We the People

As we know, not a great deal has been written on the founding of India’s Constitution. Kalyani Ramnath, who teaches legal history at the National Law School of India University, Bangalore, has a new article on the Constituent Assembly Debates in South Asia Research (available here). I haven’t had an occasion to read the piece, though it looks very interesting. The abstract is as follows:

‘We The People’: Seamless Webs and Social Revolution in India’s Constituent Assembly Debates

Although the Preamble of the Constitution proclaims that ‘We the People’ have solemnly adopted and enacted it, there is almost no further mention of ‘the people’ in the constitutional text itself. Asking who are ‘the people’ in whose name the Indian Constitution was drafted, this article re-examines the Constituent Assembly Debates (CAD) and highlights the fragmented image of ‘the people’ as a multivocal, multivalent reflection of imaginations and expectations attributed to people within and behind the Constituent Assembly. It becomes obvious that the aspirations of the actual Constitution makers find clearer expression in the constitutional text than the perceptions of ‘the people’ in whose name such law making takes place. Using the lens of the social revolution that the Constitution was to bring about, the article clarifies the implications of this multiplicity of visions, distinguishing ‘We the People’ seeking to claim such unfulfilled constitutional promises today, on the one hand, and the functionaries obligated to translate constitutional promises into reality and to enforce them, on the other. Asking why it is that the ambitions of the latter find clearer expression in the constitutional text than those of the former, the article also poses deeper questions about representativeness of political institutions and about the strength and depth of Indian social reform agenda.

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