In India, the 26th of January is observed as Republic Day to commemorate the adoption of the Constitution of India which came into effect on this day in 1950. It replaced the existing Government of India Act that had been the governing document since 1935. The new Constitution of India was actually adopted by the Constituent Assembly in November 1949 which declared India as an independent republic, completing the transition from British rule. However, 26th January was chosen as the date for Republic day as it was on this date in 1930, the Indian National Congress proclaimed the Declaration of Indian Independence.
Drafting of The Constitution
When India gained its independence, there was no firm constitutional document and the Indian laws were based on the colonial Government of India Act. On the eve of independence in 1947, a proposal for forming various committees were put forward. On the 29th of August, a committee comprising of six distinguished men was appointed and Dr. B. R. Ambedkar was given the charge of chairing this esteemed working group. The first draft of the constitution was presented in the constituent assembly. Many debates took place over the next two years and over 2000 emendations later, the Constitution of India as we now know it was ready in November 1949.
The Meaning of Republic
The Republic Day not only signifies the adoption of the Constitution of India, but something far greater. It meant that the Government of India would be formed by representatives elected by the people and not by hereditary principles.
While India gained independence in 1947, it was still being governed by the laws laid down by the British and recognized the British Monarch as its head. It was only in 1950, when the Constitution of India came into force and that India became a Republic and its own head of state and elected representatives in the government. Only after 26th January 1950, was India governed by its own set of laws and not by colonial laws.
Independence was won in 1947 and was an important landmark in the country’s history. However, the shackles were completely broken only after the Indian Constitution was enacted. Hence the significance of the day cannot be said to be any less than that of Independence Day.Becoming a Republic meant the C. Rajgopalachari who was the first Indian Governal General also became the last, as after that, the President of India’s post has been occupied following an election. The Governor General was appointed by the British Monarch and not chosen or elected by the people.
Republic Day is celebrated all over the country with much pomp. Parades are the defining aspect of the celebrations. However, the biggest and most glamorous one is held in New Delhi, the capital. Contingents from the Army, Navy, Air Force and Paramilitary forces march down Rajpath and the President of India takes the salute. All the three service chiefs along with the Prime Minister and other ministers of the government will be present. The chief guest at this function is the head of state of another country. Before the commencement of the parade, the Prime Minister and the three service chiefs lay wreaths at the Amar Jawan Jyoti under the India Gate. Amar Jawan Jyoti is a war memorial which was erected in honour of the Indian soldiers who laid down their lives in the 1971 war with Pakistan for the liberation of Bangladesh. The parade displays the military might of our armed forces and concludes with an air show comprising of various air crafts, combat as well as transport.
However, the parade is not about military prowess alone. Many tableaus depicting the rich cultural traditions from various parts of India are also an integral part of the parade. Some tableaus also depict the social conditions prevailing in the country. School children often take part in a dance show put up for the dignitaries and the public.
However, 26th January is not the end of the show. On 29th January, the Republic Day celebrations are formally concluded with various bands of the defense services performing famous military tunes along with patriotic ones as well. This function is held at Vijay Chowk and is presided over by the President while the Prime Minister and other dignitaries are present.
While everyone knows 26th January is Republic Day and a national holiday, most people of the current generation do not understand and realize its significance in our country’s historical perspective. Many people are just too happy to get the day from work.While everyone appreciates the sacrifices made by the freedom fighters to gain independence, not many understand what it took to make it the Republic that it is today.
The liberties that we enjoy today are largely due to the fact that it is the Constitution of India and not the Government of India Act 1935 lays down the path before us to tread on. While 15th August 1947 gave us our right to be independent, the 26th of January 1950 allows us to enjoy that freedom.