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73rd Republic Day: The Promise of Purna Swaraj

Sneha Rao
26 Jan 2022 3:11 AM GMT
73rd Republic Day: The Promise of Purna Swaraj
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The 26th of January every year is celebrated as the Republic Day- to commemorate the adoption of the Indian Constitution which came into effect on this day in the year 1950. In Indian political history, three dates hold special significance- 15th August, 1947 the day on which India won Independence; 26th November, 1949 as the day on which the Constitution of India was adopted...

The 26th of January every year is celebrated as the Republic Day- to commemorate the adoption of the Indian Constitution which came into effect on this day in  the year 1950. In Indian political history, three dates hold special significance- 15th August, 1947 the day on which India won Independence; 26th November, 1949 as the day on which the Constitution of India was adopted by the Indian Constituent Assembly and 26th January, 1950 the day on which the Constitution came into force.

While the celebration of 15th August is a fairly obvious choice- it's a wonder why the members of the Indian Constituent Assembly chose to defer the enforcement of the Constitution by two months when the Constitution of India was adopted and enacted on 26th November 1949 itself. What does Republic Day signifiy? 

The answer, as historian and writer Ramchandra Guha writes in his book India After Gandhi, is surprisingly connected to the choice (or the lack of it) of 15th August, 1947 being the day of Independence. He writes:

"Every year after 1930, the Congress-minded Indians celebrated 26 January as the Independence Day. However, when the British finally left the subcontinent, they chose to hand over power on 15 August 1947. This date was selected by the Viceroy, Lord Mountabatten as it was the second anniversary of the Japanese surrender to the Allied Forces in the Second World War. He, and the politicians waiting to take office, were unwilling to delay until the date some others would have preferred- 26 January 1948."

Since "freedom finally came on a day that resonated with imperial pride rather than nationalist sentiment," when the question of the adoption and enaction of the Constitution came up, many considered it necessary to celebrate the document on a day associated with national pride and turned to what would've otherwise been a natural choice- the 26th day of January to mark the Constitution formally coming into force. Thus, once the Constitution was adopted and enacted on the 26th of November, 1949, the choice of 26th of January, 1950 came as the natural choice for the Constitution to be put into force- to commemorate the first choice Indians exercised to declare and celebrate their Independence. 

On 26th January 1930, the Indian National Congress (INC)had proclaimed the Declaration of Indian Independence (Purna Swaraj) rejecting the Dominion status offered by the British Regime. It was declared by the Congress party that January 26, 1930, will be celebrated as "Independence Day" by Indians. Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, who was the President of Congress party, hoisted the tricolor on the banks of the Ravi river in Lahore. 

Scholars see the Purna Swaraj resolution as a critical component of the changing strategy of the Independence movement in engaging with the British: the demand for freedom now being made in the language of justice and not charity. Keeping in mind this historic significance of the date, 20 years later, the 26th of January, 1950 was chosen to herald another important event that would change the history of India- the enactment of the Indian Constitution that would transform the nation into a Sovereign, Socialist, Secular, Democratic, Republic-to be celebrated as Republic Day.

The 73rd Republic Day should be taken as a moment not just to reflect on the greatness of the moment a formerly colony took its destiny in its own hands declared itself to be a Republic but also to reflect on all that needs to be done to ensure Purna Swaraj to all the citizens through the progressive realisation of all the guarantees of justice, liberty, equality and fraternity provided under the Constitution.

A Very Happy 73rd Republic Day to all fellow Citizens!

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