INDIA | SOCIETY | POLITICS

The Constitution of India

or: how to celebrate an idea when you don’t know

Francis Laleman
5 min readJan 27, 2023

--

Members of the Drafting Committee of the Constituent Assembly of India. (Sitting from left) N. Madhava Rao; Saiyid Muhammad Saadulla; B.R. Ambedkar; Alladi Krishnaswami Ayyar and B.N. Rao. (Standing from left) S.N. Mukerjee, Jugal Kishore Khanna and Kewal Krishan. — photo credit: The Hindu Archives

Republic Day is a public holiday in India. The country marks and celebrates the date on which the Constitution of India came into effect on 26 January 1950.

The Indian Constitution, drafted by a Constituent Assembly and a Drafting Committee under the masterly chairmanship of Bhimrao Ambedkar, is a truly remarkable, enlightened and uniquely progressive document. The Indian Constitution is one of the greatest specimen of legislative literature in the history of humankind.

Every year for as far as I can remember, January 26 has been a festive day, a moment of reflective confidence, with a sense of profound collective achievement — where millions celebrate the creation, resilience, and endurance of an idea of justice, law, and a secular state, based on equal rights for one united people, across communities, religions, languages, regional cultures, and a large variety of ethnicities.

I will never forget my first January 26 in India. I was a young student, combining diligent daily study with a fair bit of being on the road. That first year, I was slow-walking from Lumbini to Kashi, as if in the mindsteps of Vinoba Bhave.

It was cold and I had been tired and I had decided on a week-long stopover in Gorakhpur. Even the week before, I had marveled at the silver lining of the Himalayas in the sky about 350 kilometers away. You could still see this kind of thing back then — if you were lucky. On January 26 it was even colder and the mist seemed to have decided to envelop the town in a shroud — and everyone was wrapped in blankets and huddling together on street corners, trying to warm up smoking bidis around fires of collected litter. When all of a sudden some police trucks arrived and we were informed that today was Republic Day and we needed to make room for a parade — and all the streets got fenced off, and the tension was tangible, with all of us trembling with anticipation for what the day would bring.

The point is we didn’t know. For many, the Indian Republic and the Constitution were vague ideas fraught with illusions and theories by intellectuals, while feeding the children and giving them shelter were the…

--

--

Francis Laleman

a husband, father, painter, writer, educationist, designer, facilitator. author of “Resourceful Exformation” (a book on facilitation) available from Amazon.