence, India has demonstrated a lack of clarity in identifying the existential threats to its cultural identity. Mohammed Iqbal pioneered an idea that was destined to lead to a civil war and genocide of Hindus and yet, people at the top continued to glorify him as a poet and actually believed that he had positive sentiments about the country we call our home.
The ‘large heartedness’ towards existential threats that is engraved into the national character of India as a consequence of the political choices made by the elites of the time is something that India, as a nation, needs to grow out of quickly. It is more than well past time to abandon such foolhardy endeavours. The current ruling dispensation has demonstrated a willingness to rectify the follies of the past. But clearly, there is a long way to go still.