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Have you ever tried to think and find an answer to “What exactly is India”? It may be difficult as one may feel and understand only a part of the Indian reality, without being able to know and comprehend the whole of it. It would not be wrong to say that each generation has to discover India afresh which is not merely a country but a sub-continent, with not merely a history but a distinct civilization that has survived for more than 5000 years.
In those early years of human development, the migration of ethnic groups from Central, South-Central and North-Eastern parts of Asia came into the fertile Gangetic plains and later moved southwards to Deccan plateau and deep south. With multi-ethnic migrants came their dialects, belief patterns, social systems and value structures. All this contributed to the expanding cultural diversity and social richness of the region. The historic process of the building of what is today the continental plural society of India, has been a unique experience in the world history.
India thus became a vast and enormous motherland of many races, tribes, language groups and religions through a long process of history. This process of racial and cultural intermingling, flourishing co-existence of varied faiths and religious ideas gave what we now call India, a truly secular character and identity, which is also the hallmark of Indian civilization and its genius. While the Sufi saints of Islam in India gave the message of universal love as the key to universal peace (sulh-i-kul), the Bhakti saints taught that Ram and Rahim, and Ishwar and Allah are the names of the same one God, whose essential qualities of nurturing and sustaining the Universe and Life in all forms are commonly shared and praised by all religions.
This atmosphere of composite culture produced what is commonly called in Hindustani as Ganga-JamuniTehzeeb, that is, the confluence of cultures and traditions. Over the centuries – from Ashoka to Kabir to Guru Nanak to Akbar to Raja Ram Mohan Roy to Swami Vivakanand to Rabindranath Tagore to Mahatma Gandhi to Bhimrao Ambedkar, the architect of Indian Constitution – the vision of India and its civilizational ethos reflecting humanism, compassion, tolerance of diversities, spirit of accommodation and the values and expressions of composite culture found articulation in the life and strivings of such a wide cross-section of our great people.
In the backdrop of history, India appears as the world’s most authentic and complex plural society which got its identity as a nation through its triumphant national liberation movement. It was essentially a movement for the comprehensive freedom of the Indian people from all types of bondage, traditional and contemporary. Its most distinctive and glorious aspect has been its emphasis on secularism, democracy and intercommunal goodwill and harmony.
India’s independence on 15th August, 1947 and later as a Sovereign Democratic Republic in 1950, represented the fulfillment of the goal of national movement and marked its transformation into an independent national democracy. Post this, India has been constantly strengthening the cause of socio-economic theme of democracy by its commitment to remove illiteracy, poverty and disease through its successive programs, policies and industrialization.
India today comprises of about 6,38,000 villages, more than 5,000 towns and cities, arranged in some 686 administrative districts in 29 states and 7 Union Territories with 18 major languages, more than 2000 dialects, 8 major religions and more than 200 to 300 sub-castes in each linguistic region, all as one Republic. It is in such a country, almost of the size of a continent, that democracy has been introduced as a political system by the adoption and enactment of the Constitution by “We, the people of India” on 26th November 1949, which came into force on 26th January 1950 – a day celebrated since then as the Republic Day.
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