Wednesday, January 27, 2010

The Journey from Independence Day to Republic Day

India celebrated her 61st Republic Day yesterday. This day commemorates the commencement of Constitution of India on January 26, 1950. India attained independence from the British Rule on August 15, 1947; however, she did not have her own constitution at that time and her status was still of a Dominion under the British Crown with at first Lord Mountbatten and then C. Rajgopalachari as its representatives in India. The government ran in accordance to the Government of India Act 1935 in this period. This was to be continued until India frames up and adopts her own constitution. In order to create the constitution, the Constitution Committee was set up with Dr. Rajendra Prasad as its chairman and Dr. Bhimrao Ambedkar as the chairman of its Drafting Committee. The committee adopted the constitution on November 26, 1949; however, its commencement was postponed by two months until January 26, 1950.

There was a particular reason behind this move. To understand this reason, we have to go back 20 more years in the history.

The Calcutta Congress of December 1928 adopted the Nehru Report, which recommended a constitution similar to that of the British Dominions. But even in adopting it, the congress did so provisionally, and fixed a time-limit of one year. If there were no agreement with the British Government on this basis within a year, then the congress was to revert to complete independence. Thus the country was inevitably heading towards a crisis.

At the one-year ultimatum given to the British Government to grant Dominion status to India ended, Gandhiji's resolution on December 31, 1929 declared that the word Swarajya in the Article 1 of Congress Constitution shall mean Complete Independence. It was passed. It asked all congressman and nationalists to resign from the legislatures. To achieve this aim, it was decided to launch a Civil Disobedience Movement. At the midnight of December 31, 1929 Jawaharlal Nehru, then president of Lahore Congress, unfurled the newly adopted Tricolor Flag of freedom on the bank of River Ravi.

The congress also decided that 26 January would be observed as the Independence Day all over the country every year. On January 26, 1930 Independence Day was observed all over the country and in thousands of meetings, the people took a pledge, which said:

We believe that it is the inalienable right of the Indian people, as of any other people to have freedom and to enjoy the fruits of their toil and have necessities of life, so that they may have full opportunities of growth. We believe also that if any government deprives a people of these rights and oppresses them, the people have a further right to alter or abolish it. The British Government in India has not only deprives the Indian people of their freedom, but has based itself on the exploitation of the masses, and has ruined India economically, politically, culturally, and spiritually. We believe, therefore, that India must sever the British connection and attain 'Purna Swarajya' or Complete Independence.

They declared that it was a "crime against man and God to submit any longer" to the British Rule. This day was observed as the Independence Day every year as long as the British ruled India. Later, this memorable day was chosen as India's Republic Day, the day on which independent India's constitution came in force.

Thus the day, January 26, which was till 1947 was celebrated as Independence Day, in 1950, became Republic Day of India. It marked complete independence from all the British connections as bestowed the ultimate sovereignty upon the people of India as the people of a Sovereign Democratic Republic.

1. Modern India (NCERT)
2. Unique Quintessence of General Studies.
3. Nehru, Jawaharlal, Glimpses of World History, Letter #162 (Peaceful Rebellion in India)

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