“India is the cradle of the human race, the birthplace of human speech, the mother of history, the grandmother of legend, and the great grandmother of tradition. Our most valuable and most instructive materials in the history of man are treasured up in India only.”
These are not my words. These are the words of Mark Twain, which rings true in the heart and minds of every Indian regardless of their background, caste, creed or socio-economic standing in society.
The Indian Republic is an astounding thing which manages to function, efficiently at times. While India gained Independence on August 15, 1947; our founding fathers took a considerable time to write a constitution and form a Republic, which was a wise decision as it could not been done in haste. In the meanwhile, our country functioned under the laws of the British till November 26, 1949, around that time the constitution was passed by the Constituent Assembly. The document was finally adopted by the Indian Government on January 26, 1950 completing our transition from just being independent to that of being a Republic, which enshrined the rights and liberties along with duties and responsibilities to every citizen of our country.
Most of us already know about this through school textbooks or general knowledge, but what many of us may not know is the fact about how India stands compared with the workings of other Republic around the world and also how our country and constitution work together in tandem, keeping the wheels of this democratic republic in motion.
India has not shied away while making the constitution, we looked at the western principles, especially those which were inspired by the French Revolution; Justice, Liberty, Equality and Fraternity are reflected in our constitution. As a transition from being downtrodden and enslaved by the British Empire; the architect of our constitution vouched for equality for all, which would thereby ensure social justice.
The republics of the world; depending on whether they are presidential, democratic republics or a constitutional monarchy still have the welfare of the people and the dignity of their sovereignty at the epicentre. They all have a sense of equality and freedom and yet at the same time follow stringent rules when it comes down to crime or breach of national security.
Great Britain for example; maybe the mother of parliamentary form of democracy yet, it does not have a written constitution, the French Republic (Fifth Republic) follows a semi-presidential system of working, while the Americans have a representative style of democracy, where the states can have their own sets of laws and state – flags, the Congress is where all the major decisions take place in.
Not to wax eloquently on the subject, but would just like to emphasize on the workings of these Republics or nations and then come around to India. Like its unwritten constitution, the British state evolved over time and re-invented itself from an absolute monarchy towards a more ‘just’ form of functioning. The Magna Carta was an essential element which led to modern democracy. In the United Kingdom, the Parliament exercises power and control and acts as an executive, the reigning monarch has the liberty to advise or warn but on a total apolitical and unbiased stand. The signing of the Magna Carta was a personal victory of the barons, this abolished the divine right. This Act in the passage of history impacted much of the royalty and nobility in Europe.
Back home– our Parliament is one of the crucial elements in the functioning of the democracy in a place as diverse as India. A place where reasonable debate and dissent is required, where many viewpoints can come forward and are respected, whether or not an individual may choose to agree or disagree with them. Reason and understanding are the fruits of a laborious parliament.
The French had their revolution, this is an example of the power of the people and their sheer determination, the current form of the French system is a much more recent construct dating from 1958 and till today’s Fifth Republic – which centralizes substantial power in the President. In the French political system, the relationship between the President and the Prime Minister – the first- and second-highest authorities respectively – is critical. The Indian system too; has a president and a prime minister. The head of our army is the President so as to prevent a military coup.
France from a historical perspective teaches us that we cannot let the people in power get too comfortable; they cannot take the citizens for granted. A vote no matter how minuscule has power in numbers and India had has been effective in overthrowing tyrannical governments.
America was a totally different ball game, when it won its independence from the colonial master, Great Britain. It had a brutal and bloody war of independence, emerging victorious; it wanted a total overhaul of its functioning as a state. The new constitution on purpose, spread power between three arms of the government namely the executive, legislature and judiciary and saw to it that each could, if needed curtail or limit the exercise of power by the other entity.
India learnt this balancing act, the judiciary is independent here and the legislature can make laws to benefit the states, the executive- the Indian parliament has it’s say in the workings of the country. When all of them work together smoothly; then they bring about change and progress. For example, the Supreme Court of India has a right to tell or correct the parliament if it goes on a wayward path.
India retains a unique identity on its status as a democratic republic; in the past year, the question of us being a tolerant nation came to fore. India is still a very tolerant country, but the seeds of mistrust and suspicion must be dealt with in a level headed and/or judicious manner. This Republic is also one of the oldest civilizations in the world, the average Indian is a hard-working and bright individual who just needs an opportunity which this Republic provides at times, only when that person appreciates and realizes his/ her true potential.
So dear fellow Indians, this Republic Day shouldn’t be a cosmetic exercise, where one is patriotic only for the day. The question to be asked is not whether we love our country, which we do, the question is how do we work together for this great republic and show that we are worthy citizens of this magnificent country we call home.
Rise India, Be India and Rejoice India!
Happy Republic Day
(Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article are personal).