It won't be completely inaccurate to say that in an average Indian citizen's life, the most memorable Republic Days have been ones that came with a weekend attached to them. It perhaps has to do with the fact that the ceremonial possibilities of the day in smaller public spaces and personal spaces, traditionally, are less elaborate and dazzling than those of Independence Day. In fact, the idea of a 'republic' is far more complicated to understand and celebrate for so many of us, unlike 'independence' which seems momentous, absolute and somewhat easy to feel 'charged' about for people born decades after the event.
In the collective imagination of our people, 15th August didn't involve a dreary political transition, brokered over complicated political exchanges in glum chambers, it was almost as if the cruel white rulers were tonsured, put on a ship and set on sail on the stormy seas. Like a modern-day tale of revenge and justice.
However, the fact remains that on 26 January, 1950, the Indian Constitution formally came into effect and India started functioning as an 'independent republic'. Since the day, for all practical purposes, is shorn of cinematic possibilities, Republic Day is the one on which you are supposed to snuggle up under a blanket and watch tableaux and motorcycle stunts to television. Only, as we gear up for a lazy day of TV watching on Republic Day, it is important to remind the country what it has often forgotten in the past couple of months -- that we have a Constitution.
And there, our Constitution is crying itself hoarse advocating 'liberty of thought , expression, belief, faith and worship'.
One cannot help but laugh at the delicious irony of 'celebrating' Republic Day when the country's highest court has gone ahead and defined patriotism for the rest of us to follow, no questions asked. And there, our Constitution is crying itself hoarse advocating 'liberty of thought , expression, belief, faith and worship'. Just consider the sheer ridiculousness of making a spectacle out of the day when the government to a nation of billions -- half of them starving -- makes time to come up with directions differently-abled people must follow to show 'respect' during the national anthem.
Doesn't the act of singing paeans for a Constitution -- which demands 'JUSTICE, social, economic and political' -- ring hollow on this day?
Doesn't the act of singing paeans for a Constitution -- which demands 'JUSTICE, social, economic and political' -- ring hollow on this day? When almost the entire country would like to believe that it is not a crime if a man sexually assaults his wife and hence, won't have a law against marital rape. And the queer community has the threat of arrest hanging like a sword on their heads all the time. And the government's first response to a lower caste student's suicide following alleged caste-based atrocities is to contest the very claim that he is a Dalit. 'Justice, what?' would be a more accurate representation of what the country is inclined to follow.
And while hundreds will throng Delhi's parade, shouting and hooting at the opulence that's unleashed to observe the day, somewhere someone will get beaten up for not standing up when the national anthem plays in a theatre, even as a part of movie. It wouldn't matter if he or she is a senior citizen, it wouldn't matter if he or she is paraplegic and wheelchair-bound, all that would matter is they would have been on the wrong side of law.
It's another matter that when the makers of the Constitution included the following clause in the Preamble -- FRATERNITY assuring the dignity of the individual -- they may have unrealistically expected it to be understood and followed.