THE DAWN OF FREEDOM

The suffering and the sacrifices of countless men and women finally bore fruit and India woke up to freedom on the midnight of August 14-15. The travails and tribulations had come to an end. The joyous moment of having broken off the shackles of subjugation was there inspite of the pain and agony of Partition. The time had come when we could look forward to the sun of freedom and the opportunity that freedom brings.

The ceremony of the Assumption of Power by India through her chosen representatives in the Consti­tuent Assembly which had begun its Constitution-making activity on Dec. 9, 1946, was fixed to take place on the midnight of August 14-15. The time chosen was perhaps to commemorate another midnight session, equally memorable, when a similar hazardous journey was undertaken and equally solemn dedication made. Some of the very men and women who took part in the drama on August 14-15-and many others who thronged and cheered on the road outside and lit lamps and put up flags and festoons in towns and villages, had taken part in that earlier session and in the struggle that began on that midnight of Dec. 31, 1929 - Jan. 1, 1930 in Lahore.

And yet how different was the setting. The city of thatch and canvass on the banks of the Ravi, the biting winter night and this gilded chamber, air-conditioned, lit by chandelier lights, the decorous benches and galleries. What a tame picture they make when we recall the tumultuous scenes, the midnight revelry led by the Rashtrapati himself, from camp to camp on that earlier mid­night. It was strange that a revolution had culminated in this way and an event of such colossal historical importance as the freedom of 400 million people was recorded ill this brief manner.

The session in the chamber began at 10-45 P.M. The galleries were full of a colourful crowd. A surging mass had gathered outside. The proceeding commenced with the ‘Bande Mataram' sung by Mrs. Sucheta Kripalani, the wife of the then Congress President. This was followed by a brief opening address by the President of the Consembly, Dr. Rajendra Prasad. Pandit Nehru then moved the pledge. He made a stirring speech with deep emotion. The motion was seconded by Chaudhury Khaliquzzaman and supported by Dr. S. Radhakrishnan. The members of the Constituent Assembly took the pledge of dedicating themselves "to the service of India and her people to the end so that this ancient land attain her rightful and honoured place in the world and make her full and willing contribution to the promotion of world peace and welfare of mankind."

The pledge was read out by Dr. Rajendra Prasad first in Hindi and then in English and repeated sentence by sentence by members rising in their seats, followed by blowing of conch-shells and lusty shouts of "Mahatma Gandhi Ki Jai".

Before Pandit Nehru moved the pledges a two minute silence was observed in memory of those who died in the struggle for freedom in India and elsewhere.

Dr. Rajendra Prasad moved the following resolution from the Chair admist thunderous cheers and acclamation:-

"I propose that it will be intimated to His Excellency the Viceroy that Constituent Assembly of India has assumed the power for the Government of India, and the Constituent Assembly of India has endorsed the recommendation that Lord Mountbatten be the Governor-General of India from August 15, 1947, and that this message be conveyed forthwith to Lord Mountbatten by the President and Pandit Nehru."

The House approved it admist acclamation. Mrs. Hansa Mehta then presented the National Flag of India to the Indian Constituent Assembly. In presenting the Flag to Dr. Rajendra Prasad. Mrs. Mehta said: "It is in the fitness of things that the first flag that is flying over this august House should be the gift from the women of India."

Dr. Prasad showed the Flag round. Proceedings came to a close with the singing of " Hindustan Hamara", a poem by Dr. Iqbal and "Janaganamana Adhinayaka" by Rabindranath, Mrs. Sucheta Kripalani conducted the chorus.

A TRYST WITH DESTINY

Moving the resolution prescribing an oath for the members in the Constituent Assembly, free India's first Prime Minister, Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, declared:

Long years ago we made a tryst with destiny, and now the time comes when we shall redeem our pledge, not wholly or in full measure, but very substantially. At the stroke of the midnight hour, when the world sleeps, India will awake to life and freedom. A moment comes, which comes but rarely in history, when we step out from the old to the new, when an age ends, and when the soul of a nation, long suppressed, finds utterance. It is fitting that at this solemn moment we take the pledge of dedication to the service of India and her people and to the still larger cause of humanity.

At the dawn of history India started on her unending quest, and trackless centuries are filled with her striving and the grandeur of her success and her failures. Through good and ill fortune alike she has never lost sight of that quest or forgotten the ideals which gave her strength. We end today a period of ill fortune and India discovers herself again. The achievement we celebrate today is but a step, an opening of opportunity, to the greater triumphs and achievements that await us. Are we brave enough and wise enough to grasp this opportunity and accept the challenge of the future?

Freedom and power bring responsibility. That responsibility rests upon this Assembly, a sovereign body representing the sovereign people of India. Before the birth of freedom we have endured all the pains of labour and our hearts are heavy with the memory of this sorrow. Some of those pains continue even now. Nevertheless, the past is over and it is the future that beckons to us now.

That future is not one of ease or resting but of incessant striving so that we may fulfil the pledges we have so often taken and the one we shall take today. The service of India means the service of the millions who suffer. It means the ending of poverty and ignorance and disease and inequality of opportunity. The ambition of the greatest man of our generation has been to wipe every tear from every eye. That may be beyond us, but as long as there are tears and suffering, so long our work will not be over.

And so we have to labour and to work, and work hard, to give reality to our dreams. Those dreams are for India, but they are also for the world, for all the nations and peoples are too closely knit together today for any one of them to imagine that it can live apart. Peace has been said to be indivisible; so is freedom, so is prosperity now, and so also is disaster in this One World that can no longer be split into isolated fragments.

To the people of India, whose representatives we are, we make an appeal to join us with faith and confidence in this great adventure. This is no time for petty and destructive criticism, no time for ill-will or blaming others. We have to build the noble mansion of free India where all her children may dwell.