Category: History

What’s in a name?

It’s a cold morning. The city is slowly awakening from its slumber from the previous night. Very few people are walking on the roads. Of the handful of people, a peculiar sight is that of a man perched up on the city boards. He is painting over the old, rusty name of Allahabad with a dazzling coat of ‘Prayagraj.’

The present political discourse has been flooded with the discussion of renaming Allahabad to Prayagraj. The past few weeks have been spent in trading fire between the opposition and the ruling party over the issue. It has aggravated further as talks of renaming cities like Hyderabad, Ahmedabad, Aurangabad etc. have surfaced in various parts of the country. The issue is definitely not as simple as it looks like.

What’s in a name? What is the purpose of a name? Why is a name so important?

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Building India

India, as we see it today took pain and effort. Many citizens of the country don’t know what the people experienced at the time of independence and what challenges the country faced. It is very easy to criticize the actions of the leaders now, but at that time they were faced with very difficult circumstances and their decisions led us to become what we are today.

Colonial India, which was ruled over by the British had two types of territories. One where the British ruled directly and the other were the princely states who had accepted the suzerainty of the British and were merely puppets.

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We the people of India, do solemnly resolve to…

In a watershed moment in Indian history. On 15th August 1947, India gained independence from the British Raj. A long and hard battle was finally won. Immediately after we gained independence the work on our constitution began. It took 2 years, 11 months and 18 days to formulate the constitution and in another watershed moment in Indian history, on 26th January, 1950 it was put into force; thereon India was known as a Republic.

The Constitution holds a supreme position. No individual or institution comes above it. Everyone within the borders of India has to abide by it. It provides to us, the people; with protection from oppression and at the same time gives a path for us to follow. It ensures to us, that India will remain true to its spirit of democracy and everyone will be treated equally regardless of their differences. It is because of it, we have survived as a nation, united in wars, crises and numerous other problems throughout the course of our independence. We faced them all, we overcome and emerged from them; victorious every time.

One of the greatest achievements of India and probably the greatest in the world is the protection and upholding of the democratic nature and values of our government. We are one of the miniscule proportion of the nations in the world who have retained their democratic nature since Independence. It is an even greater feat to have held, and continue to do so; free and fair elections from the onset of independence. When the first general elections took place back in 1951. Even the losing candidates and political parties conceded that the elections indeed took place in a free and fair manner. To have sustained this for over a period of 70 years, we the people should be proud.

All these years, the constitution has provided to us, and guaranteed to us various things. One such thing is the fundamental rights. Ever since the Constitution was put into force we have enjoyed our fundamental rights. Today, if anyone felt like criticising the government for some decision they took. They can do so. We can voice our opinions, we can discuss our opinions, and we can try to convince others of our opinion. We can do all of this openly. Even if there occurs a situation where our rights are taken away from us we can have them reinstated under Article 32 (Right to Redressal, a fundamental right), by approaching the Judiciary, specifically the Supreme Court, also called the custodian of the Constitution.

The independence of the judiciary is an intrinsic feature of not just the democratic nature, but the federal status of our country. It certifies that the courts do not come under the control of the government and ensure to us, an opportunity to attain justice if we have been wronged. Judicial Review, is a provision (Article 226-227 for High Courts; Article 13 for Supreme Court) which allows the judiciary to review any decision of the government and check whether it is in alignment with the values of the constitution or not. If not, the court can invalidate it. It has been deemed as a core value, therefore it cannot be overridden by government through legislation. The independence of the judiciary was upheld by the government when the recent crisis in the Supreme Court took place, against the Chief Justice of India. This event highlighted the status of the judiciary in our country. This is something, we the people should be proud of.

In 1991, the disintegration of the Soviet Union led to the rise of many independent nation-states. These nation states tried to formulate their own constitution, but could never do so. Either it was too rigid or too flexible. We the people of India, had achieved this balance between rigidity and flexibility. Our constitution is described as a ‘living document’ i.e. it is able to adapt to changing needs and times. But along with this flexibility comes the rigidity. The core values of the constitution cannot be changed easily. A long and difficult process has to be undertaken to change the core values. This is balance is what lacked in the nation states as aforementioned. This balance is also the beauty of our constitution.

There are numerous other things the constitution has guaranteed to us and we are able to enjoy all of them. However, the credit does not go completely to the constitution itself. Part of it goes to the constitution makers, who so painstakingly discussed and debated over each and every single point in the constitution (Which is the lengthiest in the world). Another part of it goes to the leaders who followed them. Who, no matter what, upheld the values of the constitution. Who did not break its rules under any circumstances. Who passed the baton to the people who were elected after them. In India we see some of the most peaceful transitions of power taking place. Something, most of the countries in the world are yet to experience.

Unfortunately, there are certain sections of our society who question the contributions of the makers of the constitution, who question the democratic nature of our country, who question the constitution itself. It is not their fault that they hold such a perspective. But it is our responsibility to tell them why their perception is incorrect. Not by force or coercion, but by education, by spreading awareness, by eliminating the incorrect, by spreading the correct. It is also the objective of this article, to try and convince those who hold such a view and I do hope that it will achieve it.

On the occasion of our 69th Republic Day, let us come together to vow for stronger unity amongst us. For greater prosperity in our nation. To respect and abide by the constitution and above all; work towards being the greatest nation in the world. Happy Republic Day!

“We are all equal children before our mother; and India asks each one of us, in whatsoever role we play in the complex drama of nation-building, to do our duty with integrity, commitment and unflinching loyalty to the values enshrined in our constitution.” – Pranab Mukherjee, President of India (2012-2017).

-Priyamvad Rai