Both Australia and India celebrate 26 January as their most significant national days. 

Australia Day on 26 January marks the 1788 landing of the First Fleet in Sydney and raising of the Union Flag by Arthur Philip and the commencement of the colonisation of Australia by Britain, now termed as Invasion Day by Indigenous Australians and their increasingly vocal supporters.

In modern day Australia, however the Australia Day is increasingly celebrated to reflect its diverse society, acknowledgement of its First Peoples, the sense of community, welcoming of new Australians and awards for excellence and services.

Although India gained its independence from Britain on 15 August 1947,  Republic Day on 26 January 1950 marked the end of colonisation of India by Britain and inauguration of the new constitution of India as an independent country and a pluralistic, multi-faith, multicultural and multiracial society.

On Wednesday 26 January 2022, in order to mark India’s Republic Day, Indian American Muslim Council (IAMC) together with Hindus for Human Rights (HfHR) with support from 15 other Human Rights organisations co-hosted a US Congressional Briefing titled “”Protecting India’s Pluralist Constitution” with speakers, while showing their love for India’s pluralistic society and Constitution, expressed concerns for the way the country is increasingly turning towards religious intolerance, bigotry, insecurity and curtailments of freedoms guaranteed by the Constitution.

The speakers at the event included the following:

  • Former Vice President of India Mohammed Hamid Ansari
  • Former President of Mauritius Ameenah Gurib-Fakim
  • US Senator Ed Markey
  • US Representative Jamie Raskin
  • US Representative Jim McGovern
  • US Representative Andy Levin
  • United States Commission on International Religious Freedom Chair Nadine Maenza
  • Archbishop of Bangalore Peter Machado
  • Amnesty International USA Asia Advocacy Director Carolyn Nash
  • RFK Human Rights President Kerry Kennedy

Watch the Video of the Congressional Briefing here:

Mr Hamid Ansari, 85, former Vice President of India and a veteran Indian diplomat acknowledged the success story that India has been as the largest democracy for seven decades under its Constitution prescribing universal adult franchise with a comprehensive charter of rights and duties including the duty to protect the heritage of its composite culture.

He went on to say “We are reckoned to be the largest democracy in the world and we are proud to be so. Ours is a vast land and diverse land peopled by citizens of different backgrounds, speaking different languages and professing different beliefs. Almost 20 percent of our people belong to religious minorities.”

However he showed great concern at the increasing trend towards monopolisation of power and human right abuses under the BJP government led by Modi since 2016.

“In recent years, we have experienced emergence of trends and practices that dispute the well established principle of civic nationalism, and interpose a new and imaginary practice of cultural nationalism. It seeks to present an electoral majority in the guise of a religious majority and monopolise political power. It wants to distinguish citizens on the basis of their faith, give vent to intolerance, insinuate otherness and promote disquiet and insecurity. Some of its recent manifestations are chilling, and reflect poorly on our claim to be governed by rule of law,” Mr Ansari said.

He questioned, “Why have segments of opinion in a plural society with a long tradition of accommodation of diversity, decided to question it in favour of a unilateral and distorted reading of its past? That’s a question that has to be answered. These trends need to be contested, and contested legally and contested politically.”

Mr Ansari is definitely concerned about the division and communal tensions that currently prevail in India,  but he believes that the fraternity among people will surely come to the defence of the inclusive spirit of India and has been highly encouraged by the farmers protest and the initiative shown by Muslim women who led the anti-CAA-NRC protests.