(The Dalit who Presided over the Pakistan Constituent Assembly ) ( His 118th B.D.falls on 29 Jan.2016) By:- Er. H.R. Phonsa
Shri Joginder Nath Mandal was a trusted lieutenant of Dr. B. R. Ambedkar and became the first Law Minister of Pakistan and also the Chairman of Constitution Drafting committee of Pakistan after the partition of India. Prior to the partition of India Shri Joginder Nath Mandal gained national prominence for winning the election in 1946 on SCF ticket and for being included in the interim Ministry of Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru with Law Portfolio. Then Babu Jagjivan Ram was another prominent Dalit leader of Congress party and a minister in the Interim Ministry. In free India Babu Jagjivan Ram served in different capacities including Deputy Prime Minister .
Shri Joginder Nath Mandal was also fondly called Mahapran. Shri J.N. Mandal was born in Namashudra caste of Scheduled Castes on January 29th, 1904. He was born to a farmer Shri Ramdayal Mandal and Shrimati Sandhaya Devi of village Maister Kandi in Barisal district of undivided Bengal. He was admitted to a school when he was eight years old. He was meritorious and passed his Matriculation examination securing First Division in 1924. After passing his B.A. from B.M. College at Barisal in 1929 he secured admission for M.A. in Dacca University. Due to his weak financial position, he discontinued studies at Dacca University. However later he passed Law Degree in 1934. He was aware of the suppression of the Scheduled Castes by the upper Caste Hindus, who were denying them their due share in political, educational, social, religious and economical fields. He thought that only political power can mitigate the Shudras from their man made miseries. So he entered politics and contested his maiden election as independent candidate for the Bengal Legislative Assembly in 1937. He defeated congress candidate, a very powerful and rich landlord. Therefore he became the member of the Legislative assembly when he was only 33 years old. There were 20 other Independent Scheduled Caste party leaders. Shri J.N. Mandal was elected as secretary with Shri Hem Chander Naskar as President of the Independent Scheduled Caste Party. The joint effort of the M.L.As succeeded in securing 15% reservation in services for Scheduled Caste candidates in Bengal. Observing sincerity, intelligence and organizational qualities of J.N. Mandal, Jenab Khawaja Nizamudeen, the Chief Minister of Bengal, inducted him as a minister in his cabinet along with two others from Scheduled Castes. So Shri J.N. Mandal became undisputed political leader of Scheduled Castes in Bengal.
The Independent Labour Party (IPL) formed by Dr. B. R. Ambedkar on15th August 1936 had got itself engaged in the welfare and the struggle to secure political power for Scheduled Castes. When in 1942 Dr. Ambedkar tried to broaden IPL’s base so changed its name to The Scheduled Castes Federation (SCF). Units of SCF were established in several states including Bengal. The unit in Bengal was given the name of Bengal Provincial Scheduled Caste Federation. Meanwhile Shri J.N. Mandal started a weekly paper called “Jagran” through which he continued the crusade to enlighten the Dalits about their just rights. This paper could not last long. He also started another weekly paper “The People’s Herald” in 1943 and in its inaugural function Dr. Ambedkar was present to bless the project.
On defeat of the ministry in 1935, fresh elections were ordered in 1946. Shri J.N. Mandal contested as a SCF party candidate from a general seat and won. After the elections, a new ministry under Jenab H.S. Surahawardy of Muslim League was formed. Shri J.N. Mandal was again included in the Ministry. Under Cabinet Plan in 1946, the Muslim League also joined the interim ministry formed by Pt. Jawaharlal Nehru and Shri J.N. Mandal was included from Muslim League quota and allotted Law portfolio. The SCF in its convention held at Agra passed a congratulatory message to congratulate Shri Mandal on his selection to the interim ministry. The Provincial assemblies had the right to choose their representatives to form Constituent Assembly. Since Dr. B. R. Ambedkar had failed to win a seat from Bombay on SCF ticket, the prospects of his election to the Constituent Assembly were blocked. Sardar Patel said that all doors and windows of the Constituent Assembly were closed to Dr. Ambedkar and now he cannot enter it. Here stepped in Shri J.N. Mandal to suggest that Dr. Ambedkar should contest for Legislative Assembly from Bengal. Dr. Ambedkar agreed and so with the support of Scheduled Caste and Muslim members, he was elected from Bengal Legislature to be a member of Constituent Assembly of India. Subsequently Dr. Ambedkar was selected as the chairman of the Constitution Drafting Committee, thanks to the vision of Shri J.N. Mandal.
Shri J.N. Mandal had clear vision of the rights of the Scheduled Castes, but declared that congress leaders were adamant not to give any such rights to the Scheduled Castes in free India, so the rights will have to be secured by dint of their unity. He was a strong supporter of united Bengal. He pleaded that political turmoil of partition was temporary and shall pass off soon.
Things changed with the formation of the new country Pakistan on 14th August1947. Every individual was given the right to choose the country of his or her choice to live in. Shri Mandal opted to be a citizen of Pakistan to oversee the interests of the Scheduled Caste people left over there. Jenab Liaquat Ali Khan became first Premier of Pakistan. Sh. J.N Mandal was included in the first Pakistan government as the Law ,Justice and Labour Minister. He was also the second minister of commonwealth and Kashmir affairs. So in the divided India both countries had the first law Ministers from among the Scheduled Castes. Shri J.N. Mandal as Law Minister had the honour to preside over the first meeting of the Pakistan Constituent Assembly. Since Pakistan Government was not prepared to grant constitutional rights to scheduled casted in Pakistan, so Shri J.N. Mandal decided to come back to India. He resigned on October 8, 1950 as Law Minister and as President of Pakistan's Constitution Drafting Committee. He came back to India in 1950 to continue his struggle for the rights of Dalits.
After returning back to India he continued his work for the up liftment of Dalits. He played an important role in Dr. Ambedkar’s dream project of establishing the Republican Party of India (RPI). Shri J.N. Mandal contested for Lok Saba as an RPI Candidate from a general constituency in West Bengal in 1967 but lost.
This son of the soil, one of the important and brave soldiers of Dalit cause passed away in Calcutta (now Kolkata) on 5thOctober, 1968. He shall be long remembered for his life long fight for the Dalit cause
Dated 15-01-2016 By:- Er. H. R. Phonsa Jammu
The writer can be contacted on hrphonsa @ gmail.com or firstname.lastname@example.org M-09419134060
Source material References:-
2. Dalit Movement In India and Its Leaders by;-R.K. Kshirsagar
3. Dr Ambrdkar and His Associates by