Celebrating the largest democracy in the world
“Long years ago we made a tryst with destiny, and now the time comes when we shall redeem our pledge, not wholly or in full measure, but very substantially,” said Jawaharlal Nehru, first prime minister of India, in his Tryst with Destiny speech on August 15, 1947, the day India became a free nation.
“At the stroke of the midnight hour,” Nehru continued, “when the world sleeps, India will awake to life and freedom.”
These words have been etched as one of the greatest speeches of the 20th Century; when this South Asian country was heralding the dawn of freedom, after a long-fought, bloody battle with the British regime.
It was the beginning of a nation, which boasts of being one of the most ancient civilisations of mankind, to commence a journey to carve and chart its own destiny, as Nehru said; it was also the beginning to pen the constitution – the document that lays down the framework demarcating fundamental political code, structure, procedures, powers, and duties of Government institutions and sets out fundamental rights, directive principles, and the duties of citizens.
That day dawned on January 26, 1950, when India declared itself a Sovereign, Democratic and Republic state with the adoption of the Constitution.
The Constitution gave the citizens of India the power to choose their own Government and paved the way for democracy. Dr Rajendra Prasad took oath as the first President of India at the Durbar Hall in Government House and this was followed by the Presidential drive along a five-mile route to the Irwin Stadium, where he unfurled the National Flag.
The transition of India from a British colony to a sovereign, secular, and democratic nation was historical. It was a long journey of around two decades that started with the conceptualisation of dream of India as a Republic in 1930 to its actual realisation in 1950.
With the genesis of the framework of governance set at the height of India’s freedom movement against the British rule, the resultant document was magnanimous, as many things in India are – with 395 Articles and eight Schedules, the Indian Constitution is the largest written constitution in the world.
The journey began in 1929.
Lahore Session of the Indian National Congress
The seeds of a republican nation were sowed at this session of the Indian National Congress at the midnight of December 31, 1929. The session was held under the presidency of Jawarhar Lal Nehru, who would become the first prime minister of free India.
The delegates in the meeting took a pledge to mark January 26 as “Independence Day” in order to march towards realising the dream of complete independence from the British. The Lahore Session paved way to the Civil Disobedience movement.
It was decided that January 26, 1930 would be observed as the Purna Swaraj (complete Independence) Day. Many Indian political parties and Indian revolutionaries from all over the country united to observe the day.
Indian Constituent Assembly Meetings
The Indian Constituent Assembly, which was constituted as a result of the negotiations between the Indian leaders and members of the British Cabinet Mission, held their first meeting on December 9, 1946.
The Objective of the Assembly was to give India a constitution, which would serve a lasting purpose and hence appointed a number of committees to thoroughly research the various aspects of the proposed constitution.
The recommendations were discussed, debated and revised many times before the Indian Constitution was finalised and officially adopted three years later on November 26, 1949.
Constitution comes into force
It was on January 26, 1950 when the Constitution of India finally came into force. The Constitution gave the citizens of India the power to govern themselves by choosing their own Government.
A salute of 21 guns and the unfurling of the Indian National flag by Dr Rajendra Prasad heralded the historic birth of the Indian Republic on January 26, 1950; 894 days after India became independent.
Ever since January 26 is celebrated all over the country, the day owes its importance to the Constitution of India that was adopted on this day.
A show of its military might, riot of colours dispersed by the folk musician and dancers, soldiers marching in clockwork precision along New Delhi’s Raj Path (erstwhile Kingsway) among the backdrop of Lutyens Delhi (Largely designed by Lutyens over 20 or so years (1912 to 1930), New Delhi, is popularly known as ‘Lutyens’ Delhi’, was chosen to replace Calcutta as the seat of the British Indian Government in 1912; the project was completed in 1929 and officially inaugurated in 1931. In undertaking this project, Lutyens invented his own new order of classical architecture, which has become known as the Delhi Order and was used by him for several designs in England) – January 26 is one of India’s most colourful and photographed events.
India’s national poet Rabindranath Tagore penned …
Where the mind is without fear and the head is held high
Where knowledge is free
Where the world has not been broken up into fragments
By narrow domestic walls
Where words come out from the depth of truth
Where tireless striving stretches its arms towards perfection
Where the clear stream of reason has not lost its way
Into the dreary desert sand of dead habit
Where the mind is led forward by thee
Into ever-widening thought and action
Into that heaven of freedom, my Father, let my country awake.
It might have been a smooth ride for the largest democracy in the world – India has had and continues to have its share of trial and tribulations – but she has always overcome – and will always continue to do so.