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Republic Day newsletter: Celebrating 70 years of Indian Constitution

To mark this day for you — our reader, we at Hindustan Times, have handpicked the stories weaving India’s journey from an Independent nation to a democracy with a governing document, including a handful of archives.

Republic Day newsletter: Celebrating 70 years of Indian Constitution
An Indian Border Security Force soldier walks through a gate painted with the Indian flag at the India-Pakistan border at Suchet Garh in Ranbir Singh Pura, about 27 kilometers south of Jammu.(AP)

71 years ago, on 26 January, 1950, India joined the ranks of democratic nations with a Constitution in effect and practice. In its nascent stage and recovering from Colonial rule, India resolved to secure a democratic nation’s future and provide “to all the people of India justice, social, economic and political; equality of status, of opportunity, and before the law; freedom of thought, expression, belief, faith worship, vocation, association and action”, among other goals.

To mark this day for you — our reader, we at Hindustan Times, have handpicked the stories weaving India’s journey from an Independent nation to a democracy with a governing document, with a handful of archives included. We trace the steps taken by our country’s founding fathers to strengthen a Partition-afflicted nation, which have nurtured it into a vibrant, flexible democracy.

Sunday marks the 70th year of the adoption of the Constitution of India. This is a moment to celebrate the country’s rich legacy as a Republic, to pay tribute to all those who helped it evolve as a constitutional democracy and nurtured its traditions, and also to reiterate the commitment to preserve constitutional values, which have been so precious, and have shaped the Indian State as well as the Indian society.

As our Constitution turns 70, we must not lose sight of one of its greatest strengths: its flexibility.

The framers of our Constitution displayed remarkable foresight while drafting its amendment provisions. They were acutely aware that the Constitution they had drafted should neither be too rigid nor too flexible. The result was that there are three kinds of provisions in the Constitution.

India’s first prime minister and one of its tallest leaders of the freedom struggle, Jawaharlal Nehru was a barrister. He was among MK Gandhi’s closest associates and one of the leading members of the Constituent assembly who chaired three important committees. As prime minister for 17 years, he steered the country’s economy and foreign policy, while also giving direction to its education policy. But his handling of Kashmir conflict and relations with China were controversial.

India’s founders adopted a liberal and secular charter which enshrines fundamental rights, establishes basic institutions, and creates institutional checks and balances. The Republic, which they erected, is a solemn bequest to every succeeding generation of Indians each of whom is called upon to preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution.

The Preamble manifests the vision of the draftspersons of the Constitution. In adopting it after the draft Constitution was approved, the Constituent Assembly ensured that the Preamble exhibited conformity with the provisions of the Constitution. Yet, the content of the Preamble traces its origins to even before the task of drafting the Constitution began.

Pursuant to its size and diversity, India has never been effectively managed from one place and one law. Definitely at the entry of the East India Company in the country, the Mughal emperor Jahangir ruled it from Agra through Subhadars and Dewans in subhas (provinces) spread over the Mughal Empire.

With the passing of the new Constitution, a landmark has been reached in the history of our country. Representative institutions for the governance of the country have emerged and the people have been given a voice in the government through universal adult franchise. About 600-odd states, which stood aloof from the current of Indian political life, have, for the first time, been brought within the framework of a common Constitution.

At the time of the framing of the Indian Constitution — a vision for the future society that we aspired to become and a blueprint of the nation whose borders were soon to come into existence — both these imperatives came together to constitute the Fundamental Rights Chapter, which still remains the beating heart of the Constitution.

A historian can use the past to understand the present, but a historian cannot predict the future. But that the Republic is passing through a very troubled phase in its history is evident. That it lacks the sort of enlightened leadership that can take us out of our difficulties is even more evident.

Under the regime of a thousand “don’ts,” the man who is interested in producing more, feels a bit bewildered at all this talk of hard work when he finds himself bound hand and foot and yet asked to run, writes GD Birla.

The Preamble to the Constitution makes it clear that, first, the source of sovereign authority is the people of India and, secondly, India is to be constituted into a sovereign democratic republic. The expression “democratic” is used to make it quite clear that the Constitution rests on the principles of democracy and on the people’s will. It is a republic as there is no hereditary monarch as its executive head.

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