The foundational ideas of Indian democracy—fraternity, equality, secularism, justice—are not alien concepts. As this book shows, from the earliest attempt with the ‘Constitution of India Bill’ in 1895, whose authorship is unknown, to the 1925 Commonwealth of India Bill, the Motilal Nehru Constitutional Draft of 1928 and various Congress resolutions to the Constituent Assembly of 1946, we see these basic ideas reiterated again and again. With the adoption of the Constitution, ‘we, the people’ merely affirmed our faith in an idea of freedom that thousands of Indians had fought and died for.
Among the many distinguishing features of our Constitution is the role it has played in realizing the promises of the freedom struggle. We see how, creative interpretations by the judiciary aside, it has provided the blueprint for interventions by civil society to protect the citizen from both the brazenness of political power as well as the uncertainties of a developing economy. No wonder, then, that in the decades since Independence, the Constitution has become our very identity as Indians. For all its shortcomings, it has held our democracy together, and the people have, likewise, stepped up in its defence when needed, like they did in 2019 to protest the ominous amendments to the Citizenship Act.
In this lucid yet passionately argued essay, distinguished scholar of political science Neera Chandhoke shows us why our Constitution is as much a political and moral document as it is a legal one, and as Indian as the republic it created.