Today India celebrates her 72nd Republic Day. This year the celebrations in New Delhi would be much different from how this day has traditionally been celebrated. The parade at Rajpath is being held under the shadow of the global Covid-19 pandemic which has entailed some restrictions. There will be less public participation as also a shorter route. The scale of the parade has been truncated. The marching contingents would be smaller in size and each participant would be wearing a mask. A contingent from Bangladesh, consisting of soldiers of that country’s armed forces, will be participating in the parade. This would be only the third occasion in the history of Republic Day celebrations that a foreign contingent would be participating. With the British Prime Minister, who had been invited to be the chief guest at the parade, opting out because of the dire Covid-19 situation in his country, there will be no chief guest to witness the celebrations. Interestingly, the more than 2,000 Indian Army personnel who had been brought to Delhi in November for the Republic Day and Army Day parades have been kept in a ‘safe bubble’, meaning they have been staying within a containment zone and had zero connectivity with the outside world. This is another stark reminder that the 72nd Republic Day is being observed during a pandemic and would differ from previous celebrations.
However, there is nothing different about the significance of this day! It had been on January 26, 1950 that the Constitution of India came into effect and the country became a republic. Thus Republic Day is an apt occasion to remind ourselves of the Indian Constitution and the ideals it embodies. India had opted to be a democracy with universal suffrage; on this day we should introspect on the manner in which our democracy is moving and work towards rectifying the shortcomings and contradictions visible in the system. Republic Day is also an occasion for reinforcing in the common psyche the ‘idea of India’ that our Constitution envisages, a nation that is inclusive and egalitarian. Peaceful protest at perceived injustice lies at the core of any free society; the protest tractor rally by farmers, who in their thousands had been demonstrating at Delhi’s border against the Centre’s new agriculture laws for nearly two months, signifies the freedom India enjoys. It is the duty of everyone to ensure that this freedom is not endangered in any way. Republic Day is also an occasion to celebrate Indian sovereignty and salute our brave security forces who are, apart from other actions, guarding our international borders against inimical elements. Above all, each and every Indian must pledge to cherish and protect the ideals spelt out in our Constitution and work towards building a better society if ‘Republic Day’ is to retain its true significance.