August, the fifteenth- should be a moment of great pride, for all of us. Way back in 1947, it was the day, when the soul of our nation, long suppressed, found- to be using Jawaharlal Nehru’s words, ‘utterance’. Hundreds of years of colonial rule, and the preceding thousands of years of authoritarian rule (by invaders), had broken the spirit of one of the world’s oldest civilisations. Its ancient democratic traditions came back to life, as it geared up, to give the dreams and aspirations of its people, a second chance.
Many generations sacrificed themselves, in the hope that one of their own, would witness the moment when the sun finally sets on the British Empire. My own great-grand-father laid down his life in the First World War. As a small child, when I was informed about this sacrifice, I had a confused expression on my face. It was difficult to come to terms with the fact that he laid down his precious life, for a War, which India gained absolutely nothing out of. I was told his body never came back. We do however have a small declaration by the British government, that acknowledges the loss, and yet does very little to explain why the same was endured. My grandfather too, had colonial masters. This was before his career came to an end, and he took to farming- something that members of my family, continue to engage in. Tilling the soil, instead of serving the white-skin babu, perhaps gave him more happiness. I never met him, so I cannot be sure. But I can surely imagine how beautiful that moment would have been, when the clock struck twelve, and India became an independent country. We all have stories like this (and worse), in our own families. Our immediate forefathers have recited, and written down tales of those tumultuous times. Hearing, and reading about them makes one recall the struggle that our country has gone through.
But these stories do not seem to be inspirational enough, to many from our not-so grateful generation. My newsfeed, this Independence Day, was full of posts that were more in the nature of calls of boycott. India was described as communal, and intolerant. Many talked about ‘freedom’ of Kashmir; others schooled the rest of us, on how it is un-intellectual to be a patriot. So much of cynical analysis was presented on a day reserved for a very simple idea- celebrating the love that you have for your motherland, on a day when it earned political freedom.
That social, and economic freedom was not fully achieved- is a fact that I completely accept. But what some of their proponents do not acknowledge enough, is that political sovereignty and administrative independence becoming a reality is no small feat. The very fact that today we can begin the conversation on society, and economy- speaks for just how important political freedom is.
I used to be a Humanities student. And a pretty decent one; for I clearly made it to one of the country’s ‘best’ colleges. I have, during the course of my under-graduate study, observed some definite patterns that make up the thought processes of people, who feel the urge to replace achievements with criticisms, and hope- with shame, on Independence Day. In Humanities, teachers often claim that you have not ‘read’ enough, when you disagree with their opinions. That is actually a covert call to read, what you must, to get the consequent views, their endorsement. Quite surprisingly, you are not given that response when you nod your head in agreement, with the ideas of a few selective scholars, which are taught over and over again. This starts a peer competition of sorts. Everyone wants to be more critical than the other. The more critical you are, even on an occasion that does not call for ‘wild ’criticism (there is a time and place, for everything), the more appreciation you get. Not being a perennial critic of the present dispensation can mean only two things. You are either intellectually deficient, or intellectually dishonest. I don’t quite know which category am I usually placed in.
This is why, I am forced to believe that our generation has lost, and we have collectively let our country down. In the name of being critical, we have lost sight of our eventual goal. Take, for instance, the example of intolerance. We see so many statuses and taunts, the moment any intolerant act is committed in a country of 126 crore people. But how often do we see these kind souls, look for pragmatic solutions? Police reforms, decentralised command structure, better intelligence networks, holding regional parties responsible for law and order stunts- are things that we do not see being talked about. I have same charge, for those who are busy trending #DalitMuslimUnity hashtags. What is needed is greater social cohesion, not pitting one caste against another. Such a narrative furthers the unfortunate caste divide, and is done by people, just to benefit, politically. While Rohith Vemula’s death is nothing short a tragedy, just how right is it to celebrate someone who commits a suicide? His picture was juxtapositioned with the likes of Gandhi and Ambedkar. Demanding a Rohith Act is good for optics, but are we really this stupid? India has perhaps the world’s toughest anti-discrimination Act, in the name of SC/ST Act. Perhaps a little too tough, some would argue.
Many have said, that India is on the verge of becoming a Hindu Rashtra. Are their beliefs in the values enshrined in our Constitution so weak? Many others are crying that there is no independence anymore, for beef has been banned. Do they not know that beef ban is the prerogative of the state, and nothing has changed after Prime Minister Modi came to power. In more than 22 of India’s states (many with no significant BJP footprint), cow slaughter stands banned. Stop claiming that you are fighting for India. Humanities is supposed to be about understanding social problems, and solving them. Not playing politics over them.
Many spoke against the Prime Minister, for having mentioned Balochistan, in his speech. Liberation of India-controlled Kashmir (as they like calling it), is the stated policy of Government of Pakistan. Their Prime Minister speaks about it in every single UNGA plenary speech. ‘Kashmir Solidarity Day’ is a national holiday, on 5th February, every year. Meeting Kashmiri separatist leaders is the stated ‘condition’ for any government- to government engagement (back-channels aside). People who are on the ‘wanted’ lists of all major intelligence agencies of the world, speak, and indeed prepare for breaking India into a thousand pieces. From Mumbai to Pathankot, India’s call for prosecuting the offenders, has gone unheard. Then why is it, that some of us are finding it so upsetting that our Prime Minister, has brought to the light of the international community, the struggles of Balochistan? What is so wrong in speaking about PoK, or Gilgit, when their High Commissioner, announced the desire of liberating Kashmir from our own soil, this very Independence Day? Do we have no sense of geopolitics?
Our generation’s intellect is not helping the ‘nation’- so many of us don’t even consider it one; for India is a ‘colonial state’. Forget about the sacrifices of our freedom fighters, we are ignoring the price that the country is paying, to preserve its freedom. Even as these statuses were being written, a certain Pramod Kumar of the 49th battalion of the Central Reserve Police Force, lost his life in an attack, minutes after the national flag was unfurled in Srinagar.
America has not stopped believing in American exceptionalism just because it is ‘not great anymore’- which by itself, is a contested statement in America. A nation that does not celebrate its achievements, can never become great. A nation which does not believe in itself, cannot achieve great things. No matter how many problems we may have, the path to solving them, does not begin with fear-mongering, and self-loathing.
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