Indian National Congress’s 1931 Resolution: Why We Need To Review the Fundamental Right to Bear Arms!

Power tends to corrupt; absolute power corrupts absolutely- Edward Abbey

The Karachi Resolution that was passed by the Indian National Congress in 1931, declared the need for “Purna Swaraj” (Complete Independence) and put forward a list of fundamental rights and principles. One of the primary being, the Right To Bear Arms for Individual Citizens! This resolution and the right to bear arms was advocated by both Nehru and Gandhi as well.

Now more than ever, as Independent India transitions to become a world power. The right to bear arms for every free and sane citizen without a criminal intent as a fundamental right must be reviewed again. As it can promote not only freedom but a check on crime, corruption, and exploitation by anti-social elements as well its own Government!

The Karachi Resolution, in its directive principles for the State, states “vii. Right to keep and bear arms in accordance with regulations made in that behalf and such reservations as may be required- for public safety.”

It is a very carefully written principle, and it does ensure that the right to keep and bear arms be given with “REGULATIONS” meaning, a check on the mentally insane or criminally driven folks not be handed over the complete right to arms! Certain restrictions and rules, on the usage of arms in the public and many such checks and balances, to ensure the basic freedom of owning a firearm for self-defence, of one’s body, and one’s property doesn’t lead to exploitation and lawlessness.

But you might ask. Why should the right to bear arms be fundamental in the first place? Abraham Lincoln once said “This country, with its institutions, belongs to the people who inhabit it. Whenever they shall grow weary of the existing government, they can exercise their constitutional right of amending it or their revolutionary right to dismember it or overthrow it.”

We all know the undermining fault in a democracy, though it is the best system in the world. History has shown us that, Governments grow powerful as the interests of big elite corporations, individuals and the yearning for the power of leaders all collide to ensure an oppressive regime controlled by a Police Force leads to a strict Police State of oppression, and exploitation of the public. Often such regimes are possible and arise from democracies. Where soon the basic fundamental rights of citizens like freedom of expression, freedom of owning property, and the freedom of assembly and press are hijacked and destroyed by a Police State. The best examples that stand between our eyes today are nations like China, North Korea, or even the Former USSR whose decline lead to a failed state of oppression and seizure of fundamental rights of citizens post the rule of Lenin. With dissenters and those who spoke out against the Government being sent to forced labour camps (Gulag).

Sometimes, the institutions whose sole purpose is to protect citizens and their interests like the military, intelligence agencies and police forces grow so corrupt they themselves are hijacked by malicious intentions! Another best example of this is our next-door neighbour Pakistan, which is Governed by its elite intelligence service Inter-Services Intelligence and its army! As opposed to elected officials or its people!

The only way to prevent a coup d’etat or takeover of power by malicious people through the use of Government! Is to ensure citizens are armed as a militia that cannot be oppressed or controlled by the barrel of a gun! In which case, Governments will be afraid of their people, and not vice versa!

Hitler famously said “The most foolish mistake we could possibly make would be to allow the subjugated races to possess arms. History shows that all conquerors who have allowed their subjugated races to carry arms have prepared their own downfall by so doing. Indeed, I would go so far as to say that the supply of arms to the underdogs is a sine qua non for the overthrow of any sovereignty. So let’s not have any native militia or native police.”

Hitler, who later became the de facto dictator of Nazi Germany, and oppressed his own citizens, taking away their fundamental rights prevalent in a democracy himself has explained in a nutshell. An armed free population will ensure their nation doesn’t fall into the hands of dictators or the corrupt!

Even Mahatma Gandhi, with a multitude of reasons such as this, backed the right to bear arms as a fundamental right. During World War 1 first openly expressed his support for private citizens to own arms, stating:

‘Among the many misdeeds of the British rule in India, history will look back upon the Act depriving the whole nation of arms as the blackest. If we want the Arms Act to be repealed, if we want to learn the use of arms, here is a golden opportunity. If the middle classes render voluntary help to Government in the hour of its trial, distrust will disappear, and the ban on possessing arms will be withdrawn.’

Furthermore in 1931, in a letter to Lord Irwin. Mahatma Gandhi about British rule wrote:

“It has impoverished the dumb millions by a system of progressive exploitation and by a ruinously expensive military and civil administration which the country can never afford. It has reduced us politically to serfdom. It has sapped the foundations of our culture. And, by the policy of cruel disarmament, it has degraded us spiritually. Lacking the inward strength, we have been reduced, by all but universal disarmament, to a state bordering on cowardly helplessness.”

This letter was followed shortly by the Karachi Resolution of 1931, by the Indian National Congress that advocated the right to bear arms to the sane private citizen!

In this letter to Irwin, we can clearly Gandhi suggesting that disarmament is what made the Indian nation weak, and pushed into a state of helplessness that made it easy for the British to loot and exploit the nation of India. An essential question, we have to ask is. Would the Bengal Famine have occurred if the poor had guns to defend their food stock from the British? Would such a gruesome Jallianwala Bagh have occurred if the protestors had arms to defend themselves?

Similarly, we must also be wary that even our own Governments can become as worse or even worse than the British in the future, as India’s economical might grows so, so will the resources of a Government. What if one day a Big Brother or a group of Big Brothers decide to use the Indian Government as a tool of oppression against its own people? The warnings of history are as relevant as today. And Gandhi and Lincoln’s beliefs on Gun.

Lord Acton once said, “Power tends to corrupt; absolute power corrupts absolutely!”

The Karachi Resolution was vehemently opposed by Ambedkar and ultimately stuck down during the writing of the Constitution! The Arms Act of 1959 was passed later, an act even more anti--Gun than the one British passed! Making it illegal for citizens to defend themselves!

The era and relevance of Ambedkar’s opposition to the act are long lost. He simply said as to why he opposed the act:

“ I personally myself cannot conceive how it would be possible for the State to carry on its administration if every individual had the right to go into the market and purchase all sorts of instruments of attack without any let or hindrance from the State.”

The relevance and logic of Gandhi’s support for the right to bear arms, as well as the support for it for the intellectual brass of the Congress in 1931 still holds true today! And shall hold true for centuries!

Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s words when the Arms Act of 1959 was passed by Nehru’s Government, should perfectly sum it up:

“The present Bill seeks to repeal the Indian Arms Act enacted by the British rulers eighty years ago with a view to disarm the whole nation. Apart from the consideration of safeguarding the Empire, this policy of depriving the whole people of arms was motivated in the main by a sense of deep distrust and an attitude of contempt towards the Indian people. I am sorry to note that even after twelve years of independence, the present Government have not been able to shake off completely the legacy of their predecessors. The present Bill as by the Joint Committee is an improvement on the original Bill no doubt, but traces of this distrust linger still, and restrain the Bill from going as far as it should. Hence this note of dissent.

“The right to bear and carry arms is an inviolable and sacred right of every free citizen and though this has not been included in the list of fundamental rights enumerated in the Indian Constitution, the right of self-defence accepted and guaranteed by the Indian Penal Code implicitly acknowledges the right to possess arms. Since India is not in a position to run into a race of armaments with big powers, or their satellites, surrounding our boundaries and having hostile and expansionist designs against us, the only course open for us is to arm our people and make military training compulsory for all adults and able-bodied citizens….

“….The present Bill seeks to liberalise the licensing provisions, but the liberalisation is very halting, the procedure of securing a license still remains irksome and dilatory and the license-seeker left to the whims and caprice of the bureaucracy….”

A discussion nationally is much needed amongst the young citizenry of a New India about the need to make the right to bear arms a fundamental right!

Writer. Philosopher. Filmmaker. A big user of Freedom of Expression