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Dominion To Purna Swaraj: A Tale of Struggle for Constitution

Freedom comes in heritage to those who have previously sacrificed the most. Today India is free and established as a sovereign democratic republic but it was never the same as it is today. Today we have the vision to be perfect in the form of PREAMBLE. This vision is inherited from the struggle of those who protested for their free speech, who died struggling for their rights, and who before independence dreamt of a perfect, flourishing and Independent India.

An India where everyone is equal, where there is no discrimination of any kind, where everyone has the liberty to express themselves and where there is brotherhood in all irrespective of the diversity of religion, culture & language. With this vision, our leaders fought socially, politically & legally with the colonial powers. It was never an easy task but the spirit of patriotism in the hearts of our leaders made this struggle possible for a legally & politically Independent India.

Once there was a time when India was not as free as it is today, we were the colony of Britishers, in layman's terms, we were slaves of Britishers. Politically and legally they earned the rights to tax and military and ruled us for 200 years. In the early 20th century the literacy rate was 5-6 per cent, and to teach the technicality that to become completely independent we have to change our status from a colony to dominion legally was the toughest task for leaders like Mahatma Gandhi.

To infuse the spirit of patriotism in that time for this freedom struggle he said:
"A small body of determined spirits fired by an unquenchable faith in their mission can alter the course of history". This vision of Indian Independence by our freedom fighters can be summed up by this phrase from a famous speech by Martin Luther King Jr. "I have a dream" speech. Our leaders saw this dream and became successful in their struggle against colonial powers.

Modern-day Constitution demands go back to affirmations from leaders in the early 20th century. In 1922, Mahatma Gandhi wrote an article 'Independence" which was published by Young India in he said "Swaraj would not be a free gift of British parliament but a full declaration of India's Self-expression" this in itself reaffirms the movement to struggle for Constitution by having Complete Independence. In the Lahore session of 1929, Jawahar Lal Nehru reiterated the call for 'PURNA SWARAJ' from the oppression of Britishers and to set up a new and free India.

The demand for a constituent assembly as a framer of the constitution came from M.N Roy, he idealized a Constituent assembly based on free choice of people's representation. INC reasserted this in the Faizpur session of 1936 and in the same year in the Lucknow session it was declared that no outside authority imposed constitution would be accepted. S. Satyamurti in the Central Legislative Council introduced a resolution to replace The Government of India Act 1935 with a constituent assembly but it did not succeed. In 1939 Britishers principled that we will give India a dominion status but in exchange, you have to help us in WWII which was guided in the August offer of 1940, the same promises were made but failed.

The August Offer was also principled; there was no formal declaration in that. In March 1942, during World War II, the Prime Minister of Britain Winston Churchill sent a mission whose actual aim was to secure full cooperation during World War II. Same august offer conditions were laid like give us support during the war, we will give you dominion status to India & would set up a constituent assembly in which Indian states would participate but it did not come to any conclusion because both Indian National Congress & Muslim League rejected it.

Another attempt was made after the change of power in Britain by Clement Atlee, Prime Minister of Britain through the 'Cabinet Mission' of 1946 it consisted of three members, Sir Stifford Cripps, Pethick Lawrence, and AV Alexander, and it made a few proposals like forming British provinces and the Indian states into Union of India, to set up a constituent assembly, the interim government will be formed by members from the major political party, a constituent assembly would act as a dominion legislature, in the meantime constitution is formed India would be governed by Government of India Act 1935. Under this plan, elections were held for the first time. These elections were based on the votes of Members of the Provincial Legislative Council.

Provinces were grouped into categories, One member represented one million people which resulted in total seats of 389 members to form a constituent assembly out of which 292 were from provinces, 93 were from princely states & 4 from chief commissioners provinces. These elections were not based on Universal Adult Franchise and were completed by July-August 1946. This resulted in one-party domination which included INC with 208 seats, AIML with 73 seats, Princely states with 93 & others with 15 seats.

After the formation of the Constituent Assembly & completion of its election, the first meeting of the Constituent Assembly was held on 9th December 1946. Muslim League being in minority and speculating no profits out of this assembly boycotted the meetings. So finally the much-awaited day was here after a lot of struggle made this day possible. The vision our leaders dreamt about came to life.

The first meeting on 9th December 1946 started at 11 am with the first address from J.B Kripalani, following a french practice and the oldest member chosen to be the temporary president was Dr Sachidanand Sinha. After this Dr Sinha gave a goodwill message to the assembly. This first meeting was attended by a total of 211 members out of which 9 were women.

The second meeting was held on 11th December 1946 in which Dr Rajendra Prasad was elected to be the [permanent president of the assembly, and HC Mukherjee and VT Krishnamachari both were elected as vice-presidents of the assembly. On 13 December 1946, Jawahar Lal Nehru moved a resolution as 'Objective Resolution' which envisions the objective of the Indian Constitution to constitute India into a sovereign democratic republic; this resolution was unanimously passed on 22 January 1947. A total of eleven sessions were held which lasted from 9th December 1946 to 26 November 1949. The first session lasted from 9th to 23 December 1946.

The second session was held from 20 to 25 January 1947. Muslim league already boycotted this assembly, on 29th January 1947 they demanded the dissolution of the constituent assembly. On 20th February 1947, Clement Atlee declared in the house of Commons that they would quit India after transferring power into responsible hands no later than 3rd June 1948.

On 21st February 1947, Louis Mountbatten replaced Archibald Wavell as governor-general of India. On 3rd June 1947 came the 'Mountbatten Plan' which proposed the division of British India into two nations India & Pakistan, conferred complete legislative power by the Constituent Assembly. On 16th July 1947, the last meeting of the Interim Government was held. Two days later 'The House of Commons passed the Independence of India Act 1947. After the passing of this now Constituent assembly became a sovereign body from the dominion legislature.

On Midnight of 14-15 August, 1947 during the fifth session of the assembly power was transferred to the Constituent Assembly. Jawahar Lal Nehru addressed the Nation with his famous speech, "At the stroke of the midnight hour, when the world sleeps, India will awake to life and freedom". Now assembly was reduced to 299 members and days were separated for law-making & Constitution-making.

A resolution on 29 August 1947 was made for the formation of a drafting committee to prepare the constitution after consideration of all the reports from the committees, Dr B. R Ambedkar was chosen to be the Chairman of this committee. The initial draft of the constitution was prepared by B.N Rau, the Constitutional Adviser to the assembly it consisted of 240 Clauses & 13 Schedules were presented to the assembly for discussion with amendments the second draft was presented which consisted of 315 articles and 9 schedules.

With amendments in the second draft, the reading of the third draft was completed on 26th November 1949. It took 2 years 11 months and 18 days, with the presentation of 7635 amendments out of which 2473 were discussed in a total of 11 sessions, costing a total of 6.4 Million Rupees and a total of 22 committees were formed in the process of making the Indian Constitution meet the aspiration of the largest democracy.

It was proposed to write it in both English and Hindi by Prem Bihari Raizada and Vasant Krishan Vidya respectively. With Dr Ambedkar's resolution on 26th November 1949, it was passed and settled to be the Constitution of India.

It came into force on 26th January 1950 instead of 26 November because on 26 January 1930 Jawahar Lal Nehru declared the 'PURNA SWARAJ' Day the day of complete Independence. On this day India attained Complete Independence from the Dominion Status which was given to us until the Constitution came into effect.

"It was the dawn of a new India, a free India, a Purna Swaraj India".

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