India is celebrating its 71st Republic Day on 26 January 2020. It is the day when the Constitution of India came into force. The Constitution is a result of efforts by Dr. B.R. Ambedkar and his team who were committed to the values of secularism and democracy. Freedom fighters like Mahatma Gandhi, Jawaharlal Nehru, Maulana Azad and Bhagat Singh made numerous efforts to protect India’s sovereignty against foreign powers. At the same time, the founding fathers of India were equally concerned about communal harmony, individual liberty and religious freedom.
On the 71st Republic Day, India as a nation needs to introspect whether it has lived up to the dreams of the founding fathers or failed them. Indian Constitution does not discriminate on the basis of religion and every individual is treated as an equal Indian citizen. Seven decades after the Independence, India is standing at a point where religious freedom is being threatened and the constitutional amendments are granting Indian citizenship on the basis of religion. This has created civil unrest in the country and the dissent is being met with force and tyranny.
India takes pride in front of the whole world for its diversity and democracy but unfortunately, both of these values are under threat ever since the BJP assumed power in 2014. India has slipped 10 ranks in the global democracy Index and reached 51st mark which was 41 back in 2018. The brutal crackdown on the students of Jamia Millia Islamia, Jawaharlal Nehru University and Aligarh Muslim University bears testimony to the fact that India is losing its credibility as the world’s largest democracy.
Apart from slipping ten positions on Global Democracy Index, India is facing the brunt because PM Modi, during his Brazil visit, invited Brazil’s President Jail Bolsonaro to be the guest on the Republic Day parade. Jail Bolsonaro is notorious for being an authoritarian dictator with little respect for civil liberties and democratic values. It is ironic to say the least that the world’s largest democracy is hosting a person on Republic Day who does not believe in democratic values at all. This is a clear deceit to the dreams and vision of the founding fathers of the country.
This is shameful that 70 years after the constitution came into force, there are no longer ‘Indians’ identified in the country, they have been divided into Hindus and Muslims, Sikhs and Christians and so on. The elections are not being fought on economic policies or educational initiatives but on religious extremism and polarization. That was the reason that ruling party BJP got a public mandate in the year 2019 by appealing to majority communalism and they have been threatening civil liberties ever since.
One of the ugliest examples of betrayal of founding fathers is the way Article 370 was abrogated from the Indian constitution. The democratically elected leaders were kept under house arrest and the Constitution was amended against the will of the people it was going to affect. Moreover, millions of people were left without communication facilities and the internet was shut down. Ever since Modi government has come to power, if there is one thing in which India is leading the world, it is the number of internet shut downs in the whole world. India has the world record of the longest internet shut down ever in the valley of Jammu and Kashmir where internet services are not restored even after 172 days of the abrogation of Article 370.
This is a time of introspection for the Indian populace: is this the India that our founding fathers envisioned?