The August 15, 1947 speeches remain beacons to desired future

Alok Prasanna Kumar
August 15, 2021

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Jawaharlal Nehru made his famous “Tryst with Destiny” speech late in the night on August 14, 1947. It was delivered during one of the most momentous sessions of the Constituent Assembly, one that is well-known and well-recorded. Apart from Nehru’s speech itself, the presentation of the national flag, the singing of the national anthem, the taking of the pledge by all the members of the Assembly at the stroke of midnight are all well-known. Many evocative accounts of that moving day, by members and observers, are present and easily accessible.

But the session did not end there. The Constituent Assembly only adjourned to the morning of August 15, 1947. This day, when Nehru flew the Indian flag from the ramparts of the Red Fort, saw speeches by Governor-General Louis Mountbatten and Rajendra Prasad, in his capacity as the president of the Constituent Assembly. The speeches are revealing about the immediate circumstances in which India became independent -- what was said being as important as what was left unsaid.

The day began with the reading out of congratulatory messages received from nations far and wide. Mountbatten was then invited to speak.

The bulk of Mountbatten’s speech covered the events leading up to independence, specifically his role in the whole process. No doubt he played a key role in the exercise, but one notices not only a certain level of self-congratulation, but also self-exculpation. Self-congratulation for having advanced the date of independence from July 1948 to August 1947, when everyone thought that even June 1948 was too early. Self-exculpation for the failings that resulted from such a hasty withdrawal.

Mountbatten gave himself credit for the idea behind implementing Partition (“the leaders agreed to discuss a paper which I had laid before them on the administrative consequences of Partition”) while also subtly telling us who to blame for things that went horribly wrong (“To the ministers and officials who have laboured day and night to produce this astonishing result, the greatest credit is due”).

Prasad’s speech was almost a riposte to Mountbatten’s, focused as it was on the future, and has no mention of the speaker himself. Prasad, in this vein, outlined an almost utopian vision for what he hoped India would become.

He said: “Let us resolve to create conditions in this country when every individual will be free and provided with the wherewithal to develop and rise to his fullest stature, when poverty and squalor and ignorance and ill-health will have vanished, when the distinction between high and low, between rich and poor, will have disappeared, when religion will not only be professed and preached and practised freely but will have become a cementing force for binding man to man and not serve as a disturbing and disrupting force dividing and separating, when untouchability will have been forgotten like an unpleasant night dream, when exploitation of man by man will have ceased…”

While articulating this utopian idea, Prasad also mentioned the important task at hand -- the making of the Constitution. Even while the draft Constitution was still being framed, Prasad articulated the hope that it “will enable the people’s will to be expressed and enforced, and that will not only secure liberty to the individual but also reconcile and make that liberty subservient to the common good.”

Mountbatten’s and Prasad’s speeches were a neat contrast of old and new, of personal and societal, of individual and institutional. Where Mountbatten looked to the past, his own role and the parts played by specific individuals in getting India to independence, Prasad looked to the future -- of what independence would bring, of what the society and nation would look like, and what individuals could hope to achieve in the new country.

Both viewpoints are, however, valid. It is good to remember that India’s independence came about in hasty, confused and, eventually, bloody circumstances that continue to haunt us to this day. Yet, it was also infused with hope for a better future -- one that we have made progress towards but are a long way from achieving.

 

(The author is Co-founder, Vidhi Centre for Legal Policy, uses his legal training to make the case that Harry Potter is science fiction and Star Wars is fantasy)

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News Network
October 14,2021

Bengaluru, Oct 14: The Congress' Karnataka unit president D K Shivakumar said he will not blame anyone for the viral video in which former Lok Sabha member V S Ugrappa and media coordinator M A Saleem attributed him to an alleged scam when he was a Minister.

"People have already spoken whatever they wanted. I will not blame the BJP or the media. We only gave others a chance to use us," Shivakumar told reporters here.

He was responding to the queries on the embarrassing video of the purported conversation between Saleem and Ugrappa on Tuesday ahead of a press meet at the party's meeting hall. In the video, Saleem is purportedly heard calling Shivakumar a 'Collection Giraaki' (extortionist), who allegedly increased the 'commission' in irrigation contracts from eight per cent to 12 per cent.

The party suspended Saleem from the party for six years and served a show-cause notice to Ugrappa, who is Congress spokesperson, seeking an explanation in three days. The Congress state chief said the issue related to the viral video was not personal but pertained to a party, which was built by the lakhs of party workers.

Hitting back at the BJP for targeting him following the viral video, Shivakumar said let the BJP take note of what their leaders have spoken against their leader such as MLC A H Vishwanath, C P Yogeshwar, Ramesh Jarkiholi and Basanagouda Patil Yatnal.

"Why the BJP has not yet answered to the charges levelled by Vishwanath, Yogeeshwar, Ramesh Jarkiholi and Yatnal (against former Chief Minister B S Yediyurappa and his family)? Why are they not speaking about collection during the BJP's tenure," the Congress state chief said.

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News Network
October 12,2021

Kalaburagi, Oct 12: Two mild earthquakes of 3.5 and 2.8 magnitudes were reported from Chincholi taluk in Kalaburagi district of Karnataka within 10 minutes today. 

This is the seventh tremor people have witnessed in the region in a week. While two had occurred in Basavakalyan on October 1 and 5, four were recorded in Kalaburagi on October 9, 11 and 12. 

Panic-stricken people spent the night outdoors in Gadikeshwar and Kupnoor following the tremors. The walls of over 10 houses have collapsed and hundreds of houses developed cracks. In the absence of private vehicles, people are moving out of the village on their motorbikes. Around 100 families have left surrounding villages.

The Karnataka State Disaster Management Authority commissioner Manoj Rajan said that he has convened a meeting of the geologists to understand the phenomena. He added that the disaster management teams in the north Karnataka region has been put on alert. They have also been briefed about the do's and don'ts in the event of any major earthquake.

The KSNDMC said in a statement that the intensity observed on Monday night was "little higher than low intensity". "The earthquake might be felt up to a radial distance of 50 to 60 km or even more. These types of earthquakes do not create any harm or damage to the local community, although there will be vibrations felt up to a distance of 50 to 60 kms based on the local geology," it said. 

The earthquakes assume significance as the epicentres are in close proximity to Latur and Killari in Maharashtra, which had witnessed a massive earthquake in September 1993 killing a large number of people. 

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News Network
October 17,2021

Bengaluru, Oct 17: Karnataka Chief Minister Basavaraj Bommai on Sunday hinted at reducing cess and sales tax on petrol and diesel in the state to ease the fuel prices which have touched an all-time high.

Speaking to the media, Bommai said it all depends on the economy. "I have called an economic review meeting. If the economic situation seems to be good, there is possibility for the consideration," he added.

Earlier, the Chief Minister had rejected any tax deduction on fuel in the state. The petrol price has reached Rs 109.16 per litre and diesel price has touched Rs 100 in Karnataka.

The Opposition Congress has demanded a reduction of taxes on fuel on similar lines of the Tamil Nadu government which has reduced the taxes on petrol by Rs 3 per litre.

The Congress has blamed the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party governments for the hike in fuel prices.

Bommai had defended that during the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government, fuel prices had increased by 60 per cent between 2004 and 2014 while fuel prices have risen by 30 per cent in seven years of Prime Minister Narendra Modi's government.

Leader of Opposition Siddaramaiah targeted the present BJP government, saying that inflation under its tenure is nothing but criminal loot. 

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