• The Feminist Times

MOTHERS OF THE INDIAN CONSTITUTION



Forgotten and Faded Impressions


A constitution provides basic legal framework of a country in the form of rules and laws and can surely be deemed as one of the prudent pillars of support of a country’s governance. One of the longest constitutions of the world is our very own Indian Constitution, which was adopted on 26th November 1949 and came into effect in the following year on 26 th January 1950, after the Constituent Assembly took two years, eleven months and seventeen days to complete the long task of drafting it for the Independent India. The total membership of this Assembly was around 299 members to accommodate diversity and ensure that no discrimination would take place while drafting such an important document for the future of our country. And while we all remember and praise the Father of our constitution for his painstaking efforts and his role in drafting the constitution of our country, we often tend to forget about the fifteen ‘Mothers’ of our constitution. Their names are rarely recalled or uttered, and although they belong or rather, are engraved in golden letters in the pages of history, those pages are often seldom reread by us.


Fifteen Bold Female Voices of the Midnight Hour

The fifteen women were: Ammu Swaminathan, Annie Mascarane, Begum Aizaz Rasul, Dakshayani Velayudhan, Durgabai Deshmukh, Hansa Mehta, Kamla Chaudhari, Leela Roy, Malati Choudhury, Purnima Banerji, Rajkumari Amrit Kaur, Renuka Ray, Sarojini Naidu, Sucheta Kriplani and Vijaya Lakshmi Pandit. Women from all over the country and representing various different castes and religions added a fresh layer of diversity to the Assembly and the Constitution making process, which was already lauded for being very accommodative of the interests of diverse perspectives from different groups, castes, religions etc. present in our country. These women came from different backgrounds, and sometimes the difference was so starkly in contrast to each other yet their unique blend of the same added the aspect of representation from all strata of the society to the historical experiment of drafting a constitution for a culturally rich country like India, one which garnered worldwide interest.

Breaking the Glass Ceiling

These women managed to find a firm footing in a male dominated arena as they proved that their powerful voices couldn’t be suppressed at a time when women were not given as many chances to voice their opinions. The number fifteen might seem feeble in an Assembly of two hundred ninety nine people yet their voices were anything but that. Their contribution to the heavily male-dominated Constituent Assembly is noteworthy. These were women who were freedom fighters, women who worked tirelessly and selflessly for the nation, for reform, for suffrage, and women who brave enough to take up the professions of a lawyer or politician at a time when breaking the glass ceiling seemed like a far-fetched dream. It was their contribution that helped the Assembly craft a

politically balanced republic. Usually, equality and women rights are often viewed as ideologies which emerged in the West, yet these 15 women and their unsung stories and deeds do question the biased notion. We as Indians should be proud of the seeds of inspiration these women sowed in history of women for shaping our nation’s backbone, that is the Indian Constitution.


-Mrinalini Vashisht

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