India's Transformative Constitution

We think of Indian Independence as a moment of political transformation from the erstwhile colonial regime to a democratic and republican government. The Indian Constitution is meant to embody this moment of transformation. However, the Constitution was meant to go much further than simply set out the blueprint for a political transition, or a mere transfer of power: it was intended to facilitate a thoroughgoing transformation of society itself, through the trinity of “liberty, equality, and fraternity”, and democratise hierarchical relations in the “private sphere”, such as those of caste, gender, and the economy. This paper will discuss how close attention to the radical social movements that led up the framing of the Constitution, along with the Constituent Assembly Debates, reflects the democratic radical and transformative character of the Constitution, a character that has more often than not been obscured by subsequent scholarship as well as by judicial decisions.