72 years of India celebrating its Republic Day. What does one mean by being a ‘republic’? It is derived from the Latin word ‘les publica’ meaning ‘public affair’ or in other words a form of government in which “power is held by the people and their elected representatives” and not being concentrated in few hands. The most common manner of attaining a republic is way of having a democratic form of government. Thus, where the people elect their own representatives to voice their concerns, the representation is often through a Republic as opposed to a monarch.
The importance of 26th January lies in the fact that the Constitution of India was adopted and enforced on this date in the year 1950, i.e., more than two years and few months after attaining its independence. The Indian Constitution is truly an experiment as the vision was to bring together many small regions, powers and princely states to make a country so vibrant yet divided. Each value stitched in the Preamble was heavily weighed, debated and deliberated in the Constituent assembly before being adopted on this date. A day where the rights and duties of each citizen (even persons) has been secured and guaranteed.
Childhood Memories of the Parade
As for me, the last three Republic days in the preceding years have been celebrated in three different parts and cities of India – Delhi, Calcutta and Chennai. Growing up, I have many deeply etched memories and associations with this day. As it would be an assuredly cold morning in Delhi; I would spend my morning half snuggly under the quilts with a warm cup of cocoa and watching the parade on TV to marvel at the tableaus and patiently waiting for the flying squads at noon to pass above in the skies. The trembling of the earth, spilt milk over the gas burner, banging of the paintings against the wall on a cold 26th January in the year 2001 was equally heart wrenching as the pictures of the earthquake started flashing across. Over the years, having stayed out of the national capital for at least 10 such years, I have often wondered how people really spend this ‘crucial’ day in the making of the republic?
What it means to be a Republic?
As a child, I often associated it with a national holiday and the luxury of staying in on a cold morning in Delhi. With the passage of years, the relevance and importance were realised. As the world witnesses it, it’s a day where the country (read the national capital really) celebrates the cultural diversity through its grand display on the Rajpath.
One such year, when I was in Bhopal and the remembrance hit home, I very honestly asked my domestic help on why it is an important day. I ended up having a very interesting chat which can be surmised as – ‘Didi, humme nahin malum is din kya hua tha; par itna malum hai ki bacche ghar pe rehte hain. Thoda kuch acha khane ko bana deti hoon aur haan deshbhakti ke gaane sun lete hai’ (Elder sister, I don’t really know the significance of the day but what I know is that my kids are at home. I make something nice for us to eat for lunch and we do end up listening to patriotic songs.) I was quite struck with the response. Just like me when I was a child, most people have no idea regarding the significance of the day and would rather relegate it to another national holiday where staying in to enjoy another Republic day was practised.
I kept up this tradition of asking common people regarding their perception of the day. And I have arrived at a rather sad conclusion that it’s a day where we show the might of our military for the whole world to witness. Most times, when I ventured to clarify the significance, I have ended up being snubbed. Today as I think about it, it seems to be symptomatic.
But 2021 was a class apart. The year was preceded by one of the most anxious, mentally exhausting and most probably a scary year where many succumbed to the pandemic. Many lost their loved ones, and many lived horrific nights to pull through. The magnitude of the celebrations made me wonder as to why such massive and honestly excruciating steps to display our military might and prowess is undertaken year after year.
2020 truly brought out the gaping hole in the public health framework. The year ended with a farmer’s stir which continues till today and witnessed one of its most bloody events. The Constitution enshrines and promotes the living of ideals of equality, justice, freedom, liberty, fraternity through practice and not tableaus carrying precision warfare artillery. As a conscious citizen, each of these values has taken centuries to be fought and earned upon which revolutions have been fought, which should never be relegated to the background noise but truly on the foreground. These principles in the Indian Constitution, which was guaranteed by all people to all people must not be left to die at the borders of Singhu.
From what it seems, it may even work out to be last bastions which lash out to hold the government watering down each constitutional norm with the passage of time. Is it not ripe that we truly make every Indian realise, internalise and practice what we ourselves gave to us!
Contributor: Amrita Paul
About our Writing Program Student
Amrita Paul is a Senior Programme Officer with the Prison Reforms Programme, Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative. She has a Master’s Degree in Law (LL.M.) Human Rights from the National Law School of India University, Bangalore. The primary focus of her work is to target unnecessary and prolonged detention of undertrials and work towards systemic interventions to prevent it. She loves watching movies and sitcoms (when she has time), cooking and creating new recipes, reading Christie’s and murder mysteries and appreciating music.
All views are purely that of the author.