India Becomes a Republic

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    On 26th Jan 1950, just two and half years after India achieved independence, the Indian Constitution took effect. India became a republic after national leaders spent 165 days debating topics ranging from a Uniform Civil Code to federalism.

    These discussions took place against the backdrop of events such as the tragic Partition of India, the beginning of the Kashmir conflict, Mahatma Gandhi's assassination and the merging of 300 princely states into the Indian union.

    On 9th Dec 1946, the Constituent Assembly met for the first time and began framing a Constitution, where all power and authority would be derived from people from all strata of society and different regions of the country.

    The Constituent Assembly included 15 women members, who made significant contributions to the Indian Constitution with their unique perspectives.

    India's first Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru optimistically said,

    “The first task of this Assembly is to free India through a new Constitution, to feed the starving people and to clothe the naked masses, and to give every Indian the fullest opportunity to develop himself according to his capacity.”

    Dr B R Ambedkar, a Dalit leader, led the Constitution Drafting Committee. Together, they drafted the world's longest Constitution founded on justice, liberty, equality, unity and democracy as its leading values.

    In his last speech to the Constituent Assembly, on 25th November 1949, Ambedkar asked how a people divided into several thousands of castes could be a nation. He said the government should recognise the social evils in its path and ask how it should tackle them.

    Although the Constitution was adopted the next day, on 26 November 1949, it was enforced only on 26th Jan 1950, commemorating the day the Indian National Congress had proclaimed Poorna Swaraj (Total Independence) in 1930.

    On 24th Jan 1950, members of the Constituent Assembly signed the English copy of the Constitution. It was handwritten by calligraphist Prem Behari Narain Raizada and illustrated by a team led by artist Nandlal Bose.

    The illustrations in the Constitution were drawn from Indian history and folklore, to make sure it was rooted in its past while looking towards the future.

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