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Wednesday, January 23, 2019

70th Republic Day .. .. .. and some history of the Nation

26th Jan 2019 is a great day for the Nation – it marks India’s 70th  Republic Day.

South African President Cyril Ramaphosa will be the chief guest of this Republic Day parade. 58 tribal guests, 22 tableaux will mark 90-minute parade.  The Republic Day parade at Rajpath has the President of India, who is the Commander-in-Chief of the Indian Armed Forces, taking the salute.   This year’s  Republic Day parade will see women taking the forefront. This year will be the first time that a woman officer will lead the Army Services Corps in the parade. The Daredevils Motorcycle Team will include a woman officer in their team. Scripting history, 2019 will also be the first time a woman contingent of Assam Rifles will take part in the parade.

For the uninformed,  Indian Republic Day honours the date on which the Constitution of India came into effect on 26 January 1950 replacing the Government of India Act (1935) as the governing document of India. The Constitution was adopted by the Indian Constituent Assembly on 26 November 1949, and came into effect on 26 January 1950 with a democratic government system, completing the country's transition towards becoming an independent republic.   26 January was chosen as the Republic day because it was on this day in 1930 when Declaration of Indian Independence (Purna Swaraj) was proclaimed by the Indian National Congress as opposed to the Dominion status offered by British Regime.

After centuries of bondage, India  ceased to be a colonial Raj and obtained freedom  on 15 August 1947. The independence  was formalized by the  Indian Independence Act 1947 (10 & 11 Geo 6 c 30), an Act of the Parliament of the United Kingdom that partitioned British India into the two new independent Dominions of the British Commonwealth.  Upon obtaining freedom, the Nation became a constitutional monarchy with George VI as head of state and the Earl Mountbatten as governor-general. The country, though, did not yet have a permanent constitution; instead its laws were based on the modified colonial Government of India Act 1935. On 28 Aug 1947, the Drafting Committee was appointed to draft a permanent constitution, with Dr B R Ambedkar as chairman. While India's Independence Day celebrates its freedom from British Rule, the Republic Day celebrates the coming into force of its constitution.

George VI (Albert Frederick Arthur George; 1895 – 1952) was King of the United Kingdom and the Dominions of the British Commonwealth from 11 December 1936 until his death in 1952. He was the last Emperor of India and the first Head of the Commonwealth.  Though he lived between 1895 to 1952, he was Emperor of India for the period 11.12.1936 till 22.6.1948 i.e., for a period slightly over 11 years 6 months.  For the records,  there were only 5 Emperors : Queen Victoria,    Edward VII, George V, Edward VIII and George VI.

Just as the previous Mohammadean Kings,  the British too indulged in fanfare.  The Delhi Durbar was an Indian imperial style mass assembly organised by the British at Coronation Park, Delhi,  to mark the succession of an Emperor or Empress of India. Also known as the Imperial Durbar, it was held three times, in 1877, 1903, and 1911, at the height of the British Empire. The 1911 Durbar was the only one that a sovereign, George V, attended.

After the nominal Mughal Emperor was deposed at the conclusion of the Indian Rebellion of 1857 (10 May 1857 - 1 Nov 1858), the government of the United Kingdom decided to transfer control of British India and its princely states from the mercantile East India Company (EIC) to the Crown, thus marking the beginning of the British Raj. The EIC was officially dissolved on 1 June 1874, and the British Prime Minister, Benjamin Disraeli, decided to offer Queen Victoria the title "Empress of India" shortly afterwards. Victoria accepted this style on 1 May 1876. The first Delhi Durbar (which served as an imperial coronation) was held in her honour eight months later on 1 January 1877.

George VI  was the last Emperor of India and the first Head of the Commonwealth. As the second son of King George V, he was not expected to inherit the throne and spent his early life in the shadow of his elder brother, Edward.  In the mid-1920s, he had speech therapy for a stammer, which he never fully overcame. George's elder brother ascended the throne as Edward VIII upon the death of their father in 1936. However, later that year Edward revealed his desire to marry divorced American socialite Wallis Simpson. British prime minister Stanley Baldwin advised Edward that for political and religious reasons he could not marry a divorced woman and remain king. Edward abdicated to marry Simpson, and George ascended the throne as the third monarch of the House of Windsor.

During George's reign, the break-up of the British Empire and its transition into the Commonwealth of Nations accelerated. From 1939, the Empire and Commonwealth – except Ireland – was at war with Nazi Germany. War with Italy and Japan followed in 1940 and 1941, respectively.  After the independence of India and Pakistan in 1947, George remained king of both countries, but relinquished the title of Emperor of India in June 1948.

Edward VIII  who was Emperor of India, from 20 January 1936 until his abdication on 11 December the same year, passed away in 1972.  Ascending the power after his father’s death,  , he showed impatience with court protocol, and caused concern among politicians by his apparent disregard for established constitutional conventions. Only months into his reign, he caused a constitutional crisis by proposing to Wallis Simpson, an American who had divorced her first husband and was seeking a divorce from her second.   When it became apparent he could not marry Wallis and remain on the throne, Edward abdicated.

There is a statue of King George V near flower bazaar police station ~ in fact the area was known as Georgetown. 
King George V at Georgetown

There is this statue of Queen Victoria lying forlorn within the compound of Madras Univesrity.    Robert Bourke, 1st Baron Connemara, Governor unveiled it on 20.6.1887 funded by  Vizianagaram  Goday Narayana Gajapathi Rao.  For sure, at that time, it should have been a centre piece, though now it is neither on the gate nor people care to see – in fact, there is so much of thick vegetation that the statue is almost covered from the road side…  Queen Victoria (Queen Empress of India) [1819-1901], the monarch of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland from June 1837 until her death.

With regards – S. Sampathkumar
23rd Jan 2019.

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