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Wednesday, January 27, 1999
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The Republic Day is celebrated every year on January 26. To provide a background on this day, we give our Internet edition readers a brief note.

It was the Lahore Session of the Indian National Congress at midnight of December 31, 1929 - January 1, 1930, that the Tricolour was unfurled by nationalists and a pledge taken that every year on January 26 "Independence Day" would be celebrated and that the people would unceasingly strive for the establishment of a Sovereign Democratic Republic of India. We present India's first Prime Minister's reminisces about the Lahore Session.

President Rajendra Prasad's reply to the speech of the Doyen of the Diplomatic Corps at the Banquet in Rashtrapati Bhavan, New Delhi, on January 26, 1950, after India was formally declared a Republic, strikes a formal note, while The New York Times account of the first Republic Day celebrations indicates the mood of the time.back


The Republic Day

The Republic Day of India is celebrated every year on January 26, in New Delhi with great pomp and pageant and in capitals of the States, as well as at other headquarters and important places with patriotic fervour.

It was the Lahore Session of the Indian National Congress at midnight of December 31, 1929 - January 1, 1930, that the Tri-Colour Flag was unfurled by the nationalists and a pledge taken that every year on January 26, the "Independence Day" would be celebrated and that the people would unceasingly strive for the establishment of a Sovereign Democratic Republic of India. The professed pledge was successfully redeemed on January 26, 1950, when the Constitution of India framed by the Constituent Assembly of India came into force, although the Independence from the British rule was achieved on August 15, 1947.

It is because of this that August 15 is celebrated as Independence Day, while January 26 as Republic Day.

The most spectacular celebrations include the march past of the three armed Forces, massive parades, folk dances by tribal folk from the different states in picturesque costumes marking the cultural unity of India. Further, the streak of jet planes of Indian Air Force, leaving a trial of coloured smoke, marks the end of the festival. The trees on both sides of the routes and the lawns become alive with spectators.

The President of India at New Delhi, on this most colourful day, takes salute of the contingents of Armed Forces. In the States, the Governors take the salute, and in Taluqas and administrative headquarters on same procedure is adopted. At Vijay Chowk in New Delhi, three days later (i.e. 29th January) the massed bands of the Armed Forces "Beat the Retreat" in a majestic manner.

The Republic Day celebrations have rightly become world famous as one of the greatest shows on earth drawing thousands of eager sight-seers from all over the country and many parts of the world. No other country can draw on such a wealth of tribal traditions and cultures, so many regional forms of dances and dress. And, no other country in the world can parade so many ethnically different people in splendid uniforms as India's Armed Forces. But they are all united in their proven loyalty to the Government elected by the people and in their proud traditions and legendary gallantry.

Rightly too, the Armed Forces are entrusted with the major task of coordinating the whole show of Republic day celebrations including the "Beating the Retreat", a heritage left by the British.back


The Call of Action — Declaration of Independence, 1930 — Independence Day: Approach of Civil Disobedience

The following is an excerpt from the book "Nehru, The First Sixty Years," edited by Dorothy Norman, Asia Publishing House, in which India's first Prime Minister, Mr Jawaharlal Nehru, reminisces about the Lahore Congress Session in 1930, at which it was decided that January 26 was to be fixed as Independence Day.

[The Lahore Congress, which Nehru had addressed on December 29, 1929, continued into early 1930.]

The Lahore Congress remains fresh in my memory — a vivid patch.... The whole atmosphere was electric and surcharged with the gravity of the occasion. Our decisions were not going to be mere criticisms or protests or expressions of opinion, but a call to action which was bound to convulse the country and affect the lives of millions.

What the distant future held for us and our country, none dared prophesy; the immediate future was clear enough, and it held the promise of strife and suffering for us and those who were dear to us. This thought sobered our enthusiasms and made us very conscious of our responsibility. Every vote that we gave became a message of farewell to ease, comfort, domestic happiness, and the intercourse of friends, and an invitation to lonely days and nights and physical and mental distress.

The main resolution on independence, and the action to be taken in furtherance of our freedom struggle, was passed almost unanimously, barely a score of persons, out of many thousands, voting against it. The All-India Congress Committee had been authorised to plan and carry out our campaign, but all knew that the real decision lay with Gandhiji....

In spite of the enthusiasm shown at the Congress session, no one knew what the response of the country would be to program of action. We had burned our boats and could not go back, but the country ahead of us was an almost strange and uncharted land. To give a start to our campaign, and partly also to judge the temper of the country, January 26 was fixed as Independence Day, when a pledge of independence was to be taken all over the country.

And so, full of doubt about our program, but pushed on by enthusiasm and the desire to do something effective, we waited for the march of events.1

[Henceforth, January 26 was to be observed annually in India as Independence Day. It was on this date that the free Republic of India was to be formally inaugurated in 1950.]


Our democratic heritage

The following is President Rajendra Prasad's reply to the speech of the Doyen of the Diplomatic Corps at the Banquet in Rashtrapathi Bhavan, New Delhi, on January 26, 1950, after India was formally declared a Republic.

It is a great day for our country. India has had a long and chequered history; parts of it were cloudy and parts bright and sunlit. At no period, even during the most glorious eras of which we have record, was this whole country brought under one Constitution and one rule. We have mention of many Republics in our books and our historians have been able to make out a more or less connected and co-ordinated piece out of the incidents and the places which are mentioned in these records. But these Republics were small and tiny and their shape and size was perhaps the same as that of the Greek Republics of that period. We have mention of Kings and Princes, some of whom are described as 'Chakravarty', that is, a monarch whose suzerainty was acknowledged by other Princes. During the British period, while acknowledging the suzerainty of Britain, the Indian Princes continued to carry on the administration of their territories in their own way. It is for the first time today that we have inaugurated a Constitution which extends to the whole of this country and we see the birth of a federal republic having States which have no sovereignty of their own and which are really members and parts of one federation and one administration.

His Excellency the Ambassador of the Netherlands has been pleased to refer to the relations and connections of this country with other countries both Eastern and Western. That relationship, so far as this country is concerned, has always been one of friendliness. Our ancestors carried the message of our teachers far and wide and established cultural ties which have withstood the ravages of time and still subsist while Empires have crumbled and fallen to pieces. Our ties subsist because they were not of iron and steel or even of gold but of the silken cords of the human spirit, India has had to face, on many occasions, assaults and invasions by foreigners and she has very often succumbed. But, there is not a single instance of a military invasion or aggressive war by this country against any other. It is therefore in the fitness of things and a culmination of our own cultural traditions that we have been able to win our freedom without bloodshed and in a very peaceful manner. The Father of our Nation, Mahatma Gandhi, was not a freak of nature but the physical embodiment and consummation of the progress of that spirit of non-violence which has been our great heritage. We have been able under his matchless leadership, not only to regain our lost freedom but also to establish and strengthen the bonds of friendship with those — and our thanks are due to them for it — against whose policy we have fought and won.

Our Constitution is a democratic instrument seeking to ensure to the individual citizens the freedoms which are so invaluable. India has never prescribed or prosecuted opinion and faith and our philosophy has room as much for a devotee of a personal god, as for an agnostic or an atheist. We shall, therefore, be only implementing in practice under our Constitution what we have inherited from our traditions, namely, freedom of opinion and expression. Under the new set-up, which we are inaugurating today, we hope to live up to the teachings of our Master and help in our own humble way in the establishment of peace in the world. Our attitude towards all countries is one of utmost friendliness. We have no designs against any one, no ambition to dominate others. Our hope is that others also will have no designs against us. We have had bitter experience of aggression by other countries in the past and can only express the hope that it may not be necessary for us to take any measures even in self-defence.

I know the world today is passing through a most uncertain and anxious period. Two world wars within one generation, with all their devastation and aftermath of suffering and sorrow, have not been able to convince it that a war can never bring about the end of wars. It is, therefore, necessary to seek the end of wars in positive acts of goodness towards all and the world must learn to utilise all its resources for productive and beneficial purposes and not for destruction. We do venture to think that this country may have a past to play in establishing this goodwill and atmosphere of confidence and co-operation. We have inherited no old enmities. Our republic enters the world stage, therefore, free from pride and prejudice, humbly believing and striving that in international as well as internal affairs our statesmen may be guided by the teachings of the Father of our Nation — tolerance, understanding non-violence and resistance to aggression.

It is in such a country and at such a time that it has pleased the representatives of our people to call me to this high office. You can easily understand my nervousness which arises not only form the tremendousness of the task with which our newly won freedom is confronted but also from a consciousness that I succeed in this sphere of activity, though not in office, one who has played such a conspicuous part not only during the period of strife and struggle but also during the period of constructive activity and active administration. You know Sri Chakravarty Rajagopalachari and have experience of his incisive intellect, great learning, practical wisdom and sweetness of manners. It has been my privilege to have been associated with him for more than 30 years and although we might have had occasional differences of opinion on some vital matters but never have our personal relations suffered by setback and I feel sure that I shall continue to enjoy the benefit of his protective advice in whatever crises I may have to face. My nervousness and anxiety are to no small extent countered by a consciousness that I shall be the recipient of fullest confidence from our Prime Minister, Deputy Prime Minister, the Members of the Cabinet and the Legislature and from the people at large. I shall endeavour my best to earn and deserve that confidence. Let me also hope that this country will be able to win the confidence of other nations and secure such assistance as it may require in times of need. I have great pleasure in responding to the toast which has been proposed.back


The following is the text of a story published in The New York Times dated January 26, 1950.

India a Republic, Prasad President
Proclamation and Induction
Implement Sovereignty and Sever Ties With British
Two-Day National Holiday
By Robert Trumbull
Special to The New York Times

New Delhi, Jan. 25 — The proclamation of the Republic of India and the induction of the first President, Dr. Rajendra Prasad, will be marked by a two-day national holiday.

At the moment the office of Governor General ceases, a line of forty-nine occupants, going back to Warren Hastings, will end. The Governors General have included some of the brightest names in the British Empire's history.

The event also significantly alters the complexion of the Commonwealth, whose largest member, with about one-sixth of the earth's population, will no longer recognise the King of Great Britain as its sovereign. The Republic of India will, however, continue to accept the King as the symbolic head of the Commonwealth of Nations.

British Insignias Removed

The British arms and the royal crown have already been removed from the public buildings, except the two crowns that tower over the immense secretariat buildings opposite Government House on New Delhi's highest eminence. How to dislodge these ornaments, weighing two tons each, without the risk that they would crash through the secretariat roof, has baffled Indian engineers. The other crowns have been replaced by a symbolic Asoka pillar.

The pillar of Asoka, recalling the great Buddhist Emperor whose reign began in 274 B. C., will replace the crown on police and service flags and on uniform insignia. At the same time the prefix "royal" will be dropped from the designations of the Indian army, navy and air force. New currency and stamps of Indian design will be issued.

Assumption of the status of a "sovereign democratic republic" brings in to force the new Constitution, which abolishes untouchability and includes the most detailed document of fundamental rights of any constitution. All present laws in conflict with the Constitution are automatically repealed.

India's nine Governors' Provinces, eleven Chief Commissioners' Provinces and eight Princely States and Unions, will be known as States under the new Constitution.

A Governor will continue to be called His Excellency, and a Maharajah His Highness, although the Chief of State will be addressed simply as Mr. President. But no more titles may be accepted by Indian nationals except in cases of hereditary princes whose honors are guaranteed by a covenant with the Central Government.

Jan. 26 was chosen for the inauguration of the republic because on that date twenty years ago the Indian National Congress, now the governing party, issued a pledge that India must become completely free and independent of British rule.

Dr. Prasad, four times president of the Congress, will be head of state until the first general elections are held. These are tentatively scheduled for next winter. Meanwhile, the present assembly will be a provisional Parliament and will hold its first meeting as such on Saturday when the President will read his first formal message.

Territorial readjustments between the various units that will constitute the Indian Republic were announced today.

There are hundreds of small enclaves consisting of villages, towns and forest
areas belonging to one unit but situated in a neighbouring territory, thus creating serious administrative difficulties. The States Ministry announcement said that all such bits of land would be absorbed by the unit in which they are situated. For instance, these adjustments will involve the merger of 110 Hyderabad State villages with Bombay Province and the taking over of ninety-three Bombay Province villages by the Hyderabad Government.

There are about 1,600 enclaves, ranging in area from a few square yards to several square miles.


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