India is celebrating the 75th year of the republic. Before Republic Day, the secular ethos of the Indian constitution has been dismantled by the ruling state by turning the public celebration of the Ram temple in Ayodhya into a political celebration. In the last decade, constitutional values and democratic principles have been suppressed by the state. In contrast, the spirit of showing these values is still alive among our country's citizens.
For instance, Congress leader Rahul Gandhi’s Bharat Jodo Nyay Yatra is an example of democratic politics where constitutional and democratic values are guiding principles to reach every citizen. The ongoing communal flavouring of the republic needs to be analysed in the larger question of what republic means to us and what republic means to the state. Republic Day should not merely be a celebration of patriotism and nationalism. However, it should be the celebration of the values and normative accountability of being a republic. The narrow ideological and political interests must be kept away from the practice of being a republic state.
The idea of a people’s republic is based on the popular American slogan “of the people, for the people and by the people”. The people or citizens are the centre of a republic state, where not just the state is a sovereign body, but the citizens are also a sovereign body. According to Mukulika Banerjee, “the term republic intended to describe India’s newfound ability to choose her leaders through democratic means, rather than be ruled by the Crown via the colonial government. Democracy was, therefore, subsumed within the term republic, which indicated its anti-monarchical stance and a political form of representation. But republicanism also encoded citizenship between state and citizens and between citizens.”
The idea of a people’s republic cannot be established by censorship and curtailing everyday democratic rights in the republic state. The performance of a republic depends on the people's participation in the everyday function of the state. The right to dissent is part of citizens’ participation in the everyday state because showing their dissent against the state doesn’t mean the nature of being anti-state. However, it implies that people’s will and popular sovereignty must be taken into consideration by the state, which is supposed to be democratic and republic by the definition of the constitution.
The state is the custodian of republic ethos and democratic values. The process of becoming a republic was a rigorous exercise for the makers of the Indian constitution. The everyday decline of our constitutional values and ethos endangered our nation. This state of risk is not merely political, but it is social as well. The Indian state, as a republic state, promised their citizens to protect their freedom and sovereignty, but the current state has departed from these promises. The everyday suppression of dissent is an ideological attempt of the state to reconfigure the republic in the absence of the public.
The structural attack on the right of public dissent has forced us to reimagine the new republic without imagining the public. Such imagination of the republic must be brought into our everyday social and political activism discourse. We as a collective need to ask ourselves why the state is fearful of its citizens' acts, why the state does not represent the will of the people, and why the state has denied our entitlements as citizens of this country. Such questions should be reflected in the state's electoral politics because our republic's inherent nature makes us accountable for deciding the political sovereignty that represents us, not the political elites.
The future of the Indian Republic solely depends on the citizens of our nation. We as citizens should attempt to withhold the values and morals of a republic state. The suppression of the state will be more prolonged if we do not unite as a collective to protect the values and morality of our republic. The history of struggles has been an enabler to the spirit of dissent because the foundation of any republic comes with challenges and risks. On this day of celebration of the republic, we must remember it is a great day of history that brings the value of liberty, equality and fraternity into our everyday life.
- Author Vidyasagar Sharma is a PhD Candidate at the Faculty of Sociology, Bielefeld University, Germany. His research focuses on affirmative action policies, belonging, higher education and social justice.
Disclaimer: The views expressed in this text belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions or policies of any institution or organization.