Mahatma Gandhi, reportedly, had declared January 26th as Swatantrata Sankalp Divas, a year after (the first Prime Minister of India) Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru had demanded complete Independence from the British rule in the Lahore Session of the Indian National Congress on January 26, 1930. From 1931 onwards, every year (including 1947), January 26 was observed all over the South Asian nation as Independence Day. However, the appellation of this historic day changed in 1947 after the British rulers left India. As the transfer of power took place at midnight of August 14-15 (1947), the Indians started celebrating August 15 as Independence Day. So when India adopted the Constitution on November 24, 1949, some members of the Constituent Assembly decided to operationalise the main provisions of the Constitution from January 26, 1950, mainly to commemorate the significance of the day from 1931! Nearly two and half years after Independence, January 26 got a new identity in India – the Republic Day!
One may consider the evolution (of January 26) as an eccentricity of history, while others can see it in a different way. The Indian freedom fighters might have considered the concept of freedom in a broader perspective. It seems that the leaders of the Indian Freedom Movement were in favour of ‘liberal’ and ‘totalitarian’ concept of freedom that could help the people of a multi-lingual and multi-ethnic country, like India, overcome the sectarian division and narrow-mindedness! Later, the Constitution reflected their views and the nation emerged as a ‘Sovereign Secular Socialist Democratic Republic’. So, the Republic Day is all about a different concept of freedom. It indicates that the ‘real’ progress of a society can only be possible, if the ‘ideological freedom’ mixes with ‘political freedom’.
It is important to discuss the scenario when colonial India won freedom. When India emerged as an Independent nation in 1947, Pakistan was born (after the partition of India) as a separate state. Since then, Pakistan has been celebrating the Independence Day on August 14 and India on August 15. However, the great ideology (the concept of liberal democracy) was missing in the Constitution of Pakistan. In other words, Pakistan didn’t emerge either as a democratic country or as a republic. It doesn’t mean that the Indian State successfully implemented the democratic or republican ideologies (or policies) immediately after achieving freedom… yet, India (at least) had made a serious attempt to follow the path of liberal democracy through the Constitution.
Just a year after adopting the Constitution, India held General Elections across the country, allowing its people to take part in the nation building process. The move brought an opportunity for the people of different religions and cultures to have the feeling of togetherness!
Time does not remain the same forever… and the characters of the rules (that were laid), as well as that of the rulers, change. However, the founding-fathers of the Constitution expressed hope that the Indian State would always protect the freedom and safeguard its basic character (or unity in diversity).
As India celebrated its 70th Republic Day on January 26, 2019, it’s the time for Indians to review their journey (from where they had started and to where they have reached so far) towards liberal democracy! It is also important for them to reach their destination – individual or collective – as soon as possible…
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