On 26 January every year, Indians celebrate Republic Day. For this year, I wrote a poem about it on my main blog that you can find here. It is based on my knowledge and research about the nationalist movement and the independence and post-independence period of Indian history.
Now, in this History blog, I’m going to answer some questions one may have the Indian Republic Day:
Why do Indians celebrate Republic Day?
When was the first Republic Day?
How was the first Republic Day celebrated?
Why was 26 January chosen as the Republic Day of India?
What is known as India to-day was once just a large subcontinent – a part of the continent of Asia. There was actually no country then; it was just a mass piece of land in the world’s largest continent. This sub-continent had been a source of rich wealth in many ways… and that came with a price. Over the centuries, many leaders from other parts of Asia and Europe invaded this sub-continent at various points of time and plundered Indian wealth and treasure. The end of this came when Europeans entered India in the 15th-16th centuries as traders and, a few years later, colonised it.
There were four major groups of Europeans who were prevalent in India at one point – the Dutch, the Portuguese, the British, and the French – who fought each other over territorial occupation. It was finally the British who came out victorious in this series of battles; the French and the Portuguese managed to retain their hold over minor parts of the subcontinent, namely Goa, Daman and Diu, and Pondicherry. These were in fact tiny parts in comparison to the huge portions that the British won.
Indians didn’t keep quiet though, especially not the kings who ruled various parts of the subcontinent. First, there was the 1806 Vellore Revolt in the region that is to-day called Tamil Nadu, then the all-India Revolt of 1857. The latter took the British colonisers completely by surprise and scared the heck out of them for months, before they manage to call reinforcements and fight back. In the end, in both the revolts, it was the British who won and the Indians who lost. However, this did not discourage the Indians–they in fact resorted to get on the good side of the British government and passively make them change their minds and leave India. The British, too, learnt their lesson with the 1857 Revolt and decided they didn’t want it to repeat. Hence, they jointly formed the Indian National Congress (INC), which is now a major political party in the present-day India. The INC underwent a lot of internal changes and divisions to become what it is to-day, even after independence.
Two centuries later, in 1947, the British finally left the subcontinent, but not without partitioning on the basis of religion. The reason for this is a long story – which I shan’t get into now – but it is very similar to the issue in Palestine in the pre-war era. For now, think that India met a fate the same as Palestine.
So, on 15 August 1947, at the stroke of midnight, India received its independence from the British rule.
However, things did not end there. There was a political void, an economic and financial crisis, and social instability. Riots between Hindus and Muslims were everywhere throughout the country. There had to be stable government and constitution to bring the country to some form of order and normalcy.
Hence, since 1946, when it was evident that India would finally get its sovereignty, a group of politicians and intellectuals were elected to form the Indian Constituent Assembly. Dr B R Ambedkar headed this committee. They spent nearly three years trying to gather information and examples from other existing constitutions across the world – and finally, on 26 November 1949, after several revisions, the final draft of the Constitution of India was ready to be released.
The next year, on 26 January 1950, the then Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru formally addressed the Indian citizens and officially declared the Indian Constitution to the world. Why 26 January? Because it was on this day in 1930 that the INC had declared “Poorna Swaraj” (total independence) of India, as part of its nationalist movement. So, to honour that day, the Constitution of India was officially released to the public on that day.
It is therefore safe to consider that 26 January 1950 was the day when India celebrated its first Republic Day. It was also on this day that the post of the Governor-General, a British-created post, was abolished and in its place, the post of the President of India was introduced. Dr Rajendra Prasad was elected to hold this position for the very first time.
Every Republic Day is celebrated with a parade in Delhi along the Kartavya Path. In 1950, the venue of this parade was at the Irwin Amphitheatre, now called Major Dhyan Chand National Stadium, and was led by the then Brigadier of the Gorkha Regiment, Moti Sagar. The then President of Indonesia, Sukarno, was invited to be the chief guest of this event. Sukarno was one of the five founders of the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM), alongwith Nehru.
So, this much has answered all the questions I have listed in the beginning of this article. I shall definitely speak more about the parts I skipped out. And hopefully, I shall be on time the next time onwards, LOL. Thanks a lot for reading this article and hope you have learnt something from it. My idea for this blog is to reveal the history of India, which is surprisingly unknown to many people across the world, even the Indians themselves.
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Bye! See you in next blog post!