The Indian Express - January 28, 1950 - India becomes a Republic

There’s a difference in knowing from a history book and learning via a historical source. Accounts from a time when an historical event happened and later day interpretations by historians have a different flavour and a blend of both is necessary.

Most of us know about January 26, 1950 (and many don’t), but for me the knowledge was mostly through history books. Reading a newspaper account of the events of India’s first Republic Day revealed many dimensions of the day that I was never aware of.

I had read and heard accounts of what the Indian communists did during the 1962 Indo-China War, but wasn’t aware that the commies were also opposed to the idea of India becoming a republic (I wasn’t a history student for long). Discovered this through a news item on violent anti-Republic Day demonstrations by the communists in different parts of the country, on the front page of the January 28, 1950 edition of The Indian Express, Madras.

Also that one BG Keshkar attempted to assassinate the Nizam of Hyderabad the same day.

But what is more captivating is the account of the Republic Day events, as described in the newspaper (January 26, 1950 was a national holiday so there was no Indian Express dated January 27, 1950 and therefore the accounts of the Republic Day were published on the January 28, 1950 edition).



Proclamation Read Out By Retiring Governor-General

NEW DELHI, Jan. 26.
The birth of the Indian sovereign democratic Republic was proclaimed at 10-18 this morning by the country’s last Governor-General Mr. Chakravarti Rajagopalachari at the Durbar Hall at Government House in the capital and the Republic’s first President Dr. Rajendra Prasad took the oath of office to the boom of a salute of 31 guns at a most brilliant ceremony.

Until 1976, India was constitutionally described only as a “sovereign democratic Republic,” the words “socialist” and “secular” were added by the 42nd Constitutional amendment in 1976. The Government House is what we now knows as the Rashtrapati Bhawan.

The language of news journalism has changed so much over decades. Back then, when there was no 24×7 television news, the language of print was more visual than analytical. Read and you can feel being transported to an India six decades ago.

Front page of The Indian Express, Madras on January 28, 1950