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Thursday, October 29, 2020

January 26, 66 Years Ago

As India celebrates another Republic Day, a look at how a newly independent country decided to lay its faith in a living document called the Constitution

Written by Seema Chishti | Updated: January 26, 2016 5:28:38 am

The Day…

Republic Day is the day India became a republic or a country with an elected head, not a hereditary one. This was a big step for India, as even countries such as the UK had a monarchy — and still does. But India decided it would be a sovereign republic, where its people would elect their head of government and state (PM and President). India adopted the Constitution, more than two years after Independence. The Indian Constitution — said to be among the longest in the world, with 395 articles and 8 schedules to start with — came into effect on January 26, 1950.

…The Date

The date January 26 has a history. It was on another January 26, 20 years earlier, that the Indian National Congress passed its Lahore resolution. The resolution, passed on January 26, 1930, demanded ‘purna swaraj’ or full freedom. Incidentally, it was Jawaharlal Nehru and Subhas Chandra Bose who worked together to push against a sentiment in the Congress party to be satisfied by ‘dominion status’, where the British monarch would continue to be the head of government. Three years earlier, poet-activist Hasrat Mohani had moved a resolution for ‘full independence’.

CONSTIturtion-759Two Dates: November 26, 1949, & January 26, 1950

On November 26, 1949, the Constitution was signed by the president of the Constituent Assembly. It was voted upon and the draft adopted by the Constituent Assembly on that date. But the draft explicitly says “that on the 26th of January, India shall be a Republic in 1950 when this draft will turn into a Constitution and we shall enact” it then.

The November 26 date was a point of contention recently too, when the government marked ‘Constitution Day’ by holding a two-day special sitting of both Houses on November 26 and 27, 2015. While the Opposition alleged that the BJP was appropriating the legacy of B R Ambedkar, the architect of the Constitution, the BJP’s argument was that they were finally giving Ambedkar his ‘due’.

The law that governed India in the two months between November 26, 1949 and January 26, 1950 after India adopted this Constitution was the India Independence Act, 1947, moved by then British PM Clement Attlee in the House of Commons. So India did not turn into a republic on November 26, 1949. On November 26, 1949, only 15 out of the 395 clauses in our Constitution came into operation.

Around That Time…

The Constituent Assembly met again on the 24th and 25th of January, 1950. Jana Gana Mana was adopted as the national anthem on the 24th of January and on the 24th and 25th, all members of the Constituent Assembly signed the Constitution. Interestingly, in the original copy of the Constitution, where famous painter Nandlal Bose did the illustrations, the last of the signatories is Feroze Gandhi, Jawaharlal Nehru’s son-in-law.

‘Inalienable Right of the Indian People’

“We believe that it is the inalienable right of the Indian people, as of any other people, to have freedom and to enjoy the fruits of their toil and have the necessities of life, so that they may have full opportunities of growth… The British Government in India has not only deprived the Indian people of their freedom but has based itself on the exploitation of the masses, and has ruined India economically, politically, culturally, and spiritually. We believe, therefore, that India must sever the British connection and attain Purna Swaraj, or complete independence…” From the Declaration of Independence, Lahore, January 26, 1930

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