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True Essence of Maulana Hasrat Mohani’s Contributions in Constituent Assembly

Sahil Budhwar |
Exploring the marginalisation and misrepresentation of ‘communist Muslim’ Maulana Hasrat Mohani's legacy in 'Samvidhaan' TV series on his 72nd Death Anniversary.
Maulana Hasrat Mohani

“Darveshi-o-inqilab maslak hai mera, 

Sufi momin hun,ishtiraki muslim”

(Asceticism & revolution is my creed

For I’m a Sufi believer, also a Communist Muslim)

These are the words that Maulana Hasrat Mohani chose to define himself. These few lines, of course, do not even begin to cover his very dynamic political career and his role in the Indian Freedom Struggle and later his role in the Constituent Assembly of India. Although they constitute certain core principles that Maulana chose to live by, they are reflected in all the different phases of his political career, especially in his speeches in the constituent assembly.

On his 72nd Death Anniversary, we remember the true legacy of Maulana Hasrat Mohani, one of the greatest Indian Freedom fighters often marginalised by other, more prominent names. The TV series Samvidhaan produced by Rajya Sabha TV (available for free on YouTube), doesn’t do justice to the contribution made by Hasrat Mohani in the constituent assembly. This analysis contrasts the character of Maulana in the show with the actual Constituent Assembly Debates (CAD).

The reason to do this comparative analysis on Maulana Hasrat Mohani is that in the show Samvidhaan, he seems to be one of the few people who always has something profound to say but is often shut down by the whole assembly. His voice becomes a kind of subaltern voice, which is constantly denied the agency to participate.

After watching the show, one realises that most of the speeches made by the political leaders in the assembly are pretty accurate and mostly use the exact same words as available in the original speeches themselves. Although it is important to note that the portrayal of any character in a cinematic space is not limited to the words they speak but other factors, such as how the camera portrays someone, how an actor is directed to act in a certain way and use certain expressions and how the environment around the character responds to it.

In the show, Maulana Hasrat Mohani is portrayed as an eccentric person who is hell-bent on moving amendments and marking objections that aren’t worthy of consideration and are constantly rejected or mocked by the other assembly members. It is seen in the show that multiple members of the assembly have declared him as an agent of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republic (USSR) while he is only trying to represent the two major sections of Indian leaders that are missing from the constituent assembly but were highly crucial to India’s struggle for independence and then making of modern India --  the communists and the Forward Blocists.

Analysing Mohani’s role in the constituent assembly is essential in such a scenario. This comparative analysis is based on the key speeches made by Mohani during discussions on the following issues- Support for the abolition of the zamindari system, Objection to The Report on the Principles of a model provincial constitution (Argument for a Federalist Structure of the Indian State) and Debate on the Preamble of the Indian Constitution.

Debate on Abolition of Zamindari System

When the proposal for the abolition of zamindari was made by Pandit GB Pant, Hasrat Mohani strongly refuted his idea and declared that this kind of scheme would, instead of abolishing zamindari, actually increase it in a different form.

Let's consider the speech made by Mohani in Episode 6, at 40.07 seconds. It is observed that the words in the speech are more or less accurate, given that he is making the speech in Urdu/Hindustani while the CADs are available to us in English. Even with the accuracy, it must be noted that in the show, his only logical backing for criticism is limited to criticising Pandit Pant for the jugglery of the words from making zamindars to bhoomidars when they both mean almost the same thing. Whilst in the CAD, the speech by Mohani is much longer and carries a more robust logic along with a proposal as to what to do in this regard. He provides the logic based on the political economy of such a proposal.

Mohani speaks of how this will lead to black marketing of the property confiscated from big zamindars, and only smaller zamindars, not the poor peasants, will be able to obtain it. He requests Pandit Pant to consider a model where the people or the state confiscates all the land from all zamindars. He suggests a proposal to hold on to this motion for later discussion, but the assembly considers none of that, and the motion is passed.

Debate on the Federalist Structure of The Indian State

In Samvidhan Episode 8, at 49 minutes 54 seconds, a debate on the nature of federalism in India is in session. During the debate, as seen on the show, many members of the constituent assembly are seen to be raising their arguments, and Mohani is one of them. Still, his argument isn’t shown as just another argument but rather is an attempt to portray him as an agent of the USSR and in a similar mocking fashion as seen throughout the show.

In this instance, his lines were even shortened to just one small paragraph where he talked about introducing the Soviet village model to Indian villages, as he had discussed with Mahatma Gandhi sometime back, he said. This becomes a sheer reduction of Mohani’s role in this discussion since Mohani is known for his contributions to the debate on the nature of federalism, and his account, as available in the CAD, is way longer and much more in-depth logical.

If we were to consider the paragraph where the particular lines were taken from, we see that he begins it by showing support to Professor KT Shah. Mohani had said, “Sir, I beg wholeheartedly to support the amendment proposed by Professor Shah where he says that the member States of the Union of India shall be organised on a uniform basis of groups of village panchayats cooperatively organised.” (CAD 7.54.28) But all of this is missing from the show; only the part mentioning the Soviet Model has been taken.

Debate on The Preamble

Mohani’s amendments to the preamble of the Indian Constitution were considered of “substance” by the President and were allowed to be presented as a priority before anyone else. This is, as a fact, shown quite clearly in Samvidhan Episode 10, at 6 minutes 52 seconds.

In this debate, Mohani moves three separate amendments, out of which all are rejected, but the moving of these amendments is shown quite accurately in the show. The words and the scenes have not been tampered with to change his portrayal. Although the trend to emphasise an attachment between him and the USSR continues, the notable trend of showing his illogical stubbornness is carried on. In the CAD, Mohani honestly says in the assembly that he is moving all these amendments because he is influenced by the Soviet society and the good it has achieved, but not for once does he want to give up being a part of them or their rulings. Despite this honesty, he is portrayed as a Soviet agent.

As stated earlier, most of the speeches made during the constituent assembly proceedings in the show are more or less accurate because they have been taken directly from the original CAD documents. The cinematic representation of the different characters makes a difference in their portrayal to the audience. While discussing several things, Mohani is mocked for being a little eccentric, and HV Kamath is shown as a suave, composed character who can lighten up the mood of the whole assembly. Unsurprisingly, most of the Congress party senior leaders are shown as most calm, composed, and logical. In such a situation, it becomes vital that we study the whole truth by trying to read the full debates on any particular issue and understand the true essence of the arguments made as it has been attempted here to honour and remember the legacy of the person who coined the slogan ‘Inquilab Zindabad’ (Long Live the Revolution)- Maulana Hasrat Mohani.

The writer is an intern with NewsClick. Views expressed are personal.

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