[Dalit History Month Special] India's First On-Campus Constitution Park: A Living Monument Commemorating Baba Saheb Ambedkar's Arduous Journey in Drafting the Indian Constitution

“I do not want to say how good or bad is the Constitution. I feel that it is as good as bad. It will be bad in the end when the ruling people/party are bad. It will be good in the end when the ruling people/party are good.” - B.R Ambedkar
The Constitution Park at MLSU was dedicated to the public on 26 November 2021.
The Constitution Park at MLSU was dedicated to the public on 26 November 2021.

Rajasthan— As one stroll through the main entrance of the 61-yr-old Mohanlal Sukhadia University (MLSU) in Udaipur, the quiet and abandoned atmosphere is palpable, typical of the examination season in April. Right before the eyes is the magnificent first-ever Constitution Park in any university across the country. The park includes a remarkable 75 feet tall Constitution Pillar. Located right in front of the university's administrative building, the park aims to foster a deeper connection between it's 2 lakh students and the Indian Constitution by providing them with easy access to essential information and knowledge about it. 

The Constitution Pillar is an essential aspect of the park, symbolizing the essence of the Indian Constitution. It includes the Preamble, main principles of the Constitution, fundamental duties and rights & the Directive Principles of state policy. The park also showcases various significant events related to the Indian Independence Movement.

The idea of establishing constitution parks in all university campuses originated from Kalraj Mishra, the Governor of Rajasthan in 2020. Mishra believed that these parks would be instrumental in raising awareness among students regarding India's founding document. The governor emphasized that the parks will promote a harmonious balance between one's civic duties and rights, particularly among young people.

A budget of approximately 90 Lakh rupees was incurred in its construction
A budget of approximately 90 Lakh rupees was incurred in its construction

The Park, constructed at MLSU with an approximate budget of 90 lakh rupees, was proudly dedicated to the public on Constitution Day, 26 November 2021. 

Unaware of History

Few students are spotted taking shelter from the blazing sun under the trees inside Constitution Park. Here, two boys appear to be deeply engrossed in mugging up answers from their textbooks. Curious, The Mooknayak ask them for their names, and they hastily respond that they're second-year Arts students named Rituraj Vaishnav and Rahul Menaria.  We inquired whether they have ever read the inscriptions on the huge white marble slab, the tall pillar and the hoardings calling out about the Indian Constitution in the park. Unsurprisingly, they shake their heads with a tinge of embarrassment.

The youths confess that they haven't bothered to know about the significance of the park since they are too preoccupied with studies and exams. As they stand near a board with the words "Indian Constitution" emblazoned on it, the boys recoil in surprise, realizing its significance for the first time. Coincidentally, it happens to be the same day that they're taking a Political Science exam that covers a unit on the Constitution.

A student reading the narrative about the Constitution Park.
A student reading the narrative about the Constitution Park.

Neetu Meena, a final year student at the Arts College, shared that she frequently visits the park for its quiet environment, which is conducive to studying. However, she admitted to not having taken the time to fully appreciate the intricate details and narratives present in the park.

Although these youths are not outliers amongst the students who frequent the Constitution Park, their lack of awareness on the constitutional values and significance appears to contradict the very purpose behind creating the park. These youths hardly realise the hardships Baba Saheb had faced to draft the constitution which took almost 3 years to be written.

Most of the youths aren't aware of the significance of the park.
Most of the youths aren't aware of the significance of the park.

Although the Udaipur Constitution Park stands as a vibrant testament to the visionary contributions of B.R. Ambedkar, one notable shortcoming that cannot be ignored is the absence of a statue honoring his legacy. As author Arundhati Roy notes, the image of Ambedkar that is often seen in public spaces is one holding a book - not his profound work "Annihilation of Caste" - but rather a copy of the Indian Constitution that he played a vital role in conceptualizing.

Challenges Baba Saheb faced in drafting a Constitution for India

In 1928, the All Parties Conference established a committee in Lucknow to draft the Constitution of India.This committee produced the Nehru Report, which became known as the proposed Constitution of India at the time.

M.N. Roy proposed the idea of a Constituent Assembly in 1934. Elections were held for the formation of the Constituent Assembly under the Cabinet Mission plan of 1946.

Dr. Ambedkar, then the Law Minister in the Congress-led Government after independence, was appointed as the Chairman of the Drafting Committee on August 28, 1947. His educational qualifications, profound knowledge, exceptional command over the English language, and unparalleled expertise in articulating the subject mattered. Other members of the committee included N. Gopalaswami Ayyangar, Alladi Krishnaswami Ayyar, K.M. Munshi, Saijio Mola Saadulla, N. Madhava Rao, and D.P. Khaitan.

A  biography titled A Part Apart by Ashok Gopal provides an exemplary account of how Ambedkar overcame his poor health and differences with the leading luminaries of India's freedom movement to draft one of the world's longest founding documents. The book captures how Ambedkar's towering stature helped him garner significant local and international support for his work. 

According to Gopal, upon Lord Mountbatten's appointment as Viceroy in March 1947, he had "extremely interesting and valuable talks" with Ambedkar about the constitutional drafting process. Edwina Mountbatten also expressed her personal satisfaction with Ambedkar's supervision of the constitution-making and described him as the "only genius" capable of providing equal justice to all class and creed. Additionally, Lord Mountbatten conveyed to a senior British official that he was pleased to see Ambedkar's name among the 15 ministers in Nehru's interim federal cabinet.

Despite the fact that five of the seven drafting committee members were upper castes, all of them unanimously appointed Ambedkar as the committee's leader.

The expenses of the Constitution of India drafting process were around 64 lakh rupees over a period of three years

The task of drafting the Constitution of India consumed all of Dr. Ambedkar's time and dedication. While the other committee members abstained from participating due to various reasons like resignation, poor health, or other work commitments, Ambedkar took on the responsibility for the drafting work completely. It is widely acknowledged that Dr. Ambedkar was the sole author of the Constitution of India.

Ambedkar presented a revised draft to Rajendra Prasad, the president of the constituent assembly, which included about 20 significant changes, including the addition of the word "fraternity" in the solemn preamble, which encapsulates the fundamental principles of the constitution - justice, equality, and fraternity. According to Aakash Singh Rathore, a philosopher and author of ' A Secret History of the Constitution of India's , writes that the Preamble's 81 words, which are hailed as "truly wondrous and historic," are entirely Ambedkar's creation.

Despite his health problems, Baba Saheb spent approximately 100 days patiently attending assembly meetings, explaining each clause and either accepting or rejecting suggested amendments. While most members couldn't make substantial contributions due to death, illness or other commitments, TT Krishnamachari revealed that Ambedkar single-handedly bore the burden of drafting this revised constitution. 

Although he was known as the champion of India's oppressed classes, Ambedkar accommodated everyone's interests, even though his demand for separate electorates was rejected, and his early request for nationalizing core industries was not addressed in the constitution's objectives. When the constituent assembly convened for the first time in 1946, Ambedkar acknowledged that the country was politically, socially, and economically divided, and he confessed that he was probably someone who led the opposing camps.

The Constitution Drafting Committee meetings ran for 114 days, with Dr. Ambedkar continuing to work on his draft for 2 years, 11 months and 18 days. Dr. Ambedkar responded to a total of 7635 letters/documents concerning the framing of the Constitution and incurred direct expenses of 63 lakh, 96 thousand, 729 rupees in the process. It was an arduous and complex undertaking to craft a constitution that took into account the diverse religious beliefs of the Indian people, but Dr. Ambedkar's remarkable vision and profound study of everyone's religion made it possible. 

Ambedkar's efforts evident & undeniable 

TT Krishnamachari, a member of the drafting committee, spoke in the assembly: 'I am one of those in the House who have listened to Dr. Ambedkar very carefully. I am aware of the amount of work and enthusiasm that he has brought to bear on the work of drafting this Constitution. At the same time, I do realize that the amount of attention that was necessary for the purpose of drafting a constitution so important to us at this moment has not been given to it by the Drafting Committee. The House is perhaps aware that of the seven members nominated by you, one had resigned from the House and was replaced. One died and was not replaced. One was away in America and his place was not filled up, and another person was engaged in State affairs, and there was a void to that extent. One or two people were far away from Delhi and perhaps reasons of health did not permit them to attend. So it happened ultimately that the burden of drafting this constitution fell on Dr. Ambedkar, and I have no doubt that we are grateful to him for having achieved this task in a manner which is undoubtedly commendable.'"

Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru said, “Dr. B.R. Ambedkar is the architect of the Indian Constitution. The new Constitution is the result because of his hard work. His name shall be written in golden letters in history. He is a legend. Dr. Ambedkar’s name will always be associated with the Constitution of India and the existence of India as a nation.”

His masterpiece continues to serve India beautifully, even 73 years after its inception.

Facts about the Constitution of India:

  • Sir B. N. Rau, a civil servant who became the first Indian judge in the International Court of Justice and was president of the United Nations Security Council, was appointed as the assembly's constitutional adviser in 1946.
    Rau prepared the initial draft of the Constitution in February 1948, which consisted of 243 articles and 13 schedules.

  • The draft was debated and amended by the eight-person drafting committee, which was appointed on 29 August 1947 with B. R. Ambedkar as chair.

  • A revised draft constitution was prepared by the committee and submitted to the assembly on 4 November 1947.

  • Before adopting the constitution, the assembly held eleven sessions in 165 days.

  • On 26 November 1949, the assembly adopted the Constitution, which was signed by 284 members. 

  • The day of adoption, 26 November, is celebrated as National Law Day or Constitution Day in India to spread the importance of the Constitution and to promote the thoughts and ideas of Ambedkar.

  • The Constitution took over 2 years, 11 months, and 18 days to be framed.

  • The original copies of the Constitution were handwritten and are kept in a helium-filled case in the Parliament library.

  • Prem Bihari Narain Raizada wrote the unique copies of the Constitution of India.

  • The Constitution of India was originally written in English and Hindi.

  • Features of other countries like Britain, Ireland, Japan, USA, South Africa, Germany, Australia, and Canada are borrowed in India's Constitution.

  • The basic structure of India's Constitution was created based on the Government of India Act, 1935.

  • The Constitution of India is the world's lengthiest Constitution.

  • At its enactment, the Constitution of India had 395 articles in 22 parts and 8 schedules.

  • With approximately 145,000 words, it is currently the second-longest active constitution in the world, after the Constitution of Alabama.

  • As of October 2021, there have been 105 amendments made to the Constitution of India since it was first enacted in 1950.

References:

1) Jangam, A. (2021). Challenges faced by Dr. Ambedkar to write the Constitution of India. 

2) Gopal, A. (2019). A Part Apart. New Delhi: Garuda Prakashan.

3) Roy , A. (2014). The Doctor and the Saint. The Caravan, March 2014. 

4) Biswas, S. (2021). BR Ambedkar: The unknown details of how he piloted Indian constitution. BBC News, 14 April 2021.

The Constitution Park at MLSU was dedicated to the public on 26 November 2021.
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