Many of us, born before January 26, 1950 would consider this day as more significant than August 15, 1947 (the day on which India gained independence from the British Rule) because it was on this day that India was ‘complete’ as a Nation, establishing its own identity, with a National Flag, a Constitution and most important of all, steering its own destiny with self-determination.
For many of us, Republic Day is a solemn occasion.
The Pride of Parade
And those of us who participated in the Republic Day Parade, one of the most colourful and best in the world, that pride of association would linger forever. For more than 40 days, we braved the chilling Delhi weather, lived in barracks and practiced for more than 40 days to present ourselves as young cadets before the then President of India, Dr Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan. That pride and honour, accorded to us, was unique and remains fresh in memory.
Republic Day celebrations are held at Rajpath before the President of India and a Head of State or government of another country as the State Guest Of Honour. The celebrations are held to showcase India’s unity in diversity and rich cultural heritage that includes ceremonious parades, state-wise tableaus, award distribution by the President and more.
Mexico President Jair Messias Bolsonaro will be the Guest of Honour this year.
The Pride of Constitution
I have always considered the Indian Constitution to be ‘the most complete’ and ‘all-embracing’ document, giving shape and character to the Indian Nation. Led by Dr Bhimrao Ramji Ambedkar as Chairman of the Constituent Assembly which drafted the voluminous document, the Constitution is the supreme law of India. It has determined the framework demarcating fundamental political code, structure, procedures, powers, and duties of government institutions and set out fundamental rights, directive principles, and the duties of citizens.
It is the longest written constitution in the world.
It imparts Constitutional Supremacy (not Parliamentary Supremacy, since it was created by a Constituent Assembly rather than Parliament) and was adopted by its people with a declaration in its preamble.
Parliament cannot override the constitution.
The Constitution was adopted by the Constituent Assembly of India on November 26, 1949 and became effective on January 26, 1950. It replaced the Government of India Act, 1935 as the country’s fundamental governing document, and the ‘Dominion of India’ became the ‘Republic of India.’ Ensuring Constitutional Autochthony, the founding fathers repealed all the earlier Acts of the British Parliament.
The Indian Constitution has assigned India as a Sovereign, Socialist, Secular, Democratic Republic, guaranteeing its citizens justice, equality and liberty, endeavouring to promote fraternity.
The Original Constitution
The original 1950 constitution is preserved in a helium-filled case at the Parliament House in New Delhi. The words “Secular” and “Socialist” were added to the Preamble in 1976 during the state of emergency declared by Prime Minister Indira Gandhi. When she Parliament to be ‘above the Constitution,’ the Supreme Court of India heard arguments saying, ‘Parliament is a Creature of the Constitution; the Creature cannot destroy its Creator.’
The Pre-Constitution Period
Most of the Indian Subcontinent was under British rule until 1947.
From 1947 to 1950, the same legislation continued to be implemented as India was a Dominion of Britain. Freedom Fighter and Independent India’s First Deputy Prime Minister Sardar Vallabhai Patel and Constitutional Advisor and Political Reforms Commissioner Vappala Pangunni Menon (V P Menon) convinced various Princely States to sign the Articles of Integration with India, and the British government continued to be responsible for the external security of the country.
The Constitution of India repealed the Indian Independence Act 1947 and Government of India Act, 1935 when it became effective on January 26, 1950. And hence the significance of this Day.
The State of India today
Until two years ago, India was the fastest growing economy in the world, with a high rate of foreign direct investment (FDI). The Narendra Modi government, which initiated, ‘Make In India’ programme in September 2014, committed investments valued at US$ 230 billion, while investment inquiries worth US$ 21 billion were made over the next 18 months.
As a result, India emerged in 2015 as the top destination globally for FDI, surpassing USA and China with US$ 60 billion. Investment is allowed in almost all sectors of the economy, except Space Industry (74%), Defence Industry (49%) and Media (26%).
The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) was re-elected with a whopping majority in May 2019- winning 303 seats on its own and 36 more seats with its National Democratic Alliance in the 54-member Lok Sabha (Lower House of Parliament), a consideration improvement over the May 2014 general election at which the Party won 282 seats, again with absolute majority.
Article 370, CAA and NRC
Year 2019 saw major changes to the Constitution of India- revocation of Article 370 of the Constitution that accorded a special status to Jammu & Kashmir, enforcement of the Citizenship Amendment Act providing a path to Indian citizenship to Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist, Jain, Parsi and Christian minorities who had fled persecution from Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan before December 2014.
The latter led to riots in many parts of the world. Concerns have been expressed that these changes are a move to make India a ‘Hindu Nation’ (or ‘Hindutva’) deriding the letter and spirit of the Indian Constitution which accords a Secular status.
We have discussed these issues from time to time in Indian Newslink and on social media platforms but these are not the purpose of our tribute to India on its Republic Day.
Notwithstanding a myriad of problems, Indians are confident of confronting the challenges with a high note of resilience. Perception of the future is conditioned by cautious optimism, although economists and analysts say there is no need for major concern.
India is today recognised as an emerging economic powerhouse of the world. More Indians overseas want to do business with India and more Indians in India want to do business with overseas.
The emerging scenario is complex but one factor is clear: Indians, including the Diaspora, feel a sense of pride and belonging and enterprise more than anytime in the past.