Every body – from individuals to the nations have a few very special dates that touches not only them but everybody related. Of the three dates that India celebrates, there are more than one reason to celebrate January the 26th. As we celebrate the 60th anniversary of republic India, the significance of January 26th goes much farther in the history.
Three such dates that India celebrates are – August the 15th the date of rebirth of independent India, January the 26th, the date of birth of the Republic India and October the 2nd, the date of birth of the father of the nation.
Few nations celebrate a second date at par with their most important date (in India’s case August 15th). So what is significant about this date? India became Republic on this date. True? But was it a mere co-incidence that she choose to become republic on this date? The answer to this question makes it all the more significant. The simple answer is – This is the only date we choose; ourselves; consciously. But Why?
January 26, 1930 – The Lahore Session
Exactly two decades before we declared ourselves republic, on this day, the Indian National Congress had promulgated The declaration of Independence or Purna Swaraj. In the official draft by none other than Mahatma Gandhi stated:
The British government in India has not only deprived 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….Therefore…India must sever the British connection and attain Purna Swaraj or complete independence.
Now this was significant as Indian leaders and parties have been on a constant debate pertaining to the ultimate goal – A dominion status or the complete independence. All India Home Rule League and All India Muslim League favoured the Dominion status and at times even opposed the idea of complete independence. While veterans like Bal Gangadhar Tilak, Aurobindo and Bipin Chandrapal favored Purna Swaraj a complete separation from British rule. Just two years back, in 1928 Calcutta session, Indian National congress pressed just for Dominion status within two years. It never came. Thus the Lahore sessions finally pressed for the ultimate and the complete freedom.
Pandit Jawahar Lal Nehru, the then congress president hoisted the first Swaraj Flag on the Midnight of December 31st, 1929, which was adopted as the national flag or the Swaraj Flag. On January 26th, the session not only proposed a declaration for the complete Independence or Purna Swaraj but also declared January 26th as the Independence Day (Purna Swaraj Day).
Ever since, we continued to celebrate Purna Swaraj Divas (Independence Day) till 1947; each year remembering the sacrifices made in the direction of attaining our ultimate objective.
If we were asked to choose, we certainly would have chosen January 26th as our Independence day
June 4th, 1947
Perhaps, the date has little relevance for most of Indians in current generation. But it was this day, that the last viceroy of British India, Lord Louis Mountbatten announced the date for final transfer of power to Indian Hand – The August 15th, 1947 – The official day of India’s Independence.
The decision was surprisingly spontaneous – rather a shocking and surprising for all concerned. This announcement left merely four moths for the preparation for the ultimate event; the general understanding was for almost a year later. The date had absolutely no significance for Indians. Mountbatten choose the date as it was associated with his most important victory when Japanese unconditionally surrendered two years before.
Thus Indians had no say in choosing the most important date for their History. This of course doesn’t make the August 15th any less important. After all no child gets to choose their own date of Birth.
August 15th, 1947
As the world slept, India woke to light and freedom. The transfer of power to Indian hands happened exactly as announced on June 4th, 1947. We achieved our desired political freedom. India was now ruled by Indians. But were we really and truly independent? the power was transferred to a provisional government headed by Pandit Nehru and was not really a government chosen by the people of India. The stamps and coins still carried the bust of British Monarch.
Soon a constituent assembly was formed to rectify this and draft a constitution for Indian Republic. Against the popular circulated myth of attributing one person as the father of our constitution, it was almost two years of intense debate among the chosen members of the constituent assembly under the leadership of their president Dr. Rajendra Prasad that drafted the largest written constitution of the world. The assembly completed its job by the mid of 1949 and the assembly approved the constitution of India on Nov 25th, 1949. It was signed by all member on January 24th 1950. But we waited. This time we had the option to choose our date. The date of our true Independence. The day when India becomes Republic.
January 26th, 1950
The Independent India, under a provisional government finally declared herself Republic on this day realizing the oath taken exactly two decades ago. The ceremony was marked by the oath ceremony of Dr. Rajendra Prasad, who became the first president of the Republic India. The Election Commission was also constituted to take care of the election process for the republic of India. It was two years later, however, India choose his Prime minister and other members of Parliaments through the republic process for the first time.
January 26th, 2010
As Republic India turns 60 this year, we have amended our constitution 94 times – for better for worse. It was in its design. The founder for constitution designed it that way. Bringing amendments to Indian constitution is easier than that of some other countries such as USA. In the words of one of the pioneer member of the constituent assembly and former law minister Dr. Bhim Rao Ambedkar:
However good a constitution may be, it is sure to turn out to be bad because those who are called to work it happen to be a bad lot. However bad a constitution may be, it may turn out to be good if those who are called to work it happen to be a good lot.
This certainly leaves a great deal of responsibility in the shoulders of the future generation of government and the law makers and history is a witness of their success and failure.