What does it mean to be a Republic?

India proclaimed to the world that it was an independent, democratic republic on January 26, 1950. However, what did that mean? How did a single decision taken by the leaders of our struggle for independence cascade into a series of unbelievable events that coloured India’s future?

There are statues of Jawaharlal Nehru, Mahatma Gandhi and Bhagat Singh in a mall, which depict the celebration of Happy Republic.
There are statues of Jawaharlal Nehru, Mahatma Gandhi and Bhagat Singh in a mall, depicting Happy Republic’s celebration.

One of the earliest memories of Republic Day I have is watching the Rajpath parade on TV. Republic Day is a day when, on January 26, 1950, the Constitution of India formally came into effect. This historical act officially transformed India into an independent republic and is thus celebrated every year on January 26. However, why on 26 Jan and not 15 August?

This will be the first in modern history that India will not have a chief visitor for the Republic Day parade on January 26; for the most part a head of government or state. British Prime Minister Boris Johnson had acknowledged Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s invitation but had to cancel the trip much obliged to the pandemic presently seething within the UK. It was too late to send out another invite by the time Johnson made a call to the Indian PM. 

Indian Prime Minister Rajendra Prasad attended a public ceremony.

It is recorded in the how after a long struggle in the wee hours of August 15, 1947; India achieved independence from British rule. Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru conveyed his celebrated discourse ‘Tryst with Destiny’, announcing India’s autonomy to the citizens. But tragically this opportunity did not come along with majority rule government and the right to govern our Government. Since India didn’t have an official Constitution at that point, our nation was under constitutional autocracy by the ruler of Great Britain. It was at last after two and half years on January 26, 1950, when the Indian Constitution came into impact, as a result making India one of the greatest votes-based systems in the world. It was on this day that India was proclaimed a republic which was independent, socialist, secular, and democratic. And to commemorate this day, January 26, the Indian Republic Day is celebrated with incredible enthusiasm all through the nation each year on January 26.

It was through the monumental Indian Independence Act of 1947, which India obtained its autonomy, an Act of the Parliament of the United Kingdom splitting British India into two parts. As mentioned earlier, it was still under the constitutional monarchy of King George VI (head) and Earl Mountbatten, who was the Governor General, while India obtained its freedom from British rule. This was because India had no Constitution of its own in 1947. In fact, at that time, the laws in India were based on the 1935 Government of India Act.

Jawaharlal Nehru is seen hosting the Indian National flag in front of a large crowd while delivering a valuable speech.

Realizing the need for an Indian Constitution, a drafting committee was formed with the appointment of Dr Bheem Rao Ambedkar as its chairman. The primary purpose of setting up this committee was to draft India’s Constitution, which would be India’s supreme rule. The Constitution lays down a wide system of basic political code, structure, powers, strategies and duties of all Government institutions, and also states the basic rights and obligations of all citizens of India. For several months, the committee worked diligently and delivered the first draft of the Constitution to the Constituent Assembly on November 4, 1947. To fully enact the Constitution with the requisite amendments, it took precisely 2 years, 11 months and 18 days.

Have you ever even questioned what the Republic means? Why is India a republic? When the brand new India was born, it was almost midnight. We had dreamed of independence many years before that, and now it was time to fulfil ourselves. On August 15, 1947, India was born. But it was a series of princely kingdoms before 1947 and it all fell under the British Raj. When our leaders demanded independence, they had to address a challenging question: how are we going to integrate all and become one country? Would anyone become the next king or dictator? Our leaders have found an interesting solution to this that has two parts; the citizens will choose our future leaders and they will follow a guideline, a constitution to govern us. That is how the Constitution was born and on 26 January it finally came into force.

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