This introductory chapter provides an overview of the Indian Constitution. The Indian Constitution is the longest surviving constitution in the postcolonial world, and it continues to dominate public life in India. It did not descend upon the people; it was produced and reproduced in everyday encounters. From the earliest days of India's independence, citizens' political action influenced the court and reveals a long history of public-interest litigation driven by litigants rather than judges. However, despite the centrality of the Constitution to public and private lives in South Asia, it remains “ill served by historical imagination” and its history understudied. It is partly because Indian constitutionalism defies easy explanations. This book thus traces the process through which the Constitution emerged as the dominant field for politics, breaking new methodological ground by studying the Constitution through the daily interpretive acts of ordinary people as well as judges and state officials.
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