[Translation of original write-up in Kannada by Mr Rohit Chakrathirtha titled “Nijavaagiyu Naavu Neneyabekiruvudu yaarannu?” (Whom We Should Remember Really?) published in Readoo on 29th Novemebr 2015. May not be an exact translation as a bit of explanations / elaborations have been added]
I am sure that you are familiar with the name of Dr. B. R. Ambedkar. But do you know who is B.N.Rau? Probably Not! Ask anyone, at your home, office, grocery shop or restaurant. I can bet a good sum of money that no one would have either known, heard or read about this person.
Let’s see who is this B.N.Rau
‘N’ in his name stands for Narsing; ‘B’ stands for Benegal, a small village between Karkala and Mangaluru in Coastal Karnataka. Narsing was born on 26th February 1887 in a Chitrapur Brahmin family in this village. Chitrapur Brahmins are a tiny minority with less than 30,000 population in this entire world, a community smaller than Parsees (Zoroastrians). But this community can proudly boast of many names who have risen to prominence such as freedom fighters Karnad Sadashiva Rao, Kudmul Ranga Rao, Molahalli Shiva Rao (Father of the Coop. Movement in Karnataka), Panje Mangesh Rao (Famous Kannada writer and poet who wrote short stories, essays, poems and children’s rhymes), Kamaladevi Chattopadyay (Nee Dhareshwar, social reformer and freedom fighter and inspiration for setting up the National School of Drama, Sangeet Natak Akademi, Central Cottage Industries Emporium, and the Crafts Council of India), Gourish Kaikini (Litterateur, teacher and columnist in the Kannada language and recipient many prestigious awards including the Sahitya Academy award), Prakash Padukone (Badminton Champion), Santosh Kumar Gulwadi (Author and former Chief Editor of popular Kannada Weekly ‘Taranga’), Girish Karnad (Author, Film Director, Actor and recipient of many awards). Father of Narsing, Benegal Raghavendra Rau was an eminent doctor and was very well known amongst villagers of nearby villages. Narsing studied in Canara High School in Mangaluru and in 1901, bagged first rank in the entire Madras Presidency in Matriculation Exams. Thereafter, he joined Presidency College, Madras (one of the most prestigious colleges in India) and studied English, Sanskrit and Mathematics. He again bagged first rank in FA Exams (i.e., Intermediate) and also stood first in the entire Madras Presidency. This got him a scholarship to study in England. He studied in Trinity College, Cambridge and took his Tripos in 1909. In the same year, B. N. Rau passed the Indian Civil Service Examination and returned to India and was posted to Bengal (Calcutta, now Kolkata), then capital of British Raj as a Magistrate.
One of the major tasks undertaken by B.N.Rau during this time was the compilation and codification of Indian Legal Manual. He completed this gigantic task in just two years, a record. He was given ‘Knighthood’ for this achievement! This earned him the privilege of adding ‘Sir’ to his name. Thereafter, B.N.Rau was transferred to Sindh Province. Here, he was assigned the task of sharing or allocating river water between towns and villages in Sindh Province. He completed this task with utmost diligence and submitted his report. Being a master of mathemetics and statistics, he collected the relevant data for the past twenty-thirty years and did a thorough analysis of this data to arrive at river water sharing formula which is followed even now by India and Pakistan. It is incredible that no major dispute has arisen between these two countries on this river water sharing formula even though they keep fighting on every other front! This is a tribute to the diligence and foresight of B.N.Rau!
Thereafter, British Government brought him back to Kolkatta and appointed him as the Chief Justice of Supreme Court. In 1944, he retired as Chief Justice of Supreme Court and was immediately elected as Prime Minister of Jammu and Kashmir! In 1946, when it was almost certain that India would be given Independence, B.N.Rau was appointed as the Constitutional Adviser to the Constituent Assembly in formulating the Indian Constitution. There was no better person to be entrusted with this responsibility other than B.N.Rau who had more than three decades of experience of serving in this field. B.N.Rau prepared the draft constitution, as requested by the Government and this contained 243 Articles and 13 Parts. Drafting Committee under the Chairmanship of Dr. B.R. Ambedkar worked on this Draft prepared by B.N.Rau. Drafting Committee submitted a revised draft which contained 315 Articles and 8 Parts. Finally many more revisions were made and final approved draft contained 395 Articles, 22 Parts and 8 Schedules. On 26 November 1949, the process was completed and Constituent assembly adopted the constitution. It is to be noted that B.N.Rau offered his services without even Rupee One as remuneration! There is a belief that Constitution was written by Dr B.R.Ambedkar. Perhaps the political environment after Independence which has given prominence to communal aspirations might be responsible for this belief. It is unfortunate that no one has remembered B.N.Rau at the time of Golden Jubilee of adoption of Indian Constitution.
After adoption of the Indian Constitution, B.N.Rau was appointed as India’s Permanent Representative at the UNO. During this time Burma (Now Mynmar) requested help from B.N.Rau in drafting their constitution! B.N.Rau contributed to the draft of Burma’s Constitution also! He steadily rose in the hierarchy of UNO and in 1950, he was elected as President of UN Security Council. That was the time when India had the golden opportunity of becoming a Permanent Member of the UN Security Council which was let go by the then Prime Minister of India and after more than 65 years , India is now making a bid for this position. In 1952, B.N.Rau narrowly missed opportunity of becoming the Secretary General of UNO. But, then, he was appointed as a Judge of the International Court in The Hague in the same year. He, however, breathed his last on 30th November 1953 at the age of 66 in Zurich.
B.N.Rau had two younger brothers and both rose to positions of eminence. His brother Benegal Rama Rao, also of Presidency College, Madras and an Indian Civil Service Officer was the fourth Governor of Reserve Bank of India. Another brother B. Shiva Rao became a journalist and a politician. He was a well-known Labor Activist. He was an unique personality who retired from Politics at the peak of his popularity and devoted last 15 years of his life for research and pursuit of knowledge.
Coming from a small village near Karkala and rising to occupy many eminent positions both nationally and internationally, B.N.Rau belonged to the genre of brilliant minds who worked selflessly for the betterment of humanity. It would have been appropriate to pay tributes to B.N.Rau along with others who contributed to drafting and adoption of Indian Constitution. The fact that he was completely forgotten on the occasion of the Golden Jubilee of the Adoption of our Constitution points to the tendency on our part to forget the people who contributed selflessly to drafting and adoption of our Constitution and also for the betterment of humanity.