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Marxism, Dharma and the Constituent Assembly

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Brajeshwar Prasad, Communist/Congress man.


The constituent assembly debates is full of quirky comments and sharp remarks, and some genuinely perplexing comments. One such person is Shri Brajeshwar Prasad, a Congress man who later became a 3 term Member of Parliament from Gaya, Bihar.

It is while reading the Constituent assembly debates on right to property, I came across the speeches of Shri. Brajeshwar Prasad, whose arguments on right to property are hilarious as well as frightening, at the same time.

Take for example his proposed amendment on September 10th, 1949 to Article 24 of the Draft constitution, Article 31 of our current constitution.

“ 24. (1) All private property in the means of production may be acquired by the Government of India. (2) The President shall determine in each case, to what extent, if any, the owner whether a private individual, a State, a local self-governing institution or a company, shall be compensated. (3) That within four years from the date of the commencement of this Constitution, the Union Government shall become the owner of all private property in land which is being used or capable of being used for agricultural purposes”

It is quite clear from the instant that Sri Prasad was a marxist.

He goes on to say in the instant speech:

“ There is much truth in the Marxist theory that the state is an instrument of exploitation in the hands of the dominant group in society.”

While he is an unabashed marxist who believes in seizing of private property and means of production, he is also a supporter of religious autocracy. Sample some of his comments made in the same speech:

“I hold the view that the system of peasant proprietorship is the greatest hindrance in the way of socialism and progress. There is much truth in the Marxist theory that the state is an instrument of exploitation in the hands of the dominant group in society. Therefore I say that this power should he taken away from the hands of Parliament and vested in the hands of our philosopher-kings.”

In a speech made on November 24th, 1949, one of the last sessions of the constituent assembly, he made more comments that bring out the full colour of his views:

“Article 24 has banged the door to all progress. Without the liquidation of private property as the means of production, there is no bright future for India. “

He draws a parallel between Dharma and the denial of right to property:

“ If India is to remain loyal to her ancient traditions she must discard the basic foundations of this Constitution. Dharma was the basis of all Governments in ancient India. If the will of ignorant and hungry people were ever to become the basis of government in India, it will mean the complete liquidation of all that is good and noble in Indian life.”

He does however state that the Constitution is a Lawyer’s constitution, and that is an assessment that I more than agree with. But that is the only thing I agree with.

But our proto-communist constituent assembly member was not all dry speeches and radical ideas. When he was delivering his speech on November 24th, 1949, a Member interrupted him to say :

May I request the Honourable Member to read his speech slowly, so that we may follow him? He is going like the Toofan Express.

An unperturbed Prasad replied:

I am speaking quite distinctly. I would go slow if the honourable President would give me time. But he would not.

That’s not all. When he rose to deliver his speech on 10th September, the members of the assembly cheered him, and this hilarity ensued:

Dr. Rajendra Prasad : Mr. Brajeshwar Prasad-385. (Mr. Brajeshwar Prasad was cheered as he walked up to the rostrum.) An Honourable Member: The cheers are an invitation to the Honourable Member to make his speech short! Dr. Rajendra Prasad: The cheers are to cheer you out.

Here again, Prasad unflinchingly moves his amendment, but thanks the house for the cheers later int the speech.

Finding these comments were frankly, amazing. It makes me wonder to what other gems are concealed in the Constituent Assembly record.

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