Republic Day: January 26
Republic Day is a national holiday in India.
Long under British control, India had many reasons to break away and seek the formation of a republic, independent from Britain. With prominent figures like Mahatma Gandhi and dedication from millions of Indians, independence was finally achieved in 1947, becoming official on January 26, 1950. In 2010, India celebrates sixty years of the republic on January 26.
History of Republic Day in India
The British made their first large imprint on India in 1612 with the creation of The East India Company’s first permanent factory. The East India Company continued to dominate commercial trade in the region until shortly after the Indian Rebellion of 1857. In 1858, the British Crown assumed full control of the area now called India.
During the time of the British Raj, 1858—1947, many things changed in British India. While the country saw improvements in transportation and communication infrastructure in the late nineteenth century, it was also plagued by intermittent famines. Subsequent analysis of the situation led many to the conclusion that the mix of uneven rainfall patterns and British meddling in the affairs of the agriculture industry were primarily responsible.
It wasn’t until 1909 that Indians were given a much stronger hand in the government affairs. The Morley-Minto Reforms of that year allowed Indians limited ability to be elected to legislative councils for the first time, encouraged the creation of a parliamentary system, and gave Indian Muslims reserved seats within certain governmental bodies. The Montagu-Chelmsford Reforms of 1919 broadened the influence of Indian citizens within government, though the reforms were counterbalanced by a limited number of eligible voters and special-interest seats in provincial legislature that were sympathetic to the British.
That same year, the Amritsar Massacre took place, claiming the lives of potentially more than 1,500 defenseless Indians, thought to be part of “revolutionary army.” This massacre, combined with Britain’s decision to force Indians to fight in World War I, sparked outrage across the country, prompting famous political and spiritual leader Mahatma Gandhi to encourage Indians to participate in a non-cooperation movement.
Gandhi and the Indian National Congress paved the way for reform, especially after the controversial Simon Commission was implemented by Britain to bring constitutional reform in 1928. The commission, composed entirely of British Parliament members, was met with derision and protest. The Indian National Congress took matters into their own hands, forming an all-Indian commission; however, the British fully ignored their gesture.
By then, the full independence movement had gained considerate ground, though many like Gandhi made pleas for a more moderate dominion status. When the British failed to promise dominion status in late 1929, Gandhi and Congress had had enough. A president was elected, and a constitution was drafted by Gandhi, leading to a declaration of independence at midnight on New Years Eve.
The declaration was made official on January 26, 1930, though true independence wasn’t recognized by Britain until August 15, 1947. A new constitution was made, and to appease the nationalists, the country wasn’t fully made the Sovereign Democratic Republic of India until January 26, 1950.
India’s Republic Day Traditions, Customs and Activities
Republic Day is one of three national holidays in India. Festivities are typically very grand, drawing in huge crowds from all over the country. Since 1976, it has been custom for the government to invite a foreign head of state to participate in the celebrations. The 2010 Republic Day Parade will feature Lee Myung-bak, the president of South Korea, and his wife Yoon-ok.
The Republic Day Parade is broadcast on television nationwide. The military is typically involved in the parade, typically ending with flybys of Indian Air Force jets. Additionally, popular themes of India like “Sare Jahan Se Aacha” (a patriotic poem created by Muhammad Iqbal) and “Ae Mere Pyare Vatan” (a patriotic song written by Prem Dhawan) are sung during the festivities.
On January 22, 2010, media reports stated that Indian airports were being put on alert due to convincing intelligence reports that stated the possibility of terrorist attempts to hijack an airplane. It was also reported that Indian police and military squads were set to provide stiffer security during the parade as militant activity had been recently increasing in frequency.