Posted by Rachit Seth on Tuesday 14 August, 2012 Hits:123
"We the People of India... " reads our Preamble to the Constitution. Yes "Republic". Republic is the phrase, we need to emphasize here.
A 23 year old girl, a medical student was heinously gang raped in posh South Delhi. There is genuine outrage about it. Our Politico-Social fabric is questioning itself. People were on streets, authorities have taken certain steps. Some steps, yet we all know a lot needs to be done about the 'Safety of Women'. I am royally ignoring all those misogynists statements made by politicos of various hues and colours, because that will deviate the real issue. There have been a demand, especially in the young people I interact with - and that demand is to boycott Republic Day ! They feel that if the Republic of India has not given us what it stands for - Security, Development, Peace and Prosperity - then why should we indulge in Republic Day Celebrations at all!
I strongly disagree. I will not only disagree with them, but also as a citizen of India - will attend the Republic Day Celebrations on Rajpath- the tickets of which I have bought myself from a public counter. I will be sitting in the ordinary chairs laid along the Rajpath for "Aam Aadmi" - Common People. I would also like to clear that I have got 2 tickets worth Rs 300 each for myself and a friend - 15 days ago from Dilli Haat outlet - and has not availed any undue benefits from any ministry or embassy. I will also be attending the “Beating Retreat” ceremony.
1. First and foremost, reason for attending the Republic Day Celebrations is that, I believe in the Constitution. Our forefathers took great pains in framing each and every article - of which is the most comprehensive and most detailed Constitution in the world. It is the longest written constitution of any sovereign country in the world, containing 448 articles in 22 parts, 12 schedules and 118 amendments. Their sound intentions were evident by the Preamble, which reads" We the People.." . Often people question this theory by pointing out that we adopted the British system of Parliamentary Democracy and mixed various aspects - like Directive Principles of State Policy (Irish Constitution), Federal Structure (USA), Separate Judiciary (USA) and so on, so this is not an original work our "Indians". Therefore, we need a different set of laws to govern our country - which is intrinsically "Indian".
I reject this hollow argument with the contempt it deserves. The Constitution of India is not "Adopted". It is an amalgamation of the structures, which have been already tried and tested in different parts of the world- but strictly modified into the Indian context. It takes into account the diversity of India, and have modified structures to gel with what is essentially the "Idea of India" Historically too, India has a rich tradition of liberty, freedom of speech, justice, secularism and fraternity. All these aspects are enshrined and engraved in Our Constitution with great precision and detail.
I Believe in the Constitution, because it represents "We the People" and the "Idea of India" . I believe it is adaptable with changing times, but the basic building blocks of it (what the Supreme Court had famously called the Basic Structure/Nature of the Constitution) cannot be changed.
2. I want to attend the Republic Day Celebrations, for a more immediate reason. There have been an anti establishment atmosphere in this country, particularly since the last 2 years. I would have happily on the side of those who are Anti-Government. There is no harm in being one. Infact it is the mark of a Vibrant Democratic Polity- if people become Anti-Government and want to usher in "Change" .
But, the problem is not that, its deeper, People have not become "Anti-Government" - They have become "Anti State" and to an extent "Anti-Politics". In my opinion there is a hypocritical "class" aspect to this problem, but I wouldn't want to delve into that.
There is a real danger to Our Socio-Political establishment, if People are getting disenchanted by Politics. Primary fault lies with the Political Establishment - We all know. It has a lot of intrinsic problems which have made some of our systems apathetic to people. We all recognize the dire need of transparency and accountability in our systems. -need for Electoral Reforms, Judicial Reforms, Legislative as well as Administrative Reforms.
However, this does not mean that we stop Engaging with our system. Stop engaging with our political representatives, Stop Believing in the "System". A "Rang-De-Basanti-isation" of our society is taking place. This may be good as far as awareness in our hypocritical (Middle Class- Yes! Its the epitome of Hypocrisy! And I include myself in that! ) Class is concerned, But it is certainly dangerous if use the Candle Lights at India Gate to Burn and Destroy All the Existing Systems. A spark is required to engulf an entire forest into fire, and A spark is also required to light the lamp of prosperity. We should decide - what Spark "We the People .." Want. Boycotting Republic Day Celebrations personifies the former, Working within the System- Reforming it from within personifies the latter.
3. The Ruling Establishment is (may be) Corrupt, Dysfunctional, Lethargic, Lacks Statecraft and so on. Point Taken. But Can it be taken as a pretext to subvert the Entire constitution. The whole "System" vis-a-vis the Executive and the Legislature represents the Opposition and several other parties - of all hues and colours - All duly elected by the People of India. It also represents the Judiciary which is an important organ to keep Executive and Legislature in check. This "System" represents Parliament which has elected members- Parliamentary Committees- which act as an effective tool to keep the "Executive" in check.
Women in many European countries did not have the "Right to Vote" even after India became "Republic". British India only had 13% of people who could exercise their "Right to Vote". Would like to explain this fact a little.
It was the Sixth Schedule of the Government of India Act, 1935 that determined who was enfranchised and who was not. There were different qualifications prescribed for different provinces- but all uniformly makes for a hilarious and perhaps introspective reading today. In Madras province, for instance, only those adults were entitled to vote who had paid taxes under the Madras Motor Vehicles Act, 1931 and profession tax for both halves of the year, not to mention - property tax, house tax and income tax etc. In rural Madras- the vote could be exercised only by a 'landowner,Ryotwari pattadar,kanamdar' etc. And if you weren't one of these - the British were not going to ask you what you wanted. In Bengal, in addition to the much of the gobbledygook - you can get to vote- if you were a Man, but not if you were a women - if you happened - in the muncipal limits of Calcutta (but not, elsewhere) to be owner or occupier of "any land or building separately numbered and valued at not less than Rs 150 per annum".
The consequence of all this guff was that only 13 per cent of India's adults were deemed entitled to exercise their franchise in the elections of 1946. And they had to be Rich and well heeled to vote.
Now - Imagine all this , and come to the Present Reality. Post Jawaharlal Nehru - Each and Every Adult (More than 21yrs, Later reduced to 18) has the Right to Vote. I ask the people who boycott Republic Day - Is there not a Difference? India is the largest Democracy in the World. And Dear Annarchists, Its not a small little thing.
4. The last important reason for me registering my small but important presence at Republic Day 2013 at Rajpath is because I believe that the Republic Day is an occasion which unites the people of India. Yes! The Annarchists - who boycott R-day - also talk about spending so much on such "worthless extravaganza". Sections of the Media calls it "the relic of Communist Russia" and so on. Every year tons and tons of media space - is used to discuss this "unnecessary" " show by the State" "Event of the State, by the State, For the State" etc etc
In my humble opinion, Republic Day Celebrations act as a unifying force which binds us all to the "Idea of India". We should not forget that India, before it became a Sovereign Republic was a collection of hundreds and thousands of princely states - with little or no feeling of Nationalism. Nationalism as a concept was developed post 1857- or even later - say 1885 (When Indian National Congress came into existence)
Thousands of soldiers take part in the Republic Day parade, hundreds of school children, hundreds of folk artists throng the capital from different states - coming from every corner of the country. India with its diversity ads colour and culture to this festival. All this provides a pertinent platform for National Integration. Republic Day is celebrated, not just in the capital, but in each and every city/district of India. In all public schools. Infact, I learnt whatever I know about this celebration from school - because my school celebrated it - in the city - like no other- with a full parade, songs, dances and cultural extravaganza!
A few days ago, Barack Obama took oath as US President, and there was a military parade which took place in his honour. So why compare our Republic Day as Soviet Gift? India has only one War Memorial - that is Amar Jawan Jyoti at India Gate, and we can spare one day in the calendar to pay respects to that soldier. All Bravery Awards and honours for our security forces are presented at the Republic Day. Even on television (where millions of people witness it) it gives goosebumps to anybody who hears the description of the incident - when a Paramvir Chakra or a Mahavir Chakra is presented.
5. Finally, I give my full support to the restlessness of those people who faced the water canons of the Delhi Police. I have full sympathies to those who will boycott the Republic Day Celebrations. But I refuse to listen to them, and have attempted to provide the most rational reasons of disagreeing with them. But there is also an emotional personal reason which I wanted to add, after that. In my hometown, at our "L" shaped corner house - we had a flagpole , which my great grandfather had installed. Every year - We as children in the joint family use to raise the Tricolour on National Festivals. This added a unique feeling to my conscious. And that feeling can never go away.
Thanks for reading.