A colourful event marks the birth of Independent India

Updated on Aug 13, 2022 06:14 AM IST

At midnight tonight the Constituent Assembly consisting of the chosen representatives of the Indian people, assumed sovereign power and the members solemnly took the pledge to serve India and her people.

(Original Caption) An historic moment in the birth of the New India. In the Constituent Assembly in New Delhi Pandit Nehru moves the resolution for an independent Sovereign Republic. (Photo by © Hulton-Deutsch Collection/CORBIS/Corbis via Getty Images) (Corbis via Getty Images)
(Original Caption) An historic moment in the birth of the New India. In the Constituent Assembly in New Delhi Pandit Nehru moves the resolution for an independent Sovereign Republic. (Photo by © Hulton-Deutsch Collection/CORBIS/Corbis via Getty Images) (Corbis via Getty Images)
BySpecial Representative

At midnight tonight the Constituent Assembly consisting of the chosen representatives of the Indian people, assumed sovereign power and the members solemnly took the pledge to serve India and her people. “We end today a period of all fortune and India discovers herself again,” said Pandit Nehru in calling upon the members to take the new pledge.

Earlier, president of the constituent assembly Dr Rajendra Prasad said: “To all we give the assurance that it will be our endeavour to end poverty and squalor and its companions, hunger and disease to abolish distinctions and exploitation and to ensure decent conditions of living.”

After the assembly sat for 75 minutes, during which it assumed powers of governance and endorsed the appointment of Lord Mountbatten as Governor-general, Dr Rajendra Prasad and Pt Nehru proceeded to the Government House to inform Lord Mountbatten of the assembly’s decisions. Later the National Flag presented to the Assembly by Hansa Mehta on behalf of the women of India was hoisted amid cheers of thousands who had gathered outside the council House.

The climax was reached when at the stroke of midnight there was blowing of conches and spontaneously the cry of “Mahatma Gandhi ki Jai” went up. That these were the first words uttered by the representatives of Indian people on attaining freedom was an expression of the gratitude to the architect of the nation to whom both Nehru and Prasad paid glowing tribute in their speeches.

The birth of a free India was witnessed by diplomatic representatives of the nations representing more than half the population of the globe. Ambassadors of the US and China were there, and also high commissioners of Canada and Australia, and diplomatic representatives of other countries.

It was the greatest hour for Delhi. This capital of many mighty empires became today for the first time in its history the seat of Lok Raj — government of the people, by the people, and for the people.

The Assembly Halls was full to capacity and appeared most impressive. The National Flag adorned the dozen large panels some of which formerly had life size portraits of British dignitaries. The flags provide the proper background for the momentous meeting. Loudspeakers carried the proceedings to the thousands who had thronged outside.

The visitors inside the hall were certainly in a select gathering, mostly wives of officials wearing resplendent silks and relations of members of the assembly. It was a pity that the man in the street got little chance of seeing the event. Perhaps there was philosophic justice in the ceremony being observed mostly by those who were loyal to the former regime.

The most pleasing part was that among members Khadi dress predominated and that even those ordinarily accustomed to European costume came in achkan. These included Ambedkar, BL Mitter, Panikkar and Zaida. The assembly secretariat officials were all dressed in achkan, only the deputy secretary Tayabji wore Pakistani turban. Many welcomed Mavalankar, the president of the defunct Central Assembly who joined the house today.

The new ministers who will be sworn in tomorrow sat to the left the President. They included Sanmukham Chetty and SP Mookerjee.

The Beacon Lights

The members and visitors stood up when the proceedings were opened with the Vande Mataram sung by Mrs Kripalani. Dr Rajendra Prasad then addressed the house first in Hindi and then in English for 10 minutes. Twice he was cheered, once when he paid a tribute to Mahatma Gandhi, calling him “our beacon light, our guide and philosopher”, and again when while confessing sorrow at the separation he expressed good wishes for the people of Pakistan.

The House and the visitors, next stood in silence for two minutes paying tribute to the memory of those “who have died in the struggle for freedom in India and elsewhere”.

Pandit Nehru next moved the adoption of the pledge. The House cheered the sentiments he expressed especially when he mentioned that the service of India that they were to pledge themselves meant for the service of the millions who suffered. He ended with the words: “We have to build the noble mansion of a new India where all her children may dwell.”

The motion was seconded by Chaudhury Kamaruzzaman, leader of the Muslim League. In a brief, but most appropriately, worded speech, he said that the fight for freedom had ended and now they had to serve mankind. They could do this only if they placed “the country above their personal interests and took the pledge in all sincerity”.

Plea For Concord

Mr Radhakrishnan spoke impressively in support of the motion, The House cheered him when he contrasted the British action in India with that of the Dutch and the French, and admired the political sagacity and courage of the British people. He said whatever the causes which had led to the Partition, it was necessary now to avoid words of anger and passion. They must instead try to preserve the cultural bonds between the two parts if they wished the people to become one again. From today, they would not be able to blame the British and must destroy corruption, root out black-marketing and profiteering. Concord must be their watchword.

Thereafter, the motion was read out in Hindi, Urdu and English, and adopted. Thirty seconds later the zero hour struck, and the House and the visitors felt thrilled. The feeling was heightened as conches began to blow. A backbencher raised the cry: “Mahatma Gandhi ki Jai”. The hall resounded with the cry.

The members then stood up and took the oath simultaneously. It was repeated in Hindi, Urdu and English in turn.

There was a burst of cheer as the President proposed that it should be intimated to the Viceroy that “the Constituent Assembly of India has assumed power for the governance of India”. There was another burst when it was stated that the selection of Lord Mountbatten as first Governor General was endorsed by the House.

The President announced that he accepted the poem presented by the Chinese Ambassador.

Flag Presented

Hansa Mehta, who played prominent part as dictator in a civil disobedience movement, then presented the National Flag on behalf of the women of India. A hundred thousand of them, she said, had asked her to do so. It was appropriate, she added, that the flag that would fly over the House should be a gift from India. Mehta was wearing a saffron saree to mark the solemnity of the occasion. The proceedings came to a close on two songs sung by Mrs Kripalani, Iqbal’s song Hindustan Humara and the first verse of Janagana mana adhinayaka jaya he.

It is amazing how the capital has gone gay in the twinkle of an eye. Paper control, cloth control and colour shortage notwithstanding, millions of National Flags and bunting were manufactured during the past week or fortnight, and they appeared in such abundance that hardly any house or shop was without them.

The most significant aspect of the celebrations is the way in which the humble and the poor have shared the joy of freedom. Not only cars and cycles but even thetas and tongas and lorries carrying workmen have been going about flying the Tricolour.

The Fire Brigade Office, the Telephone Exchange, the Telegraph Office, the Government Press, in fact, every public institution wore a festive appearance.

Excerpts from a report published in HT’s edition of August 15, 1947

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