Sri Lanka's new beginning

Sri Lanka has embarked on a historic pursuit to change its constitution. And none from Tamil Nadu has spoken about it. So much for the welfare of SL Tamils.

The current constitution of SL does not lend itself to be accommodative of all ethic groups. Incremental changes were built into the constitution starting with the Sinhala Only Act of 1956 and The Standardization Act of the 70s.  The Bandaranayaka couple and the subsequent Presidents ensured that the ethic minorities were kept subdued. And the Tamil and Sinhala hardliners ensured that the fires started in 1956 were kept burning.

The Indo-Sri Lanka Peace agreement could have ensured fair justice to the Tamils. But LTTE’s intransigence ensured that the accord failed. The provincial government of Varadaraja Perumal was extinguished and the ethic strife was kept alive thanks to monetary shots given by diaspora SL Tamils.

The Indo-SL agreement’s achievement of trying to integrate the North and East has been stopped by SL’s Supreme Court as un-constitutional.

President Sirisene has rightly understood that the Constitution was the hindrance and is forming a constituent assembly to frame a new constitution for the island nation.

Now is the time for all the stake holders to come together in this effort to document a just and equitable constitution for the strife torn nation. India’s role in this new effort, though kept under wraps for the moment, should be substantial and long lasting. With 65 years of democratic governance, India should depute its constitutional experts and statesmen like Soli Sorabji, Fali Nariman and Parasaran to help Sri Lanka frame its guiding document.

As an Indian Tamil who has been a student of Sri Lankan Tamil issue from 1985 , I have the following suggestions for President Sirisene for the new constitution. Please ensure that :

  1. All ethnic groups feel valued and equal
  2. All 3 languages are recognized and are equal
  3. Executive Presidency is abolished
  4. Sedition becomes anti-national
  5. Diaspora Tamils return home
  6. The constitution is secular
  7. Ethnic or racial tension mongering is punishable

And let the Tamil politicians in TN continue to fight their petty politics, for it is this lot that is the loser in case peace returns to Sri Lanka.

Soniaji, fire your speech writer please

Dear Smt.Soniaji,

I am a dark skinned Indian from the south of the Vindhyas. Oh, yes, the same Vindhya mountain ranges in Central India. And yes, world exists and people still live in the southern part of India.

Just to remind you: India is where you had come to live as a daughter-in-law.

So, why am I writing to you in English? Well, I don’t know Italian. And, Mani Sankar Iyer, your speech writer, can translate this for you to understand. I could have written in Tamil, for Mani is supposed to know Tamil as well. But with his dubious mastery of English and an equally dubious sense of history, I very much doubt Mani would understand Tamil. In any case, no one in Tamil Nadu would be reading this letter. Hence, it really doesn’t matter.

I know you are naïve and hence read Mani gives you. But when you read in Parliament, please take care. All speeches are recorded unless or otherwise expunged. That your speeches are foolish because your speech writer is foolish, is known to us. But generations later, my great-grandchildren should not think that their great-grandfather had lived in times when the leader of the opposition was a nincompoop.

Take this example. Yesterday you had said this about the constitution:

“People who never had faith in the Constitution, nor had they participated in its drafting, are now swearing by it and are laying claim to it. They are now having a discussion on commitment to it. There cannot be a bigger joke than this.”

Yes, it was written 60 years ago. Rahul is 40+ and hence, by your logic, he is not eligible to take oath in the name of the constitution. Extend that logic and Obama could not have become Prez at all. And for England, there could be no PM, for there is no single written constitution.

Additionally, Ambedkar did not want the two words – secular and socialist- in the preamble of the statute book. He felt that he should not impose on the people what their means of conducting business should be. And he was quite right in his opinion. Here is the link to the proceedings in the constituent assembly. You might probably have known about the Constitution of India. It was discussed word by word in this assembly of scholars. Mani, by virtue of his being ideologically inclined towards Pakistan, might not have known about this august assembly. You could consult with Shashi Tharoor – the only guy in your party to have some sense of history in his speeches.

Here is what happened. On 15-Nov-1945, Prof.K.T.Shah from Bihar brought an amendment in the constituent assembly. He wanted to include ‘socialist’ and ‘secular’ in the preamble of the constitution. Dr.Ambedkar didn’t agree and had this to say :

“I regret that I cannot accept the amendment of Prof. K. T. Shah. My objections, stated briefly, are two. In the first place the Constitution, as I stated in my opening speech in support of the motion I made before the House, is merely a mechanism for the purpose of regulating the work of the various organs of the State. It is not a mechanism whereby particular members or particular parties are installed in office. What should be the policy of the State, how the Society should be organized in its social and economic side are matters which must be decided by the people themselves according to time and circumstances. It cannot be laid down in the Constitution itself because that is destroying democracy altogether.”

You had also said that the Congress realized the genius of Ambedkar and appointed him the Chairman of the drafting committee. Truth is, as usual, far from it. Ambedkar had to campaign for being added into the constituent assembly. It was Gandhiji’s magnanimity that resulted in Ambedkar being added to the august assembly. You might not know this, neither would anybody in the Congress. Please ask somebody to read you the memoirs of Jagjivan Ram. Let me also quote some more instances where Ambedkar was not interested in the drafting of the constitution as also some instances where he had ‘behaved’ properly with the British:

Dr.Ambedkar, 2-Sep-1953, Rajya Sabha Speech:

“People always keep on saying to me:’O, you are the maker of the Constitution’. My answer is I was a hack. What I was asked to do so, I did much against the will… Sir, my friends tell me that I have made the Constitution. But I am quite prepared to say that I shall be the first person to burn it out..”

British Viceroy of India to The Cabinet mission, 05-Apr-1946 :

“He ( Ambedkar ) thought that if India became independent it would be one of the greatest disasters that could happen..”

British Secretary of State for India to the Governor of Madras : 24-Sep-1933 :

” During the last two or three years I have seen a great deal of Ambedkar,and, like most of my friends, I have been impressed by his ability and his manifest desire to support the British influence in India…”

British Secretary of State to the Viceroy of India, 28-Dec-1932 :

” Ambedkar has behaved very well at the (Round Table ) Conference, and I am most anxious to strengthen his hands in every possible way ..”

Here is what the ‘Architect’ of the constitution had to say about the constituent assembly itself.

Dr.Babasaheb Ambedkar, All India Scheduled Class Federation, Bombay, 6-May-1945 :

“I must state that I am wholly opposed to the proposal of a Constituent Assembly. It is absolutely superfluous. I regard it as a most dangerous project… I do not see why a Constituent Assembly is at all necessary.Indians are not in the same position as the Fathers of the American Constitution were. So much of the Constitution of India has already been written out in the Government of India Act, 1935. It is my considered opinion that the proposal of Constituent Assembly is more dangerous than profitable and should not be entertained”.

BTW – be more careful with Mani. Two decades ago, he had promised to make Mayiladuthurai, his erstwhile constituency, a Singapore. Thank God that Singapore doesn’t know this, for they would sue Mani for damaging brand Singapore. Mayiladuthurai looks like Singapore of 1900.

Meanwhile, if you have decided to write the epitaph of the Congress, that is fine by me. As the party was founded by a European, A.O.Hume, it is only natural that it be buried by another European. But let it die its natural death. Your son, Rahul is hell bent on killing it. And in India killing is illegal while death due to natural reasons is acceptable. Just listen to his recent Mount Carmel School speech and you will know what I mean.

Probably Mount Carmel questions were asked by Indian girls and hence wouldn’t matter for you. Here is a US journalist on Rahul. As this is by a non-Indian, probably this might help.

I have an idea. Why not make Rahul the ambassador of North Korea? The intolerant PM would be too willing to accede to that demand, for there is no other way of decimating Kim Jong Un. Aamir Khan can keep Rahul company.

At least you could save the embarrassment of having to live with a half-wit son who doesn’t know which nation he belongs to, and files his income tax in the UK while being an MP in India.

First things first. Fire your speech writer. Else, start acting in Tamil films, for Vadivelu doesn’t star nowadays.

Yours Sincerely,
A dark skinned Indian from the South of the Vindhyas.

‘State of the Nation’ – book review

State of the nation

For a layman to understand, to a reasonable extent, the structure of the Indian constitution and its nuances, the ‘real’ meanings of many of the terms that we have come to take for granted and the way the Indian republic has progressed since 1947 and the changes that have gone into the constitution since then, is a humungous task.

And the fact that I, as a layman, was able to reasonably understand all of the above is a grand testimony not to my intellectual ability but to the lucid presentation of the material by its eminent author, Fali.S.Nariman.

A renowned lawyer and constitutional expert that he is, Nariman has opened my eyes to see the extremely tricky aspects of the longest written constitution in the world – the Indian constitution.

How the makers of the constitution intended some aspects of the document to be, how the subsequent governments got the original intent watered down, how in spite of wholeheartedly ill-intentioned governments trying to water down the pillars of the constitution some well intentioned the judges have ensured that the spirit of the founding fathers has been maintained intact more or less – all these are elucidated in great detail in this treatise, ‘State of the Nation’.

Nariman also presents, with relevant examples, the different instances wherein the President, the Parliament, the executive and the judiciary had tried to exert their independence ( or superiority, should I say ?). And that part reads like a thriller.

We also get to know some snippets from history that we might not have been privy to, like :

  • The first President Rajendra Prasad’s tussle with Pandit Nehru and his wish to assert his Presidency
  • How Raj Narain won the court battle against Indira Gandhi and challenged her election and what Indira Gandhi did, in haste, to amend the constitution just before declaring emergency
  • How even the fundamental rights were denied by Indira Gandhi citing a constitutional amendment and how the subsequent Janata government amended that saying ‘even in case of an emergency’ the fundamental rights cannot be denied to citizens
  • The working styles of the different presidents V.V.Giri, Sharma, Narayan, Venkatraman, Zail Singh and Kalam
  • How Kalam indirectly asserted his Presidency by not following the prepared text and resorting to a Tamil poem that he himself had written exhorting the parliamentarians to do their jobs and not stage walk-outs for the flimsiest of reasons
  • How Pandit Nehru didn’t have money for his tea in 1935 after an electon campaign and how he and Lal Bahadur Sastri had to count the different coins that they had to pay for their cups of tea at a railway canteen
  • How Pandit Nehru had asked the Allahabad administration to raise, by five times, the annual property tax that was levied on his ancestral home

Fali S. Nariman has had the ring side view of things and he explains his thought process with ample references to various judgments of the US Supreme Court, leading British jurists and even the then Chief Justice of Pakistan.

A great read for anyone who is interested in the working of the Indian constitution.

'State of the Nation' – book review

State of the nation

For a layman to understand, to a reasonable extent, the structure of the Indian constitution and its nuances, the ‘real’ meanings of many of the terms that we have come to take for granted and the way the Indian republic has progressed since 1947 and the changes that have gone into the constitution since then, is a humungous task.

And the fact that I, as a layman, was able to reasonably understand all of the above is a grand testimony not to my intellectual ability but to the lucid presentation of the material by its eminent author, Fali.S.Nariman.

A renowned lawyer and constitutional expert that he is, Nariman has opened my eyes to see the extremely tricky aspects of the longest written constitution in the world – the Indian constitution.

How the makers of the constitution intended some aspects of the document to be, how the subsequent governments got the original intent watered down, how in spite of wholeheartedly ill-intentioned governments trying to water down the pillars of the constitution some well intentioned the judges have ensured that the spirit of the founding fathers has been maintained intact more or less – all these are elucidated in great detail in this treatise, ‘State of the Nation’.

Nariman also presents, with relevant examples, the different instances wherein the President, the Parliament, the executive and the judiciary had tried to exert their independence ( or superiority, should I say ?). And that part reads like a thriller.

We also get to know some snippets from history that we might not have been privy to, like :

  • The first President Rajendra Prasad’s tussle with Pandit Nehru and his wish to assert his Presidency
  • How Raj Narain won the court battle against Indira Gandhi and challenged her election and what Indira Gandhi did, in haste, to amend the constitution just before declaring emergency
  • How even the fundamental rights were denied by Indira Gandhi citing a constitutional amendment and how the subsequent Janata government amended that saying ‘even in case of an emergency’ the fundamental rights cannot be denied to citizens
  • The working styles of the different presidents V.V.Giri, Sharma, Narayan, Venkatraman, Zail Singh and Kalam
  • How Kalam indirectly asserted his Presidency by not following the prepared text and resorting to a Tamil poem that he himself had written exhorting the parliamentarians to do their jobs and not stage walk-outs for the flimsiest of reasons
  • How Pandit Nehru didn’t have money for his tea in 1935 after an electon campaign and how he and Lal Bahadur Sastri had to count the different coins that they had to pay for their cups of tea at a railway canteen
  • How Pandit Nehru had asked the Allahabad administration to raise, by five times, the annual property tax that was levied on his ancestral home

Fali S. Nariman has had the ring side view of things and he explains his thought process with ample references to various judgments of the US Supreme Court, leading British jurists and even the then Chief Justice of Pakistan.

A great read for anyone who is interested in the working of the Indian constitution.