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In a Delhi vault lies the treasure of the Republic

Tuesday 16 August 2005, by NAYAR*Mandira

NEW DELHI: Well over half a century after independence, a high-security cell in the sprawling state-of-the-art Parliament Library here treasures the first copy of the Republic’s most precious book — The Constitution. Not the small version of the lengthy document, the first copy of the Constitution like the lofty ideals of its creators is much larger than usual.

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THE MAKING OF HISTORY: Jawaharlal Nehru signs The Constitution at the final session of Constituent Assembly in Delhi on January 24,1950.

Embellished with beautiful calligraphy and pictures capturing mythical scenes from the Ramayana and historic moments like Mahatma Gandhi leading the Dandi March, the first draft of the Constitution was not like the closely typed pocketbook it is today. Bound in rich blue, the original copy has been conserved in a hermetically sealed nitrogen-filled display case.

"The original Constitution is not meant for everyone to see. It is a really precious document and you need special permission to see it. It has been tucked away in a corner of the Parliament library in a special chamber under heavy security. There is a replica of the Constitution lying in the chamber, but even that is impossible to get to see,’’ says a Member of Parliament who has had a look at the rare document.

Bolted from outside with three locks, the original Constitution that took 2 years 11 months and 18 days for the Constituent Assembly to finally agree upon is meant only for the eyes of the VVIPs.

Conserved in collaboration with the Getty Conservation Institute of the United States and the National Physical Laboratory, India, in 1994, the first copy will be safe for the next 200 years or more.

Right from the easily recognisable signature of India’s first Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru to the firm hand of Sardar Vallabh Bhai Patel, the original copy bears the seal of approval of the architects of the Constitution. Starting with Nehru and ending with the founder of the Nehru-Gandhi dynasty, Feroze Gandhi, the Constitution has a rich folklore hidden behind the signatures.

"The first signature was actually supposed to be that of Dr. Rajendra Prasad who was the President of the Constituent Assembly. But after the Constitution was adopted, Pandit Nehru was so excited that he signed first and Dr. Prasad had to scrawl his name right next to it!’’ explains a Constitution expert.

See online : The Hindu

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