Revisiting 26th January, 1950- by Bidisha Bhattacharya

Indian republic

This is the third instalment of “Raj to Republic” series being published on the occasion of 70th Republic Day, in collaboration with Bidisha Bhattacharya, member Political Intelligence Unit, I-PAC and former consultant to 15th Finance Commission.

July 19th, 1947, at 4 o’clock on Friday evening, the Royal Assent was given to the Indian Independence Bill. After a century of storm and stress, the ship of Indian Freedom had come into port. She wasn’t spick and span as we had pictured her in the morning-time of the nation’s hopes. It was, on the whole, a sad homecoming. But, at the end of the day, she is a brave little ship carrying the high hopes and ambitions of four hundred millions. On her proud mast-head there brooded, just like the Spirit of Peace, the white soul of India.  But partition was a tragic fact. India had begun on the endless adventure of freedom crippled and maimed at the sight of the world. She was and still is however a great believer in the healing touch of time and in the magic of natural affinities. No political boundary, no difference of creed, no bitterness from the past could withstand  the pervasive and gracious influence of the genius of this land- its great respect for abiding values, its faith in tolerance and its resolve to walk in the ways of righteousness.

This situation was followed by Gandhiji’s assassination on 30th January 1948. “THE MAHATMA HAS BECOME IMMORTAL”, was the cry that rose from a million throats as the flames consumed the old frail body that housed the mighty spirit which confidently anticipated the verdict of posterity. The tributes that had flown from all quarters of the globe showed how unique was the stature of this man who became a legend in his lifetime by dominating the consciousness of humanity like a colossus, his feet planted firmly on earth, the refuge of the lowliest and lost, his head crowned with the stars. Those who watched him closely or read Gandhiji extensively knew that it was for him, the Via Dolorosa. But his faith in the future never waivered. And it is that faith which must sustain us now setting aside discriminations and jealousy. It was with this spirit that Gandhiji had laboured during those last few months post-Independence conscious of the perils that beset the nation he had led so valiantly, convinced more than ever that it can really never be harmed except by itself and confident that in the long run truth and righteousness will prevail.

Almost three years ago, an operation had begun which was brought to a successful close Saturday, November, 29th, 1949. The then new Indian Constitution was in many ways a remarkable achievement. It was the work of a body which was set up when the country had not achieved independence. And when independence came, it came in a fashion that involved the rejection of some postulates which had long been regarded as basic. However, in spite of the sudden shock of partition, the Constituent Assembly did not allow itself to be thrown off-balance; instead, through the Assembly, the country re-iterated the resolve that everyone who had thrown in his/her lot with the new India should enjoy equal rights and responsibilities irrespective of caste and creed. After all, the main trend of political thinking in this country ever since nationalist agitation that had begun over a century ago had throughout been in favour of strengthening all the elements that made or will make for unity. The Constituent assembly and in particular, the Drafting Committee with Dr. Ambedkar at their head might well congratulate themselves on keeping this objective constantly in view.

The inauguration of the Republic of India is an Act of high faith of the people in this country, a gesture of dedication of all the nation’s talent and resources to the realization of worthy purposes. It sums up to a pledge on the part of every Indian that he will to the extent of his strength and capacities uphold the honour of his country, augment her strength for good. A democratic republic, which is what our constitution aims to build, is one in which the worth of the individual is not submerged in the collective will but sustains it. Every citizen must remember that if matters go wrong with the State it is he that is ultimately responsible. Therefore, he must understand the correct working of the machinery of the Government through which democracy functions, the basic problems pertaining to the State and must possess the strength of character which alone is a nation’s true capital.

We have too many things to do. And we had wrongly tried to do too many things at a time in the past. Trained capacity failed to match ambition and power, as a consequence, went to the head of too many who had too little to generate it but who swarmed to it like flies to sugar. The greatest that Swaraj had revealed was that behind the brilliant band of patriots who under Gandhiji’s lead won freedom had left behind practically no second  line of defence to carry the crusading spirit forward. The Constitution has provided us with the shell of democracy. It is up to us now to inject life into it.

It is that fire, that energy of life that must be roused in the dormant consciousness of the people if India is to build up a fair and equitable polity for her millions.

To end with, I came across a speech Miss Jinnah during those partition days where she is telling her Muslim sisters in Pakistan that they should remember that this new home that call now as Pakistan is no exclusive possession of any one community and none who is lawfully there may be looked down upon as an inferior or outsider, for a house divided against itself cannot stand. A little food for thought before you judge.

Wishing you all a very Happy 70th Republic Day.

(Third Instalment in Raj to Republic Series.)

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