Musings On The Constitution-XI
N. Gopalaswami Ayyangar
From an Ayyar to an Ayyangar. And in the name of Musings On The Constitution. Gopalapuram, Chennai, Tamil Nadu, where I live, is named after this member of the Drafting Committee of the Constitution. And his residence on 232/233, Lloyd’s Road, or associated with him, in not so indirect way, is my neighbouring compound. That possibly is my strongest connect with The Making of the Constitution. V K Thiruvenkatachari, was the son in law of Mr. N Gopalaswamy Ayyangar, that member of huge consequence. Padmini Chari was the wife of VKT and one of the three founders of Vidya Mandir school, Mylapore- along with Sister Subbulakshmi and Advocate Subbaraya Iyer. Now that compound hosts National Public School. Son of NGA was G. Parthasarathy, who was up there as the most influential of the confidential confidants of Madam Indira Gandhi, as long as he lived. Despite all these connects and exposures, I continue to be just another advocate, communicates the worth and credentials of mine, and these Musings, and does not detract from theirs.
For about 15 years, until I became a lawyer, most waking hours were spent in their huge compound, in the company of VKT’s grandson Rishi T. Krishnan, presently Director of IIM, Indore, amidst the mountain of books that VKT was surrounded by.Where from do you think I get all these stolen/borrowed and at times plagiarised ideas.
And I had occasion to see and hear many a Chief Minister, Finance and other Ministers, Centre and States, Income Tax Commissioners, Senior Advocates, top journalists, creme de la creme, including the likes of Rajaji, Kamaraj, Veerasamy, M M Ismail, S Mohan, Cho Ramaswami and many more. How I wish I had eavesdropped into their conversations or been aware of their importance, at that time.May have had a lot more juicy Musings.
Now pivot to where I am supposed to be. The role that NGA played, as more than a member of the Drafting Committee. It is often said that the deliberations and debates in the Constituent Assembly were one part. A major part may be. But more important were those that took place on the outside. As Track II diplomacy. That is where NGA comes in big. He was Jawaharlal Nehru’s got to man. NGA was the trouble shooter running constitutional errands between Nehru, Sardar Patel, Sheikh Abdulla, Rajendra Prasad and several others.
NGA held many important positions, but they were all overwhelmed by his role in the enactment of Art. 370 read with Art. 35A of the Constitution. It was breathtaking. It was the glitter of his career or the dimmer if his career at its pinnacle, as you will. Take it from me, his time in these constructs will one under the scanner before the Supreme Court in the pending challenge to the Modi 2.0 dismantling Art.370 along with Art.35A. Tomes have been written on the roles of Jawaharlal Nehru, Sardar Patel, Sheikh Abdulla, and NGA was bang in the middle as a prime actor. Gopalapuram is far, far away from Jammu & Kashmir, but historically, it would resonate before the top court, for sure, on the role of this Gopalapuramwasi. I shall have raised collars with unjustified smugness.
Dal Lake- Kashmir Valley
Dewan Bahadur Sir Narasimha Ayyangar Gopalaswami Ayyangar, CSI, CIE (31 March 1882 – 10 February 1953) was a Member of the Drafting Committee of the Constitution, a leader of the Rajya Sabha and a cabinet minister in the Government of India, first as a minister without portfolio but looking after Kashmir Affairs, and later as the railway minister. In his Kashmir Affairs role, he represented India at the United Nations Security Council and later drafted the Article 370 of the Indian Constitution that granted autonomy to Jammu and Kashmir. In 1905, Ayyangar joined the Madras Civil Service. He served as a Deputy Collector till 1919, and was promoted Collector and District Magistrate in 1920. He was the Registrar-General of Panchayats and Inspector of Local Boards for seven years from 1921. During this time many village panchayats were organized in the districts of Ramnad and Guntur. Then for three years, he was Collector and District Magistrate in Anantapur.
Following that, he was Inspector of Municipal Councils and Local Boards till 1932. Mr. Ayyangar served as Secretary to Government in the Public Works Department from 1932 to 1934. Finally, he served as a member of the Board of Revenue until 1937. The second phase of his career was devoted to politics. He was Prime Minister of Jammu and Kashmir from 1937-1943 and was appointed to Council of States from 1943-1947. During that time he was Chairman of the Committee for the Indianisation of Army. From 1947-1948 he served as Minister without Portfolio in the first cabinet under Jawaharlal Nehru. This was followed by his sojourn as Minister of Railways and Transport from 1948-1952, and finally, he served as Defence Minister from 1952-1953.
In 1946, Ayyangar was elected to the Constituent Assembly of India, which convened in December 1946 with Jawaharlal Nehru as its president. Ayyangar was appointed to the seven-member Drafting Committee that formulated the Indian Constitution. In a nutshell, that could be the life and times of NGA. But it was not so prosaic or pedestrian, as we shall see, the grant of special status to Kashmir ‘was imbued in invitation, surrender, negotiation, skulduggery, manipulation, politking, manoeuvring and more”, as a historian wrote. Let us get real with the facts. And even that is not easy for the partisan pandemic in the construct of Art.370 has taken to mean – to each his own facts.
Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah was a school teacher who left his job in 1930 and founded ‘Muslim Conference’ which was later named as ‘National Conference’. On 10 May, 1946 Abdullah launched a movement against the Maharaja with the slogan against him ‘Quit Kashmir’. In his inflammatory and communal speech against the Maharaja and the Hindus he called for ‘Jehad’. On 17 May, 1946, Abdullah exhorted his followers: “It is time for action. You must fight slavery and enter the field of ‘Jehad’ as soldiers. Every man, woman and child will shout ‘Quit Kashmir’. The Kashmiri nation has expressed its will. I will ask for plebiscite.”
The slogan ‘Quit Kashmir’ was meant for Maharaja to ‘Quit Kashmir’ and hand over the reins to Abdullah. Abdullah was arrested on 20 May, 1946. Nehru demanded his immediate release.
Jawaharlal Nehru and Sheikh Abdullah
To demonstrate his support for Sheikh Abdullah Nehru decided to visit Kashmir in June. The State Government banned his entry. Nehru decided to enter Kashmir defying the ban. He gave the…..
(Author is practising advocate in the Madras High Court)