Celebrating 71st Independence Day Anniversary: Recommitting ourselves to the idea and collective dream of India
Things which start with a great cause and purpose gradually turn into rituals to be repeated in a monotonous and routine manner, losing their essence in due course of time. Just remember the “tryst with destiny” speech given by the first Prime Minister of India. Independence Day is an occasion to celebrate, dance and rejoice. This independence has come at a great cost. But at the same time we should also rededicate ourselves to the values and collective dreams which the freedom struggle stood for.
Is Celebration of Independence Day an Extravaganza?
Some people say that spending so much on gala and gaiety to celebrate Independence Day anniversary is extravaganza, which can be avoided for the sake of spending same money on providing basic amenities to the marginalized and excluded millions of Indians. It will be the best obeisance to martyrs who laid their lives in fight against the British Colonial power’s injustice, discrimination and exploitation.
I do not disagree that we should be sensitive and forthcoming in helping our brothers and sisters, who lagged behind in the race of development due to socio-politico-historical reasons. This is earnestly needed in our country where inter-personal and inter-regional inequality is so glaring. And without liberty and equality for all at least in terms of minimum basic needs, these celebrations are like mocking on those Indians who are still waiting to feel the beauty of freedom in terms of food, dignity and shelter.
Independence Day, moment for recommitting to the values of freedom struggle
I disagree with extravaganza argument. I do not agree with the idea that we should not celebrate Independence Day anniversary for taking care of the “excluded”. Celebrating Independence Day has great significance in reminding us the values and collective dreams which the Indian freedom struggle stood for. I feel that Independence Day is the time not only for celebrations and routine furling and unfurling of flags and political speeches, but also a moment of introspection, self examination, brainstorming and debates and discussions so as to do course correction by remembering those core values of freedom struggle and the collective dreams which India saw together at the dawn of independence. We should honestly go for heart searching whether we are right on the path that we had chosen at the time of independence and enshrined in one of the most modern and democratic constitutions of the world we have.
We have become more ritualistic in Independence Day celebrations and it often turns out to be a festival of VIPs watched by the common men. I was very happy to learn that some universities and government offices decided in the past to give the honour of unfurling the national flag on this occasion to senior sweepers and gardeners. But only symbolisms would not serve the purpose. We need to do more.
Indian freedom struggle is a great historical landmark
Indian freedom struggle is a great historical landmark, as important as European renaissance or American Civil war against slavery and racial discrimination. It was not another bloody fight to carve out a modern state in the territorial and military terms, but it stood for democratic and human values and methods which inspired many leaders later on to fight against injustice, discrimination and exploitation and to realize the goals of liberty and equality in other parts of the world. The non-cooperation movement, Civil disobedience movement and nonviolence became established text book methods of democratic means of protest and fight against injustice in all the parts of the world, even in erstwhile colonial powers. The message of Indian freedom struggle goes even beyond that. The supreme sacrifice made by young freedom fighters like Sardar Bhagat Singh, Rajguru, Sukhdev, Bismil, Chandrashekhar Azad, Subhash Chandra Bose are ever inspiring to the youth and millions of dreamers in India and across the world to fight fearlessly against injustice and exploitation and for a better tomorrow. There were tribal leaders, peasant leaders, students, villagers who not only gave a brave front for the cause of independence, but also sacrificed their lives. Life is worth only if we live and die for noble causes like freedom and equality. Another significant lesson is that for a greater goal (that time it was freedom from colonial regime), all small differences should be set aside and a united and determined effort should be made to realize the most important priority or the collective goal of the nation. It is unprecedented in world history that a diverse society like India with various castes, religions, culture, and language put forth a strong and united front against the mighty British and brutish colonial power to oust them from India and win freedom ultimately.
Political transition and degeneration in the last three decades
In the last three decades or so the Indian political dynamics has drifted to identity politics- identity based on religion, caste, creed, region, language and culture. As long as identity politics leads to politicization and democratization for justice and equality, it is part of the democratic process. But when such tendencies lead to vote bank politics by polarizing people based on narrow categories of religion (secularism or hundutva), caste, creed, region and culture, it becomes detrimental to the idea of India and its unity and integrity. When majoritarian views and way of living is thrust on the minorities and the rich flourish while the poor and weak, rural folk and farmers suffer, it is a jolt to democracy and the idea of India. These questions are relevant and Independence Day is an occasion to deliberate on them.
Let’s think on meaning of liberty, idea of India and its present state in India
What is liberty or independence? Liberty is freedom from fear, injustice and discrimination. It is the environment that allows all citizens to explore their potential and grow to the fullest. It is freedom of speech, expression and faith. It is an environment of security of life and property, dignity peace and happiness. Liberty is, thus, an all encompassing concept. Do we have all these conditions available to us? We need to think. And if not, let’s be serious for course correction.
The Indian nation is pluralist and diverse in many ways. What binds it together is the idea of India that is broad hearted, accommodative, assimilative, and cooperative and pacifist. Live and let live is the basic philosophy. The spiritual fibre of India is made up of great ideas and philosophy. One is Sarvey Bhavantu Sukhinah, sarvey santu niramayah (let everybody prosper, let everybody be free from diseases). Second idea is Vasudhaiva kutumbakam (the whole planet is one family), the third and very important belief ingrained in Indian epics is Satyameva Jayate (Truth Truimphs) and the fourt and the lat one is Shanti Ohm, Shanti Ohm (let peace prevail). This is the Indian spirit that forms unique identity of India. The idea of India is the idea of unity in diversity. It is the idea of democracy and liberalism. It is the idea of love and peace. It is the idea of tolerance and fraternity. The Indian constitution gives immense thrust on justice, equality and progressive ideas through its various schedules and articles, more prominently the preamble, the fundamental rights and the directive principles of state. At this day of independence, let’s think how committed we are to these ideas and philosophy.
Today our collective dream is to make India prosperous, democratic, peaceful and technological and economic super power. Also we want to make India Jagadguru (teacher of world) in morality and ethics and humanity and justice. Politics is the process that takes the national dream to its fruition. Political goals should be tailored to match national ethos, national spirit and the idea of India. It should also match the hopes and aspirations of India.
What are the hopes and aspirations of India? India wants to be free from hunger and poverty and disease; it wants to be free from slavery and exploitation; it wants shelter and protection to all its citizens; it wants to have employment for the largest working age population that it boasts; it wants dignity, security and equal opportunity for its weaker sections, women, minorities, scheduled castes, other backward castes and the poor among the forward castes; it wants to be an industrial, military and commercial giant; it wants to play a bigger role in the world in values, morality and strategic issues. The list is long, very long. Mind you it is aspirational India.
Political Interest and national interest
But political interests are not always same as national interest. They may be or may not be. It is constant vigil and pressure of the people through wisdom and honesty that power hungry politicians are kept closer to the national goals. Today we see that political players are playing with the idea of India for mustering the required arithmetic for grabbing power. The time in which we are living is defined by how truths are manufactured through fake news, lies fabricated as truth through social media and people being driven like sheep through emotive ideas and issues to gain political mileage. The definitions of nationalism have been polluted by jingoism and majoritarianism. The definition of secularism has turned into appeasement for vote bank. The cause of Dalit; Scheduled Castes, Other Backward Castes or even Scheduled Tribe is being used to realize political power and to create new feudal lords in these categories who play deception to the cause of social justice and good governance. In competitive politics, national goals become a façade, a slogan, a cliché (Jumla); reality however is the intense desire to remain in power by hook or crook to make money or to make money through crony capitalism to remain in power. See the panama leaks and find who’s who list of politicians across the world including India (although we do not have the full list except conjecturing in media).
We the people of India should realize that political goals of Indian political parties are drifting far apart from the national goals and it is time to stand up and unite for resistance against sinister designs against the Idea of India for winning elections. The precious energy, time and resources are being wasted on achieving ideological drift to right or left, without thinking its repercussions on the future shape and prospects of India. The intellectuals are sold out. Universities need tanks to promote patriotism, gau raksha (cow protection) would be a means to prove nationalist credentials and instrument for political parties to use the footsoldiers to hound the minorities for polarization (India is already the largest producer of milk, even before the gau rakshaks became more active). Foreign policy is made seemingly more aggressive to create a false sense of impending war to convert patriotism in jingoistic nationalism; it is a good way to hide failures to achieve national targets. On the other hand there are others who want to get political power in inheritance like a family business; there are others who are prisoners of ideology and indoctrination and not ready to come to the ground realities and find pragmatic meaning and relevance of socialism; and also there are others who use ideologies as boats to reach the seats of power and they are so pragmatic that they change their boats very often!
People the only hope
The only hope at this crucial juncture of India’s political history is people who need to set alternative narratives by creating pressure for the political parties to achieve our national goals and collective dreams. On this Independence Day and on all future Independence Day celebrations, we the people should pay our homage to the martyrs of freedom struggle and recommit ourselves to the values and idea of India for which they sacrificed their lives. Let’s not be like herd of cattle or ship. Let’s think on this auspicious occasion of Independence Day: Are we really committed to the idea of India and our collective dreams? If not, let’s think what we can do to achieve these ideals, if not for any reason, just for the sake of mother India and its teeming millions?
One of the benchmark idea of India and collective dream of India is articulated in the famous “tryst with destiny” speech of our first Prime Minister Pd. Jawaharlal Nehru.
Tryst with Destiny Speech of Pd. Jawaharlal Nehru
“Long years ago we made a tryst with destiny, and now the time comes when we shall redeem our pledge, not wholly or in full measure, but very substantially. At the stroke of the midnight hour, when the world sleeps, India will awake to life and freedom. A moment comes, which comes but rarely in history, when we step out from the old to the new, when an age ends, and when the soul of a nation, long suppressed, finds utterance.
It is fitting that at this solemn moment we take the pledge of dedication to the service of India and her people and to the still larger cause of humanity.
At the dawn of history India started on her unending quest, and trackless centuries which are filled with her striving and the grandeur of her success and her failures. Through good and ill fortune alike she has never lost sight of that quest or forgotten the ideals which gave her strength. We end today a period of ill fortune and India discovers herself again.
The achievement we celebrate today is but a step, an opening of opportunity, to the greater triumphs and achievements that await us. Are we brave enough and wise enough to grasp this opportunity and accept the challenge of the future?
Freedom and power bring responsibility. The responsibility rests upon this assembly, a sovereign body representing the sovereign people of India. Before the birth of freedom we have endured all the pains of labour and our hearts are heavy with the memory of this sorrow. Some of those pains continue even now. Nevertheless, the past is over and it is the future that beckons to us now.
That future is not one of ease or resting but of incessant striving so that we may fulfil the pledges we have so often taken and the one we shall take today. The service of India means the service of the millions who suffer. It means the ending of poverty and ignorance and disease and inequality of opportunity.
The ambition of the greatest man of our generation has been to wipe every tear from every eye. That may be beyond us, but as long as there are tears and suffering, so long our work will not be over.
And so we have to labour and to work, and work hard, to give reality to our dreams. Those dreams are for India, but they are also for the world, for all the nations and peoples are too closely knit together today for anyone of them to imagine that it can live apart.
Peace has been said to be indivisible; so is freedom, so is prosperity now, and so also is disaster in this one world that can no longer be split into isolated fragments.
To the people of India, whose representatives we are, we make an appeal to join us with faith and confidence in this great adventure. This is no time for petty and destructive criticism, no time for ill will or blaming others. We have to build the noble mansion of free India where all her children may dwell.
The appointed day has come – the day appointed by destiny – and India stands forth again, after long slumber and struggle, awake, vital, free and independent. The past clings on to us still in some measure and we have to do much before we redeem the pledges we have so often taken. Yet the turning point is past, and history begins anew for us, the history which we shall live and act and others will write about.
It is a fateful moment for us in India, for all Asia and for the world. A new star rises, the star of freedom in the east, a new hope comes into being, a vision long cherished materialises. May the star never set and that hope never be betrayed!
We rejoice in that freedom, even though clouds surround us, and many of our people are sorrow-stricken and difficult problems encompass us. But freedom brings responsibilities and burdens and we have to face them in the spirit of a free and disciplined people.
On this day our first thoughts go to the architect of this freedom, the father of our nation, who, embodying the old spirit of India, held aloft the torch of freedom and lighted up the darkness that surrounded us.
We have often been unworthy followers of his and have strayed from his message, but not only we but succeeding generations will remember this message and bear the imprint in their hearts of this great son of India, magnificent in his faith and strength and courage and humility. We shall never allow that torch of freedom to be blown out, however high the wind or stormy the tempest.
Our next thoughts must be of the unknown volunteers and soldiers of freedom who, without praise or reward, have served India even unto death.
We think also of our brothers and sisters who have been cut off from us by political boundaries and who unhappily cannot share at present in the freedom that has come. They are of us and will remain of us whatever may happen, and we shall be sharers in their good and ill fortune alike.
The future beckons to us. Whither do we go and what shall be our endeavour? To bring freedom and opportunity to the common man, to the peasants and workers of India; to fight and end poverty and ignorance and disease; to build up a prosperous, democratic and progressive nation, and to create social, economic and political institutions which will ensure justice and fullness of life to every man and woman.
We have hard work ahead. There is no resting for any one of us till we redeem our pledge in full, till we make all the people of India what destiny intended them to be.
We are citizens of a great country, on the verge of bold advance, and we have to live up to that high standard. All of us, to whatever religion we may belong, are equally the children of India with equal rights, privileges and obligations. We cannot encourage communalism or narrow-mindedness, for no nation can be great whose people are narrow in thought or in action.
To the nations and peoples of the world we send greetings and pledge ourselves to cooperate with them in furthering peace, freedom and democracy.
And to India, our much-loved motherland, the ancient, the eternal and the ever-new, we pay our reverent homage and we bind ourselves afresh to her service. Jai Hind .”