[dropcap]T[/dropcap]HE Republic Day symbolized aspirational metamorphosis of India, into a sovereign, democratic republic as the Constitution proclaimed. It conjured up images of Indian people who were self-governing, who decided to give themselves a democratic republic. Two more words “secular and socialist” were added to this already lofty phrase, paradoxically during the Emergency that spelt the first significant jolt to the concept of democratic republicanism. People welcome them as they were drowned in the moralistic deluge of the constitutional debates. Both these words were taken to spell the spirit of the constitution and perhaps, therefore, were not felt necessary to be explicitly mentioned.
Nobody suspected that this spirit was contaminated by the stratagem, the expediency of the new ruling classes to rule. Nobody felt amiss when the post-colonial constitutional state turned out to be the clone of the colonial state, with the same institutional structure, same processes, and the same authoritarian culture. People did not distrust the intention of the leaders even when the constitution itself was largely copied from the last colonial constitution, the India Act 1935, the rest being added from several others. Even the draconian laws like the Sedition Act was adopted from the colonial statutes even though everybody including the prime minister Nehru, rhetorically grudged it. None wondered how everything remaining the same as colonial in the new regime, it could deliver democratic content. India multiplied its draconian laws beginning with the Madras Suppression of Disturbances Act (1948), that authorised the use of military violence against the peasants in Telangana, which killed as many as 4,000 communists and peasant activists and put more than 10,000 communist and sympathizers behind the bars.
The reality of the republic went on getting distant from the spirit and proclaimed ideals of the state. People did not even realize when they transformed from the sovereign to the slaves of the state when their proclamation verbalized in the preamble turned into its antithesis. The inequalities galloped, liberties got constricted, democracy was reduced to its rituals. When India formally embraced neoliberal reforms in 1990, it principally discarded its constitutional aspirations. The ethos of free-market reflected social Darwinism which manifested into a multidimensional crisis to the lower strata of the people. It had an ideological affinity to the native creed of Brahmanism that had metamorphosed into Hindutva. The beleaguered people fell prey to its propaganda. From its marginal existence, it resurged to capture power at the centre by the terminal years of the last century. With an interlude of a decade, it has come back today as a monstrous force to transform India into a Hindu Rashtra, the deadly amalgam of native Brahmanism and European fascism.
Its fangs have become visible. The brutality with which the peoples’ dissent is being smothered, is scary. With complete control over the institutions of the state, it is out to bulldoze India’s plurality and diversity into a monotonous Hindu identity. The pace with which it is destroying the relics of republic defies peoples’ comprehension. The spontaneous rise of students across the campuses against this destructive drive enlivens hope but at the same time sends shivers when one sees the masked mobs beating them brutally under tacit protection of the police. When one hears the chief minister of the state speaking of avenging the protesting people and sees his police unleashing brutalities on them, beating, maiming and killing them, with impunity, one wonders what destiny is in store for India.
The Republic Day this year appears to be mocking the India people, who find themselves helpless, voiceless, and defenceless as it reminds them that they are supposed to be the sovereign, the owners of this country.
(Anand Teltumbde is an Indian scholar, writer, and civil rights activist who is a management professor at the Goa Institute of Management)