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Why is the Indian constitution unique?

Continued from here 
When the British marched into India – the geopolitical landscape wasn’t much different than that of the then Europe – several small and big kingdoms dotted the subcontinent, and treaties, alliances and assurances balanced power among them. 

During the Raj, the British did make some efforts to unify the whole mass in some ways (like establishing railway and postal systems), primarily to suit their commercial needs, but the basic fabric remained as divided till 1947 as it was in 1857.

In words of Lord Curzon, the Viceroy of India under the British Raj,”The political system of India is neither feudalism nor federation. It is embodied in no constitution and bears no resemblance to a league.” In fact, before leaving, the British gashed a new divide within the subcontinent - the ‘two nation theory’.

If the partition was an injury, several more potential wounds lay ahead of independent India in 1947. With the region left in a fragmented mess of erstwhile royalties, ethnic territories and tribal ghettos - India was far from being a Nation State.

The biggest problem that confronted the makers and visionaries of the new India was - How to create a system that would satisfy aspirations of each individual in this diverse universe of identities and heritage? How to unify the many minorities without breaking the country into small parts?

The answer lay in deconstructing Bodinean sovereignty and creation of a unique Union of many minorities and no majority.

Many allege that the Indian constitution is a copy of the British and American systems; if at all there is truth in the allegation, it’s the most intelligent and well customised copy ever made.

While the vision and goals eschewed by the Indian constitution are remarkably similar if not exactly the same to those of the western world but never had any of the Western Democracies, to face such a complex concoction of communities as in India.

The amount of diversity that the makers of the European Union find difficult to handle even today was faced by the makers of the Indian Union 50 years ago.
The promise of the Indian constitution lay in its two aspects – respect for diversity and vision of integrity. The leaders of the provisional government of 1947 realized that India would go back to being a land of small territories warring amongst each other if the two nation theory was allowed to fork into a multi-nation theory.

After all India of 1947 ideally did have multiple nations in it. The mild sympathy that separatist organizations like the LTTE get from few supporters by appealing for Tamil Sub nationalism, or political parties like Shiv Sena get for Marathi Sub Nationalism are evidences that sub-national sentiments could have ran much higher in 1947, had they not been controlled.

It was the vision and mettle of leaders like Vallabh Bhai Patel that averted the break-up of the subcontinent further into splinters of micro-nationalities.

Here’s what Wikipedia says on India’s Political Integration:

“The Instruments of Accession were limited, transferring control of only three matters to India, and would by themselves have produced a rather loose federation, with significant differences in administration and governance across the various states. Full political integration, in contrast, would require a process whereby the political actors in the various states were "persuaded to shift their loyalties, expectations, and political activities towards a new center," namely, the Republic of India.
“This was not an easy task. Whilst some princely states such as Mysore had legislative systems of governance that were based on a broad franchise and not significantly different from those of British India, in others, political decision-making took place in small, limited aristocratic circles and governance was, as a result, at best paternalistic and at worst the result of courtly intrigue.
“Having secured the accession of the princely states, the Government of India between 1948 and 1950 turned to the task of welding the states and the former British provinces into one polity under a single republican constitution.
“Older historians such as Lumby, take the view that the princely states could not have survived as independent entities after the transfer of power, and that their demise was inevitable. They therefore view successful integration of all princely states into India was a triumph for the Government of India and Lord Mountbatten, and as a tribute to the sagacity of the majority of princes, who jointly achieved in a few months what the Empire had attempted, unsuccessfully, to do for over a century - unite all of India under one rule”

This post is a part of the series Problems of Middle East and the Indian model as a solution


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