Every year the 26th of January is celebrated as the Republic Day in India. Today is India’s 58th Republic Day. While India gained political independence from the British empire on August 15, 1947; we formally adopted a democratic constitution and became a Republic on January 26, 1950. There is a curious bit of history behind this date. The Indian constitution was drafted by the Constituent Assembly, which was the body of elected representatives that governed India since independence. The Constituent Assembly passed the Indian Constitution on November 26, 1949. January 26 was deliberately chosen as the formal date of adoption of the constitution because it was on that day in 1930 that the Indian National Congress had symbolically declared “Poorna Swaraja” – complete independence- from Britain.
In some ways the Republic Day is more important than Independence day in my opinion. It was on this day that we chose the path we would take as a nation. We committed ourselves to the ideals of a liberal democracy. We chose to become a nation governed by laws – not men. Half a century later much remains to be done to fully achieve a true democracy in India. Politics in India is still dominated by caste equations, religion based vote banks and by parties which – while participating in the democratic process – are themselves highly un-democratic and governed by “supremos” and “high commands”. When we adopted the constitution, we decided that India would be a “Sovereign Socialist Democratic Republic”. The word “Secular” was added to that list later in 1976. Most of the socialist policies implemented since independence have been counter-productive and have posed a great impediment to progress in India. After India began dismantling some of those policies in the 1990s, India has seen significant economic growth. Secularism too has a long way to go in India.