Why January 26 is more important than August 15

ALOK PRASANNA writes from Hyderabad: The dominant image of Republic Day that tends to stick in one’s mind is that of soldiers marching in step, tanks and artillery rumbling down the Raj Path, and aircraft flying in formation over our heads.

While some would question whether this is the appropriate way for the State to commemorate the day India became a Republic, I would like to ask a different question: How do we commemorate the day we became the citizens of a Republic?

Honouring those who risk their lives on our borders, and those who have given their lives defending them, is a noble thing to do. However, while soldiers defend our borders, protect our lives and, on occasion, keep the nation together in times of crisis, they cannot ‘defend’ the Republic.

The Republic of India requires far more numerous and vigilant defenders: us.

While on the 15th of August 1947, we made a clean break from the past, on the 26th January, 1950, “We, the People of India,” charted our course for the future. Our Constitution, which came into force, then, is not just about what the Government of the day should or should not do.

It is about what “We, the People of India,” must not give up or lose, at any cost: our freedoms.

A brief look across the world shows that many peoples have gotten Independence without getting Freedom, or have gotten Freedom and lost it at the hands of tyrants and oppressors. It has been robbed in the name of various gods, divine or otherwise, and even today; there are those who are still trying to rob it from us. We rarely lose our freedoms in one go, but let them go gradually, one by one, until we wake up one day and realize they have been taken away from us.

So, on this day, my humble request, to you my fellow Indian citizens, is to honour and commemorate that which gave us our freedoms: the Constitution.

Yes, it has been amended and modified, and parts of it deleted and routinely neglected. Yet, we can celebrate this day with a simple exercise that re-acquaints us with the Constitution and its ideals:

Read aloud the Preamble to the Constitution, as it stood on 26 January 1950. Read it carefully and slowly. And if you know someone who can’t, read it out to them, or better yet, teach them to read it and remember it.

The Preamble as it stood on 26th January, 1950:

WE, THE PEOPLE OF INDIA, having solemnly resolved to constitute India into a SOVEREIGN DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC and to secure to all its citizens:

JUSTICE, social, economic and political;
LIBERTY of thought, expression, belief, faith and worship;
EQUALITY of status and of opportunity;
and to promote among them all
FRATERNITY assuring the dignity of the individual and the unity of the Nation;

IN OUR CONSTITUENT ASSEMBLY this twenty-sixth day of November, 1949, do HEREBY ADOPT, ENACT AND GIVE TO OURSELVES THIS CONSTITUTION.