Thursday, January 27, 2005

I-D and R-D

What do seven 40-50 year olds, more than 2 dozen 20 year olds, 4 teenagers and a few others who refused to divulge their age, have in common? Hint: they were all Indians.
Well, none of them knew why we have a Republic Day after an Independence Day (some thought that the chronology was the other way around!!)! None of them and many others (a separate survey) knew what makes a country a republic. Well, the quest to know what makes a republic was mine too. Hence, I decided to search the web for information of various sorts, and as it happens often in the Life of Eroteme, one lead to another and soon I had nothing less than 27 pages open in front of me shouting out to get my attention! They all got it in the end (hard to say no to them).

What is a republic?
I am sure most of you would have started looking up a dictionary by now. I suppose it doesn’t matter. Based on one article I read, it seems the word currently carries a deceptive connotation. A republic has a charter. The state is ruled by that charter. There, in all likelihood, would be some elected representatives, but they are in their respective offices to carry out the dictates of the charter. Thus, the power of the elected body is restricted. The representatives, I gather, can also be appointed (as a sovereign would be) and need not be elected as long as the charter is upheld. The charter is something the people get together and create. So it is a representation of the people free will.

I am still not a master of the fine differences between a republic and a democracy, so if your next question is on the lines, “Silly fellow. He just described a democracy. No? Then what is the difference?” then I have only the following to offer as explanation, which I am slightly likely of getting wrong. If anyone can point out the error(s), please do so. There are so many definitions and explanation that I realized that saying “NO” to some of the pages would have helped! :-(

A democracy is a government of the people. A republic is a rule by a charter (by anyone who understands it). In a democracy we go by majority (simple) votes, even if the majority votes for something ridiculous. A republic adheres to a charter and considers a million times and might finally rely on more than a simple majority to make the decision. The inkling I get is that in a republic, things are a shade more intelligent and based on the opinions of knowledgeable people (all those in the republic must be educated about the matter at hand. Yeah, I can already hear that, “Sure, try educating all the people in India about any matter.” We’ll take that later, or go ahead and read Atanu Dey’s articles on achieving 100% literacy and see whether it can be applied here and elsewhere.).

So what was India between being independent and becoming a republic?
Well, she was free. Then they decided to start writing a constitution for her. I hear India has the longest constitution. Sure fire way to discourage anyone from following it. All the princely states were gathered under the “India” umbrella and the constitution was readied (checked and double checked) by Jan 26th 1950. Then she became a secular republic within the British Commonwealth of Nations. It would have been better, if the British waited long enough till the constitution was written and then we had one day as I-D and R-D. But, no, they rushed off with the urgency of one dancing on the corridors to the restrooms.

Do read this article about how Alexander Marriott gets bugged with questions about differences between democracies and republic!!

I hope that clarifies a lot. It did for me.

So what is India? A republic? A democracy? A democratic republic? A republic democracy (what on earth is that, its what some people call a representative democracy)?
I'll leave you to figure it out.... :-)

Do spend some time reading Plato's Republic (I think it was called Politeia).


  1. Finally! And I thought you had fallen off the face of the earth! :)

  2. Parvati10:10 AM

    Hmmm. So in a democracy the majority matters, whether they are rational or not, just or not, good or not, and in a Republic most probably the logical, well thought out rules / the charter based on reason and justice, written out by the representatives of the people matter the most. And the connection between the two is when these representatives are elected by majority vote / people.

    Seems like both are always intertwined with each other? In a democracy too always, if not for anything else but the convenience of management the representatives elected by the majority, form laws based on the constitution; I dont think there are any democracies with no charter or a constitution; this again is for better management of an unwieldy enormous system such as a nation.

    And a republic too, is linked to a democracy because the people who write down the charter are elected by the citizens. That is how it is nowadays, always so in modern times. BOth work together.

    But obviously republics can exist without the majority involved in any way, where only a few unique men /women, mostly by virtue of birth etc prepare a charter for the best of the nation and things function according to a charter.

    And again, democracies can fully trust their elected representatives to form laws and pass bills not based on any rational charter, but based solely on the capacities or the incapacities of their elected reps. I cannot imagine a country being only a democracy or only a republic happening in our modern times. Both are always together for more efficiency and accountability...