The importance of Republic Day
BENGALURU: You’ll find a lot of adults walking about without knowing why Republic Day is observed. And honestly, I can’t blame them. When compared to Independence Day, Republic Day pales in comparison. Independence Day is the culmination of the greatest story of the nation — the freedom movement. It comes with Nehru’s ‘Tryst with Destiny’ speech, and an idea that is simple enough to explain to a child — that India won her freedom.
Republic Day, on the other hand, is hard to explain, and even harder to understand. We only remember it from flag hoisting at school, and that laddoos and toffees were distributed after. As adults, we know it as a national holiday and a dry day. We don’t appreciate that we are a sovereign republic, that we have our own Constitution, and our own laws to govern us. In fact, it’s hard to imagine India in any other way. We have all mostly grown up after Independence. But ask your grandparents and you’ll probably appreciate Republic Day a little more.
Just as a thought experiment — imagine living in a nation still governed by another nation’s Constitution. Where every thought is monitored, every statement suppressed and censored. Imagine being ruled by a King or Queen! Where you could be hung to death for speaking against the system. In fact, I could have been hung five years ago for this very newspaper column! Imagine having your arms chopped off for pirating a movie or your eyes gouged out for watching porn on a holy day!
Imagine being governed by rulers from a different nation. Imagine worshipping their gods and celebrating their festivals. Imagine a calendar year without Holi, Depevali, Eid or Christmas. Imagine a nation without an agenda of pluralism. No Aamir Khan in Lagaan crooning about the importance of unity. No Shah Rukh Khan in Chak De India. Imagine a nation where Pushpa wouldn’t sweep the box office across the country and KGF wouldn’t be a bumper hit in North India.
The Constitution lay the ground rules for laws in our country. It gave us the template for electoral politics. Imagine being governed by a single person all your life, and then by his son (though some parties are so nostalgic about the older times, they still stick to this format!). There would be no fair elections, and thus — no electoral promises — those once-in-a-five-year hopes that we are given as a citizenry. No courts of justice to try our leaders, and no RTI. Most importantly, there would be no fundamental rights, no laws that were written by Indians, for Indians.
So this Republic Day, let’s celebrate the Constitution — a hand-written document that carved the future for a billion people. That took the greatest minds of the time nearly three years to write. The document that served as the instructional manual on how to operate India for the decades to come.
In fact, one could argue that without our own Constitution and laws, freedom would have been pointless. We would have succumbed to the same patterns that the British used — monopoly over the rule of the nation, and high-handedness when it comes to critique and laws.
So this Republic Day, as you sit back at home and appreciate the day off from work, as you watch the Republic Day parade on Doordarshan, do spare a moment to appreciate the effort that the makers of our Constitution put in. However, while I appreciate their efforts, it must be said that I still don’t understand the point of declaring it as a dry day. If only Dr B R Ambedkar had drafted a law against dry days!
(The writer’s views are his own)