chapter  4
The antecedents of social rights in india
ByNeera Chandhoke
Pages 20

Why, Neera Chandhoke asks, did a nationalist movement constituted by the participation of the masses, reject the constitutionalisation of social rights? This problem is particularly perplexing once we note the presence of such rights in the draft bill of rights published by the Motilal Nehru Committee. Further, the Constituent Assembly’s Objectives Resolution resulted in strong hopes that social rights would form an intrinsic part of the Constitution’s chapter on fundamental rights. The partition resulted in the success of identity politics, a phenomenon that thrives till today, as people draw upon identity to mobilise to demand collective benefits from the state. This mobilisation, however, did not lead to a more progressive class politics. Yet, Chandhoke argues, there is more to the story about the eventual elimination of social rights from the Constitution. The key to this puzzle lies in two features of the Congress party. First, struggles initiated by the leadership were controlled and contained by the coalition of influential interests within the party. Secondly, the Congress leadership was extremely uncomfortable about popular struggles led by non-Congress organisations. She highlights its dismissal of the student and worker uprising in Calcutta in 1945 and 1946 and the postal workers’ strike of July 1946 as evidence of this discomfort.