The Legacy of a National Holiday
We Indians are a very “Happy-go-Lucky” people. Put some ‘ghee’ in our food, and some ginger in our tea, and we’re content. Yet, two things make almost every Indian’s blood boil. First, losing a cricket match to Pakistan, and second, when a national holiday falls on the weekend. Lucky for us, the 68th Republic Day doesn’t.
It’s a day commonly associated with waking up late, watching the recorded parade, attending the flag hoisting ceremony in your colony, coming back home to laud Aamir Khan’s exemplary performance in ‘Rang de Basanti’, and then going back to sleep. Somewhere along the last 68 years, we seem to have forgotten the meaning and sanctity this day holds for our great nation. Here’s some food for thought for the inner patriot within all of us.
Anyone above the age of 9 will tell you that we celebrate the Republic Day for it was on this day in 1950 that we adopted our constitution, but seldom do even adults realize the amount of struggle and perseverance that went into making this day happen.
The Lahore session of the Indian National Congress in December 1929, paved way to the Civil Disobedience Movement. Moreover, it was this very convention that decided to declare the 26th of January 1930 as “Purna Swaraj Day”. A day of complete independence, to be celebrated annually.
On the 15th of August 1947, “At the stroke of the midnight hour,” India did awake to life and freedom. Yet, its citizens were still governed by the Government of India Act (1935), a set of legislations that fetched the title, “A machine with strong brakes but no engine,” by Jawaharlal Nehru. India would never be autonomous in the true sense of the word, unless we came up with our own rules, directed towards the interests of our citizens. It was for this very purpose that on 29th August 1947, an 8-person drafting committee was set up, chaired by Dr. B.R. Ambedkar. Finally, after 27 months of endless sleepless nights, painstakingly framing and debating upon every clause, this mammoth of a task was completed. The Indian constitution, an 11-volume document, was finally drafted, and 26th November 1949, became a day marked in the pages of history as the day India was truly her own master.
The 26th of January 1950 was agreed upon as the day when we were to formally adopt the constitution, as a way to commemorate the decision of “Purna Swaraj” made in the Lahore session, almost 20 years ago. A salute of 21 guns, and the unfurling of the Indian Tricolour by the first president of independent India – Dr. Rajendra Prasad marked a new beginning in the face of modern India. As made very prominent in the preamble of our constitution itself, we were now a sovereign, secular and democratic nation.
Not just New Delhi, but all of India, and Indians worldwide, witness the grand parade that takes place on this auspicious day. A display of the immensely diverse cultures of our nation, each taking pride in the other, and in a way unifying us, is exactly what our forefathers had hoped this country would one day embody. Despite all the festivities that have come to be associated with our Republic Day, it also serves as a reminder towards our greater goal. As Dr. Rajendra Prasad very rightly put it, “We must remember that this is more a day of dedications than of rejoicing – dedication to the glorious task of making the peasants and workers, the toilers and the thinkers fully free, happy and cultured.”
Year after year, India continues to surprise people all over the world. Despite a vast multitude of cultures, languages, religions and traditions, we still believe in a common Motherland. That is the power of a constitution. That, is the power of the Indian republic.
Countless accomplishments in every field have been made since then. India is now at par with some of the strongest countries in the world. Yet, nothing paints quite a picture of our true Indian-ness, than when a pre-adolescent student walking back home after witnessing the Republic Day ceremony, picks up a fallen tricolor. Making a solemn vow to never let his nation’s image stoop low, he walks back home humming the tune of “Saare Jahaan Se Accha.” That right there, is the India our founding fathers dreamt of.
-Pujan Parikh, with inputs from Ninaad Rajeev.