Meet Our Women Leaders Who Played A Vital Role In Drafting Indian Constitution

It was in 1934 that the idea of a Constituent Assembly for India was put forward for the first time by M.N. Roy, a pioneer of communist movement in India. In 1935, the Indian National Congress (INC), for the first time, officially demanded a Constituent Assembly to frame the Constitution of India. In 1938, Jawaharlal Nehru, on behalf of INC declared that ‘the Constitution of free India must be framed, without outside interference, by a Constituent Assembly elected on the basis of adult franchise’.

The demand was finally accepted in principle by the British Government in what is known as the ‘August Offer’ of 1940. In 1942, Sir Stafford Cripps, a member of the the British of the cabinet, came to India with a draft proposal of the British Government on the framing of an independent Constitution to be adopted after the World War II. The Cripps Proposals were rejected by the Muslim League which wanted India to be divided into two autonomous states with two separate Constituent Assemblies. Finally, a Cabinet Mission was sent to India. While it rejected the idea of two Constituent Assemblies, it put forth a scheme for the Constituent Assembly which more or less satisfied the Muslim League. Among all the committees of the Constituent Assembly, the most important committee was the Drafting Committee set up on August 29, 1947. It was this committee that was entrusted with the task of preparing a draft of the new Constitution. In the light of the public, comments, criticisms and suggestions, the Drafting Committee prepared a second draft, which was published in October 1948. The Drafting Committee took less than six months to prepare its draft . In all it sat only for 141 days. It consisted of seven members. They were: Dr. B.R.Ambedkar (Chairman). N Gopalaswamy Ayyangar, Alladi Krishnaswamy Ayyar, K M Munshi, Syed Mohammad Saadullah, N Madhava Rau (He replaced B L Mitter who resigned due to ill-health), T T Krishnamachari (he replaced D P Khaitan who died in 1948)

We all remember the pioneering male members of drafting committee of Indian Constitution. Here’s a list of our women leaders who played a crucial role in drafting our Constitution.

Ammu Swaminathan - An Indian social worker and political activist during the Indian independence movement, Ammu Swaminathan was also a member of the Constituent Assembly of India. In a speech during the discussion on the motion by Dr B R Ambedkar to pass the draft Constitution on November 24, 1949, an optimistic and confident Ammu said, “People outside have been saying that India did not give equal rights to her women. Now we can say that when the Indian people themselves framed their Constitution they have given rights to women equal with every other citizen of the country.”

Begum Aizaz Rasul - The only Muslim woman member in the Constituent Assembly, Aizaz Rasul formally gave up the purdah in 1937 when she won her first election from the non-reserved seat and became a member of the Uttar Pradesh Legislative Council. With the partition of India, only a handful of Muslim League members joined the Constituent Assembly of India. Begum Aizaz Rasul was elected the Deputy Leader of the Delegation and the Deputy leader of Opposition in the Constituent Legislative Assembly. Begum Aizaz Rasul was instrumental in creating consensus amongst the Muslim leadership to voluntarily give up the demand for reserved seats for religious minorities. She held the office of President of the Indian Women Hockey Federation for 20 years and was also President of the Asian Women’s Hockey Federation.

Dakshayani Velayudhan - Dakshayani recognized herself as a leader of the Depressed Classes and was an Indian parliamentarian. She belonged to he Pulaya community and Dakshayani was amongst the first generation of people to be educated from her community. She holds several distinctions like - becoming the first woman from her community to wear an upper cloth, the first Scheduled Caste woman graduate in India, a science graduate, a member of the Cochin Legislative Council and of being one of nine female members of the Constituent Assembly of India. From 1946-1952, she served as a member of the Constituent Assembly and the Provisional Parliament of India. In Parliament she took special interest in the matters of education especially that of the Scheduled Castes

Durgabai Deshmukh - Durgabai was an Indian freedom fighter, lawyer, social worker and politician. She was a member of the Constituent Assembly of India and of the Planning Commission of India. She was the founder chairperson of the Central Social Welfare Board. She was the first chairperson of the National Council on Women’s Education, established by the Government of India in 1958. In 1963, she was sent to Washington DC as a member of the Indian delegation to the World Food Congress.

Hansa Jivraj Mehta - A reformist, social activist, educator, independence activist, feminist and writer, Hansa was among the 15 women who were part of the constituent assembly that drafted the Indian Constitution. She was elected to Bombay Schools Committee in 1926 and became president of All India Women’s Conference in 1945–46. In her presidential address at the All India Women’s Conference convention held in Hyderabad, she proposed a Charter of Women’s Rights.

Kamla Chaudhry - Kamla was an Indian short story writer in Hindi language and a Member of Parliament from Hapur. During the 1930 Civil disobedience movement, Chaudhry joined the Indian National Congress. She was an elected member of the Constituent Assembly of India and after the constitution was adopted she served as a member of the Provincial Government of India till 1952. She was also a member of the Uttar Pradesh State Social Welfare Advisory Board.

Vijaya Lakshmi Pandit - Vijaya was an Indian diplomat and politician. Pandit was sent to London, as India’s most important diplomat, after serving as Nehru’s envoy to the Soviet Union, the USA and the United Nations. She was also a member of Constituent Assembly that drafted the Constitution.

Sucheta Kripalani- Sucheta was an Indian freedom fighter and politician. She was India’s first woman Chief Minister, serving as the head of the Uttar Pradesh government from 1963 to 1967. She was a part of the subcommittee that drafted the Constitution. On 14 August 1947, she sang Vande Mataram in the Independence Session of the Constituent Assembly a few minutes before Nehru delivered his famous “Tryst with Destiny” speech.

Renuka Ray - Renuka, a noted freedom-fighter, social activist and politician of India, joined All India Women’s Conference and campaigned hard for women’s rights and inheritance rights in parental property. In 1932 she became President of All India Women’s Conference. She was also a member of Constituent Assembly of India in 1946-47 and She was appointed as Minister of Relief & Rehabilitation, West Bengal in the years 1952-57. In year 1959 she headed a committee on Social Welfare and Welfare of Backward Classes, which is popularly known as Renuka Ray Committee

Sarojini Naidu - Known as the ‘Nightingale of India’, Sarojini Naidu was an Indian independence activist and poet. She became the President of Indian National Congress and later she was appointed to the Governor of the United Provinces, now Uttar Pradesh.

Purnima Banerjee - An Indian freedom fighter, Purnima was part of the constituent assembly from 1946 – 1950. She was the Secretary of Indian National Congress committee in Allahabad.

Rajkumari Amrit Kaur - Rajkumari was the First Health Minister of India and served for ten years. She was an eminent Gandhian, a freedom fighter, and a social activist. Kaur was also a member of the Constituent Assembly and helped in framing Indian Constitution. She co-founded the All India Women’s Conference in 1927, became its secretary in 1930, and president in 1933.

Malati Choudhury - Malati was a Constitution assembly member from Orissa. Nick named as ‘toophani’ by Mahatma Gandhi, Devi was a freedom fighter who put immense efforts in the upliftment of Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes, other backward classes (OBC) and underprivileged sections of society.

Leela Roy - A freedom fighter and social worker, Leela worked for education of women in India and was a hardcore feminist. She was the only elected woman member from Bengal to the assembly. Roy resigned from her post to stage a protest against the partition of India.

Annie Mascarene - Annie was one of the members of the Constituent Assembly of India and served on its select committee that looked into the Hindu Code Bill. She was elected to the First Lok Sabha as an independent candidate from the Thiruvananthapuram Lok Sabha constituency in the Indian general election, 1951. She was the first woman MP from Kerala and one of only 10 elected to Parliament in those elections. Prior to her election to Parliament, Mascarene had been member of the Travancore-Cochin Legislative Assembly from 1948—52 and had served briefly as Minister in Charge of Health and Power in the Parur T K Narayana Pillai Ministry during 1949-1950.