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