India is a Republic, and celebrates January 26th as Republic Day. This day marks the transition of India from a British colony to an independent nation and the adoption of its Constitution. This article will explore why we celebrate Republic Day, and its relationship with the Constitution of India.
British Rule in India
The British entered India in 1600s and slowly began to take power, framing rules and regulations without considering the views of the Indians. In 1861, the Indian Councils Act allowed three Indians into the legislative Council. By 1892, the British had allowed Indians to discuss the budget and take some suggestions from leaders.
The Simon Commission and Birkenhead’s Challenge
In 1927, the British Government formed the Simon Commission to decide whether Indians needed constitutional reforms. The commission had no Indian members, and so protests took place all over India with the slogan “Simon Go Back”. In response, Birkenhead, the Secretary of State for India, challenged Indians to frame their own Constitution. This is famously known as “Birkenhead’s Challenge”.
The Nehru Report
Senior Congress leaders took up the challenge and prepared the Nehru Report in 1928 under the leadership of Motilal Nehru and CR Das. In the report, they asked the British for Dominion status. This would mean that the British would control defense, foreign affairs and communications, while the rest of the departments would be placed under the control of Indians, and the British would not involve in internal politics and elections.
The Diwali Declaration and Lahore Session
The Labour Party which was ruling in Britain announced the Diwali Declaration in October 1929 with the help of the Viceroy, Lord Irwin. In it, they claimed that Britain was committed to giving Dominion status to India. In the Lahore Session of Congress, held in December 1929 under the leadership of Jawaharlal Nehru, the Congress declared its aim as complete independence and that it should be given by January 26, 1930.
August Offer and Cripps Mission
When World War II started in 1939, the British needed India’s help and so the August Offer was made in 1940, promising Dominion status and a new Constitution. This was opposed by the younger leaders such as Jawaharlal Nehru and Subhash Chandra Bose who wanted complete Independence. Later, the Cripps Mission was sent in 1942 to gain the attention of the Indian leaders.
World War II and Cabinet Mission Plan
World War II ended in 1945 and the Labour Party won the elections. They announced that India would be assured Independence soon and established the Cabinet Mission Plan in June 1946. This promised to set up a Constituent Assembly to frame a Constitution as well as an interim government with all Indians in it.
The Constituent Assembly
Elections to the Constituent Assembly were held in July 1946, and it was formed in November 1946 with a total strength of 389 members. Of these, 296 were elected to represent British India, and 93 to represent the princely states. The Constituent Assembly appointed various major and minor committees to deal with different tasks of Constitution making.
The Drafting Committee and Adoption of Constitution
A Drafting Committee was appointed to prepare the final draft of the Constitution under the chairmanship of BR Ambedkar. After two years, 11 months, and 8 days of work, the Constitution was adopted with 395 articles, 22 parts, and 8 schedules on November 26, 1949.
The Transition to a Republic
The Constitution did not come into force immediately, and January 26th was chosen as it was an auspicious day in the Indian Freedom Struggle. On the same day, in 1950, the nominal powers of the British Monarch were removed, and India became a Republic. From then on, January 26th has been celebrated as Republic Day.
This article has explored why India celebrates Republic Day and its relationship with the Constitution of India. It has looked at the history of British rule in India, the Simon Commission and Birkenhead’s Challenge, the Diwali Declaration and Lahore Session, the August Offer and Cripps Mission, the Cabinet Mission Plan, the Constituent Assembly, the Drafting Committee and the adoption of the Constitution. Finally, it has examined the transition to a Republic and the adoption of Republic Day.