RDAY

“Why is there a holiday tomorrow?”

“Because tomorrow is the Republic Day of India.”, answered Mr. Sharma, without even looking up from the paper that he was reading.

“Republic Day? What does it mean?”

Mr. Sharma looked at his son and blinked a couple of times, words failed him. Seconds ticked by, and, finally, his wife came to his rescue. “The constitution of India came into effect on this day”, she smiled and told their son.

“What does that mean?” asked their son, refusing to let up on the subject. “And why do we have such a big parade?”, “Why not have it on the Independence Day?”, “Does that mean that this day is bigger than Independence Day?”. The child rattled on, and oblivious to the arrested expression of his father, and the “bigger” questions that he had inadvertently raised, ran out to play at his friend’s call, leaving his father with all the unanswered questions.

Many of us would face the same challenge as Mr. Sharma, if put in a similar situation. For most of us the significance of 26th January has boiled down to just another holiday. We, quite probably, are ignorant of the fact that becoming an independent republic was the biggest challenge that India had to face in the last century, after attaining independence.

India became a sovereign, secular and democratic republic after adopting the Constitution on 26 November 1949. However, the January 26 of the following year was selected as the Republic Day of India because it was this day in 1930 when Purna Swaraj (complete self-rule) was proclaimed by the Indian National Congress as against the Home Rule: dominion status within the British Empire. The adoption solidified the rights of the people of India. The power of government was reassigned to the people of India after 200 years of slavery.

The democratic nature of Indian Constitution is evident in the manner it was drafted. The Constitution was drafted by the 389-member Constituent Assembly, which was elected by the elected members of the provincial assemblies. It took two years, eleven months and eighteen days to complete the historic task.

As Mr. Sharma was having his evening cup of tea, his son raced back home, and this time Mr. Sharma was prepared. He called his son, sat him down and said to him, “Tomorrow we celebrate being a Republic. It was the second biggest thing after Independence. Freedom was important, but equally important was to structure that freedom into constitutional “rights” and “liberties”, for it not be misused in any manner.”

His son frowned and said, “What does that mean daddy?”

Mr. Sharma smiled and said, “It means that tomorrow is not just any holiday, but a festival where we celebrate being an Indian.”