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Holiday, parade and even a song: Here’s how India defines Republic Day

Hindustan Times asked people in different parts of central Delhi if they knew what a republic was and understood the significance of the celebrations. Here’s what they had to say

delhi Updated: Jan 26, 2018 17:48 IST
Republic day,Republic day parade,what is Republic day
Hindustan Times asked people in different parts of central Delhi if they knew what a republic was and understood the significance of the celebrations.

A holiday. Freedom. Happiness. Military might. Unity in diversity. Is that what republic means?

As India’s capital hosts the annual Republic Day celebrations, people from across the country have flocked to Delhi to experience the fanfare of the parade on Rajpath on Friday and partake in nationalistic pride.

But how much do they know about the function? Hindustan Times asked people in different parts of central Delhi if they knew what a republic was and understood the significance of the celebrations.

Some struggled to distinguish between gantantra (republic), swatantra (independent) and prajatantra (democracy) while others hailed the day for the display of army might, drill, music and dance. Though quite a few people discussed rights and Constitution, the idea of why it is relevant was lost on most (see box).

What is a republic?
HT asked a cross-section of people what republic means to them. Here’s what they know — or not
  • To live together. Republic means to live together. The unity in India. — a tourist from Mumbai
  • Republic means gantantra. Gantantra? It means republic. Republic Day. Gantantra Diwas. On 26 Jan, the Constitution and laws got recognised. —a youth leader from Maharashtra
  • I haven’t learnt anything about republic in school. I was told that January 26 is Republic Day... It’s about flag hoisting, singing Jana Gana Mana, and other songs. —a Class 7 student from Hyderabad
  • Republic means we have become independent. — a government servant and Lodhi Road resident
  • We are celebrating liberation. Liberation for everything. Equal rights. We have equal rights for everything. — a Psychology student at Delhi University
  • Republic means happiness. Something good happened in our country. We are happy that we have a Constitution. People come to watch the festivities, even though they are busy, because of this happiness. — an autorickshaw driver and Laxmi Nagar resident
  • Republic... is there anything special? I know it is the prajatantra divas. Gantantra means freedom for me. Our rights. All kind of public get the rights, and we get to live theway we want. — a wedding planner from Mumbai
  • I am liberal. That is the first thing that comes to mind, when I think of what a republic is. But republic.. umm... umm... Yes we were taught in school. I remember we had political science and I used to do fine in it. But then, to be honest, I don’t think our education system and the way we are taught, is so good that we can say republic means this or that. We can say what it says in the dictionary, the gist of it, that is it. Liberal. Freedom. That is about it. — A History (Hons) student at Delhi University
  • I can sing for you what it means - "sandese aate hain," song from Border. —a singer
  • Republic? Umm… It’s like Dominic Republic — a media person
Here’s what it actually means
  • A form of government where the head of the state is elected
  • In India, the Prime Minister is the head of the government and the President is the head of state. The President is also elected, albeit by an indirect election, making India a republic.
  • India became a true independent republic, after the Constitution came into force on January 26, 1950. Hence Republic Day is celebrated on this day.
  • January 26 was chosen to enforce the Constitution because it was on this day in 1930 when declaration of Indian independence (Purna Swaraj) was proclaimed by the Indian National Congressas opposed to the dominion status offered by British Regime.

January 26, 1950, was one of the defining moments in India’s history. If August 15, 1947 marks the day of Indian Independence from British rule, the Constitution of India framed over three years was adopted on this day making India a sovereign, secular, and democratic republic.

Though citizens look forward to witness the fanfare every year, they said they remember little of what they learnt about it in school or don’t feel the need to remember it.

Sanjay Gupta of Laxmi Nagar stood for more than five hours at the India Gate on Wednesday for a ticket to the parade but he had to return empty handed. “I had to take time off between work to come here but now they say there aren’t any R20 tickets left... People come to the parade to see the missiles, especially children,” he said. He said he knows that being a republic is an important concept, but to him it meant happiness.

Aditi Singh, a history honours student at Miranda house, blamed the lack of knowledge on the education system. She said she knows the dictionary meaning of the word but that’s about it.

Sangit K Ragi, a professor of political science at Delhi University, recalled how students seeking admissions at top central universities were unable to answer his questions on what made India a democratic republic.

Though school curriculum prescribes civics and political chapters dedicated to the constitution and governance, Atishi Marlena, advisor to education minister Manish Sisodia, said the larger problem was that our current education system does not link what we learn to everyday life.

“Republic is just another word, that they probably know the definition of, but doesn’t mean anything to them, and the fault is with the education system (which focuses on rote learning)... This is citizenship education, and everybody should know what their rights are as a citizen, and about these concepts. One’s role in society depends on all this,” she said.

Senior advocate Sanjay Hegde made a case for people being aware of the idea of Republic as it signified the coming forth of the Constitution of India as an unparalleled attempt in the world history to create a modern nation.

“Each year, we look back and see that we have slipped from our ideals. We sometimes wonder whether it only provided a modern facade over ancient triumphant and rivalries. Unfortunately at the current moment of time, we have too many people looking backwards to ancient grievances and not enough people looking forward to a model nation that BR Ambedkar and others envisioned,” he said.

First Published: Jan 25, 2018 23:27 IST