On 8 December 1999, a pictorial Exhibition entitled “Democratic and Parliamentary Heritage of India”, was inaugurated by the Honourable Speaker, Lok Sabha, Shri G.M.C. Balayogi in Parliament House Annexe. The Exhibition coincided with the Orientation Programme for the new members of the Thirteenth Lok Sabha organised by the Bureau of Parliamentary Studies and Training from 8 to 16 December 1999.
The Exhibition depicted the history and growth of the parliamentary system in India with the aid of photographs, write-ups, quotations, charts, press headlines and diagrams. The main areas covered in the Exhibition were ancient and modern democratic institutions in India, freedom movement, transfer of power, adoption of the Constitution of India, offices of the President, Vice-President, Prime Minister, Presiding Officers and Ministers of Parliamentary Affairs since 1947, present leaders of various political parties in the Lok Sabha and some important activities of Parliament. Another interesting feature of the Exhibition was the display and demonstration of information management systems available for members of Parliament like microfilming, and audio-visual and computer systems now in use in the Lok Sabha Secretariat.
The Exhibition traced the
democratic heritage of India from the Vedic Age (3000 B.C. to 1000 B.C.) where
in the Sabha and the Samiti may be said to have contained
rudiments of a modern Parliament. The great epic Mahabharata (1500
B.C.), Kautilya’s Arthashastra (400 B.C.), Manusmriti (200 B.C.–
200 A.D.) and writings of contemporary Buddhist and Jain scholars contain
numerous references to the existence of a number of functioning republics
during the post-Vedic period. The political organisations towards the end of
the Vedic period paved the way for the emergence of several territorial states
in different parts of the country. The idea of Janapada (territory) got
gradually strengthened and by
600 B.C. there were 16 major States (Mahajanapadas), and among them Kashi, Kosala, Magadha and the Uajjian confederacy remained important republics in ancient India. One of the unique democratic institutions which evolved in ancient India has been the Panchayat system at the village level. During the medieval periods, the polity in large parts of India was basically monarchical. However, irrespective of the forms of Government all over the country, the village societal structure remained almost unchanged, as village communities in their local affairs continued to be governed by some sort of Village Councils or Panchayats.
The Exhibition highlighted the organic growth of the parliamentary institutions on the Indian soil. They grew through many relentless struggles for freedom from foreign rule and for the establishment of free democratic institutions. The first move towards Indian legislative institutions appears to have been initiated in the Charter Act of 1833. The Act separated the legislative functions of the State from its Executive functions. Every legislative proposal began to travel through three stages – First, Second and Third Readings – before it was adopted.
The exhibits under the sector, “Movement for Freedom and Democratic Institutions” focused on the Revolt of 1857 which had shaken the foundations of the British rule in India and compelled the foreign rulers to associate Indians with the authority and decentralise authority in their own interests. The Indian Councils Act, 1861 set in motion a scheme of legislative devolution in India. The representation of the Indian public began under the Act. However, the Act reached nowhere near the people’s aspirations for a more representative legislative body. The Indian Councils Act of 1892 sought to give Indians “a real living representation in the Legislative Council. The Morley-Minto Reforms of 1909 introduced the principle of election and representation. The Government of India Act, 1919 established a bicameral Legislature at the Centre—the Governor-General and the two Houses, namely the Council of State and the Legislative Assembly. The Nationalist Movement between 1920 and 1935 led to the enactment of the Government of India Act, 1935. The Act envisaged federalism and development of parliamentary institutions.
The Exhibition included photographs of earlier freedom fighters like Babu Kunwar Singh, Nana Saheb, Rani Chennamma of Kittur, Tantya Tope, Velu Thampi (Dewan of Travancore), Begum Hazrat Mahal of Lucknow, Birsa Munda, Mir Qasim, Rani Laxmi Bai and Bahadur Shah Zafar. It also included photographs of socio-religious reformers, revolutionary patriots and other freedom fighters.
The depiction of Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru’s famous speech “Tryst with Destiny” during the midnight of 14-15 August 1947 in the Central Hall supported by photographs formed part of the Exhibition.
In a democratic system, people have got the right to devise their own system of governance without any outside interference. They enjoy the inalienable right of framing their own Constitution suited to their genius, ethos and aspirations. The task of framing the Constitution of India was performed by the Constituent Assembly of India. The main features of the Constituent Assembly were highlighted in the Exhibition with the help of photographs taken at the time of signing of the Constitution, photographs of women members of the Constituent Assembly, etc. Other details like sittings of the Constituent Assembly were shown graphically.
The Exhibition contained a chart on the Indian federal system depicting at the top the Rashtrapati Bhavan, the two Houses of Parliament and the Supreme Court and down below names of States/Union territories (UT) and under each State/UT, the number of districts, municipalities and villages. A map showing the total number of Assembly seats in each State and bicameral system in States was also exhibited.
Every citizen of India who is eighteen years or more has voting rights irrespective of religion, race, caste, sex or place of birth. The Constitution provides direct election to the Lok Sabha and the Legislative Assemblies. The members of the Rajya Sabha are the representatives of the States and the Union territories. Exhibits on the electoral system were also displayed in the Exhibition. A chart showing the strength of various political parties in the Lok Sabha and the Rajya Sabha was also displayed. The photographs of women members of the 13th Lok Sabha displayed at the Exhibition were of special interest to the visitors.
In order to throw light on the activities of Parliament, the Exhibition highlighted the various devices available to the members to raise matters of urgent public importance in the House; information about various committees; photographs of Presidential procession; presentation of Budget; and presentation of Awards to Outstanding parliamentarians. The Bills passed, Parliamentary Questions asked, Sittings held and time spent on various kinds of business and reports presented by various committees were shown graphically. The Exhibition also contained photographs of foreign parliamentary delegations visited India and important functions organised in the Central Hall of Parliament House.
Many dignitaries, including Ministers, members of Parliament and State Assemblies visited the Exhibition and commended the efforts made. The Lok Sabha Speaker Shri G.M.C. Balayogi felt that the Exhibition was “an interesting and remarkable display on Parliament”, while Shri Swai Singh Sisodia, former Minister of State for Finance observed that the “Millennium Exhibition is a commendable effort”. Shri M.V. Venkatappa, Speaker, Karnataka Legislative Assembly remarked that it was a “wonderful exhibition that ‘recounts the memories of Parliament from 1947’. Shri K.R. Prasad, Secretary, Election Commission of India described it as an “Informative and exhaustive display of the Constitution makers”.
The Exhibition was organised by the Parliamentary Museum and Archives (PMA) in collaboration with the Directorate of Audio Visual Publicity (DAVP).
* Contributed by the Parliamentary Museum and Archives (PMA) Division of the Parliament Library and Reference, Research, Documentation and Information Service (LARRDIS)