History

Constituent Assembly Debates on Alcohol

In the book, India After Gandhi by Ramachandra Guha, the following passage about Constituent assembly debates was found interesting:

Jaipal Singh, himself an adivasi, albeit of a rather special kind. Jaipal was a Munda from Chotanagpur, the forested plateau of South Bihar peopled by numerous tribes all more-or-less distinct from caste Hindu society. Sent by missionaries to study in Oxford, he made a name there as a superb hockey player. He obtained a Blue, and went on to captain the Indian team that won the gold medal in the 1928 Olympic Games.

Three years later, in the discussion on the draft constitution [of India], Jaipal made a speech that was spirited in all senses of the word. Bowing to pressure by Gandhians, the prohibition of alcohol had been made a directive principle. This, said the adivasi leader, was an interference ‘with the religious rights of the most ancient people in the country’. For alcohol was part of their festivals, their rituals, indeed their daily life itself. In West Bengal ‘it would be impossible for paddy to be transplanted if the Santhal does not get his rice beer. These ill-clad men . . . have to work knee-deep in water throughout the day, in drenching rain and in mud. What is it in the rice beer that keeps them alive? I wish the medical authorities in this country would carry out research in their laboratories to find out what it is that the rice beer contains, of which the Adibasis need so much and which keeps them [protected] against all manner of diseases.”

So I’m not alone in thinking that alcohol is an essential ingredient in leading a spirited life. Certain enlighted founders of the Indian Constitution also shared this view.

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