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The Constitution of India has been widely viewed as a transformative document, a founding charter of sorts for independent India. This narrative has meant that critical engagement with the contents of the Constitution has been inadequate, and where it has been done, has tended to be drowned out by overwhelmingly hagiographic accounts.
The Colonial Constitution makes an argument why the Constitution of India is a colonial document. It perpetuates institutions that underpinned the sovereignty of the British Raj, creates a large law and order state, vests citizens with fundamental rights with one hand but circumscribes them effectively with restrictions with the other, and centralizes power disproportionately in New Delhi.
These provisions, the book argues, were founded on the widely shared belief in the Constituent Assembly that only a large and powerful state could guarantee individual liberty. Alternative ideas, such as Gandhian village democracy based on individual duties, or elements of direct democracy propounded separately by MN Roy and the All-India Hindu Mahasabha, were considered too radical for the time and not fully explored.
By delving into the constitutional writings of Gandhi, Ambedkar, Savarkar and an analysis of the debates between members inside the Constituent Assembly and outside it, this book tells the origin story of the Constitution of India.
Arghya Sengupta is the author of The Colonial Constitution published by Juggernaut in 2023. He is the Founder and Research Director of the Vidhi Centre for Legal Policy. At Vidhi, his areas of specialization are constitutional law and regulation of the digital economy. He is the author of two acclaimed books Independence and Accountability of the Indian Higher Judiciary and Hamīñ Ast? A Biography of Article 370 (co-authored).
He has written over 20 articles and essays in leading peer-reviewed journals and collections, including in the Law Quarterly Review, Public Law and the Oxford Companion to Politics in India. He has most recently co-edited Working a Democratic Constitution, a special edition of the IIC Quarterly. He is a columnist at The Times of India and The Telegraph.
He was educated at the National Law School of India University Bengaluru and the University of Oxford, where he was a Rhodes Scholar and Lecturer in Law.
Professor Louise Tillin
Louise is a Professor of Politics in the King’s India Institute. Her research interests span federalism, democracy and territorial politics in India, and the history and politics of social policy design and implementation. Her books include Remapping India: New States and their Political Origins (Hurst & Co/Oxford University Press, 2013), Politics of Welfare: Comparisons across Indian States, edited with Rajeshwari Deshpande and KK Kailash (New Delhi, Oxford University Press, 2015), Indian Federalism (New Delhi, Oxford University Press, 2019) and The Politics of Poverty Reduction in India: The UPA Government, 2004 to 2014(with James Chiriyankandath, Diego Maiorano and James Manor) (New Delhi, Orient Blackswan, 2020).
Professor Niraja Gopal Jayal
Niraja Gopal Jayal joined King’s India Institute as Avantha Chair in October 2021. She was formerly Professor at the Centre for the Study of Law and Governance at the Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi and presently also Centennial Professor (2019-23) at The London School of Economics, in the Department of Gender Studies.
Her book Citizenship and Its Discontents (Harvard University Press and Permanent Black, 2013) won the Ananda Kentish Coomaraswamy Prize of the Association of Asian Studies in 2015. She is also the author of Representing India: Ethnic Diversity and the Governance of Public Institutions (Palgrave Macmillan, 2006) and Democracy and the State: Welfare, Secularism and Development in Contemporary India (OUP, 1999). She has co-edited The Oxford Companion to Politics in India, and edited, among several others, Democracy in India (OUP, 2001) and Re-Forming India: The Nation Today. (Penguin Random House, 2019) Her most recent book is Citizenship Imperilled: India’s Fragile Democracy (Permanent Black).