An Appeal to Conscience
Annadurai, Upper house(Rajya sabha) - Council of States, Parliament of Indian Union , May 1963
The Constitution (16th Amendment Bill) had been passed by a massive majority in the Lok Sabha. In the Rajya Sabha Anna was the solitary figure pleading for justice and fair play. Alone but undaunted he stands up to reiterate his point to explain the intense and growing frustration among the section of the people in his part of the ountry about the political set-up under the federation.
The Chinese invasion and its aftermath had considerably changed Anna’s views and the desirability of an independent ‘Dravida Nadu’. In the speech he made while the Constitution Amendment Bill was introduced as well as in this speech he argues for the need to keep intact the right of any unit to ask for separation. But accent in these speeches is for getting more sovereignty to the States and removing the regional disparities. He was convinced that unless the DMK contested and won the Elections, the rights and aspirations of the non-Hindi speaking people, especially of the South, could not be realized.
Mr. Vice Chairman, I do not have much to add to what I have already expressed on a previous occasion when this Bill was brought forward, but I would like to remove certain misapprehensions that have been created. The mover of the Bill has stated that in the other House it was passed unanimously. May be after the amendment, after the voting on the amendments, at the final stage my Party was not present. But when the first vote was taken, seven members of the DMK and one member of RSP Kerala eight members voted against the Bill. Perhaps in his anxiety to stress the point that there ought to be unanimity on this, he took it for granted that there was unanimity. Fortunately or unfortunately, there was no such unanimity. Eight people have actually voted against the measure in the Lok Sabha.
Let us not look at this problem merely as a law and order problem, but as a problem, as my friend, Mr Bhupesh Gupta has put it, which ought to be solved in the political sphere. May I, with your persmission, put to myself one question : what do I gain by standing alone in this House expressing an unpalatable thing, knowing full well that if only I were to give up that unpalatable thing, you would, everyone of you, take me into your hearts? What do I gain by standing aloof and alone? You should understand the psychology behind that stand. Please do not think that I am pressing for it, for the mere novelty of it. There is frustration, a very intense and a very growing one, among a section of people of my part who definitely feel that the present political is why after having had the experience of this federation for so many years, not only the members of the DMK but members outside the DMK too, feel that unless something radical is done, unless some new kind of political set-up is created, this federation is not going to stand the strain and stress of the times.
Of course, the Minister was kind enough to state that even without this amendment, the Constitution is very clear, that the talk about separation is repugnant to the constitution. I may point out that jurists are divided on that point, and I quote the opinion of one jurist of this august House, I am quoting Mr. P.N. Sapru. He has written a very persuasive, a very lucid article, not for separation, but against separation in one of our English dailies, wherein he has said about the Preamble to our Constitution, that it is a Sovereign Republic. Since our Constitution is not rigid, since amendments are allowed, since our Constitution is purposely made flexible, even an amendment to the Preamble can be brought forward. And therefore it does not matter much whether, as the Minister has state, the talk about separation is repugnant to the Constitution or, as the jurist has pointed out, it is open to question.
Apart from the Constitution, it is a matter of conscience. You should think everyone of you in this House should think why a particular section in this country feel a way diametrically opposed to what everybody else feels. We could not have been peculiarly brought up. We could not have been unaware of the good influence that was being inculcated in this country for the past forty or fifty years. We heard Mahatma Gandhi talk about the great Bharat. We have heard with a thrill, as most of you have heard, about the oneness of this country. We have read about the oneness of this country. Yet, do some of us feel that the present political set-up of a federation makes the State become almost like a colony. Why do we feel that way? There is again the other item referred to by my friend Mr Bhupesh gupta regional disparity. You cannot ignore the existing regional disparity in the economic sphere. There is the psychological sphere which has been referred to, and you will come to the only conclusion to which some of us rather most of our people – have come to, in our part of the country. We feel that if we remain a part and parcel of the Indian Union, if we remain as a component part of the Indian federation, linguistically there would be an imperialism, economically our State would be backward and psychologically we would not have so much of solace as we would have if we were to be separate. That is the background we would request everyone of the Members of this House to ponder over.
It was strengthened by the liberal dicta propounded by the present Prime Minister of India, while he was not the Prime Minister, but the leader of the liberation movement in the subcontinent. He has stated on many occasions that his party, the Congress Party, would try to ask or try to persuade every component unit other a particular section of the people thought that particular area should secede from the Union, he would not force them to remain in the Union but would give them the right to secede. I am quoting his famous speech at the Kapurthala Ground. I am also quoting his writings about the problem of separation. At that time the problem of separation was about Pakistan and not about other things. Therefore, when we read the liberal dicta of Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, we were strengthened in our thought that if we were to present our case sincerely, you would consider it. But instead of meeting the DMK and its propaganda on the political ground, you are bent upon bringing forward a legislation. “The Congress Position was that India should remain a national union but if at the same time the population of a unit specifically declares that they would not be in the common unit, then the Congress should not ask them to stay in the Union. Thus the Congress recognizes the right of separation or self-determination.” This is what Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru has stated on 29th August, 1945. I have other quotations too but I do not want to take up the time of the House. Therefore, it is not that we are bringing forward a theory or a thesis which is very repugnant to everybody. At one time, Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru thought thought that it would not be so. Mr Sapru has himself said that. He has asked the DMK and particularly me I am glad that he has requested me – to give this up and he has said that merely because there is a federation, that does not mean that for all time to come a component unit of the federation cannot break away from it. Please study the history of federation, all over, present and past. Wherever any component part of a federation feels frustrated, feels that it can get much by remaining our rather than by remaining in, then that federation is bound to break up. It may not interest you, but it does interest me to know, to remind myself, that the Scandinavian Union – the Union between Norway and Sweden- was in vogue for four centuries, for four hundred years. Nobody questioned the validity, the legality or the logicality of it. But yet, a part of it thought that by remaining in the Union they would not be getting what they years, that Union was broken. I have pointed this out not in a menacing spirit but as a student of history. Please do not trot out arguments by saying that our federation is indissoluble and therefore we cannot separate. Give us more cogent reasons, give us more assurances.
By amending Article 19, the Minister has stated, the freedom of speech is curtailed so as to safeguard the sovereignty and integrity of India. But our Constitution refers to fundamental rights and any restriction of the fundamental rights should be a reasonable one. The reasonableness or otherwise is not to be decided merely by the majority in a Parliament but by the judicial mind. They should sit and say whether this restriction is reasonable and even granting for argument’s sake that the restriction is reasonable, we should be informed whether the restriction implies prohibition also. You can restrict a particular right; say, go thus far and no father. That was what the Home Minister stated in this House some months ago when an Hon. Member put him a question about the propaganda for separation. He said, if they go beyond a certain point, we will think about it. Now, that is a most wholesome principle of fundamental rights, of freedom of speech. But this is total prohibition; this is no restriction, telling the people not to preach violence, not to preach sabotage, not to preach a no-tax campaign. A mere talk about separation is not merely restricted but completely prohibited. The Hon. Minister who moved this Bill was very eloquent when he said that the two cardinal principles in our Constitution were sovereignty and democracy. This is not sovereignty; nor is it democracy. Sovereignty does not mean power to be concentrated in one place and one place alone. The very term ‘sovereignty’ the definition of sovereignty is undergoing vast changes due to the impact of various political forces in this country, and outside this country. The United Nations Assembly is very busy defining what is meant by the term ‘self-determination’. I understand a committee is in the process of finding out what exactly is meant by the term ‘self-determination’. Therefore, let us not think that sovereignty has been explained in all its implications, and let us not also think that by bringing forward a measure, we can put down any thought or any talk or any discontent in any part of the country by anybody.
If such a law is brought forward and is passed, what is the situation? Though my friend Mr Bhupesh Gupta supported it generally, and in principle, he has also asked the Congress Party, the ruling party, to fight us on political ground - I do not even want to use an offensive word such as ‘fight’ meet us on the political ground. Why do you fight shy of meeting us? Did the National Integration Committee care to enquire about our point of view? Did the persuasive Home Minister create a machinery whereby by can get an insight into our sentiments, our feelings? Simply because you have got a majority, simply because the DMK is in a minority, it is very easy for you to pass a legislation, and it is easier for me to go back to my people and say, “Well, I fought for you singly and all alone, and yet the Bill was passed. What shall I do?” And my people, naturally, will say, “All right; let us resist it,” Therefore, you are creating an atmosphere of lawlessness, the breaking of laws. That is why, whenever a new legislation is contemplated, you should think to borrow a phrase from my friend, the Home Minister – you should think a hundred times before you bring in any new legislation, see whether there is any necessity for it, whether there is any urgency for it, whether there is any cogency in it. Here there is neither urgency nor necessity nor cogency. I oppose this Bill, and in opposing this Bill I am really sorry that I have run counter to the various sentiments of every one of the Members of the House, for whom I have the greatest respect. I would request everyone of them to ponder over the problem carefully, considerably and in a compromising spirit. I can even go so far as to tell the Home Minister, “All right, pass the legislation, but it will only remain in your archives or in your armoury. The people know how to meet the situation.” Instead of that, after this Bill is passed, I would still request the Home Minister to constitute a parliamentary committee. Let it not be an official committee. Let it not be an official committee. Let it be a non-official committee composed of Members of different political parties. Ask Mr Sapru to be there; ask Mr Bhupesh Gupta to be there. I would very much like my friend, Mr Vajpayee, to be there. Let them tour our part of the country, stay there for a fortnight, meet all people, understand the cross-currents of political thought there, and then let them submit a report. I accept such a committee and I say that we would present materials enough for them to ponder over this problem and when they go through those materials, they will come to me and say, “Well, if these are the things, it is not unjustifiable for you to ask for separation, and yet we would very much like you to be with us. Now there is a German saying, “If you would not be my brother, I would break your head and make you one.” Please do not break heads if you want concord, if you want a calm political atmosphere and if you want if you want to solve political problems on the political plane.