We’re celebrating Republic Day this year at a time when we are in many ways at a very important juncture of our evolution as an Independent country.
This is the time when we are in the process of defining what it means to be India, what it means to Indians.
Are we a pluralist democracy, where various kinds of people could live, flourish and coexist together and dream of the same dreams?
Is India still the same country in which it doesn’t matter whatever differences of caste, creed, colour, culture, costume, cuisine and custom we may have as long as we rally around a basic consensus, and that consensus is on the democratic principal that in a big, diverse democracy you really don’t need to agree all the time; So long as you agree on the ground rule of how you will disagree.
We’ve managed for seven decades consensus on how to manage without consensus. That was our big strength. We kept India going as a country where we could and would disagree. But disagreements were settled at the ballot box, were settled if necessary in the court rooms, were settled through debates in the mass media. They were not settled through mob lynchings, riots. They were not settled outside the boundaries of the law and the political systems.
Today, this idea of India is being assailed by all sorts of forces – the forces of intolerances, bigotry, forces who believe this country is only for Hindus and that too of a particular kind of Hindus. Forces that believe that the protection of the cow is more important than the protection of human beings.
Do we have to accept their priorities? Do we have to accept that this is a Hindu Rashtra rather than a territory on which people with varying kinds of background have long contributed.
My answers to these questions are I think implicit in the way I’ve asked them. You, all of you Indians have to answer those questions because in your answers lie the future choices that would dictate and determine the kind of India we and our children are going to grow up in. That was the ideal that was adopted in the Constitution on the 26 January 1950, which gives us the reason to celebrate the great Republic Day today.
All the best again.
Happy Republic Day!