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When a man is denied the right to live the life he believes in, he has no choice but to become an outlaw.
 -Nelson Mandela

Most of us who lead lives of privilege tend to take freedom for granted. On the edge of our own realities are those that can’t.

Between the time a young IT professional was bludgeoned to death for ‘derogatory’ Facebook posts in June 2014 and now, at least 50 cases of mob lynchings have been reported  . And the incidents are rising at an alarming rate: between April and June 2017, there have been at least four lynchings a month Thirty-two people have been killed in 20 cases in the past three years; of 50 cases examined overall, almost all victims were Muslim or Dalit; 70 per cent were suspected of killing or smuggling cows,

What makes this moment unique is the silence of the political leadership. PM Modi has spoken against lynchings only twice thus far. And on both occasions, after a considerable stretch of studied silence: eight days after the Dadri lynching in 2015 and after about 20 mob lynchings this year. That silence has become the hallmark of almost all top NDA leaders and chief ministers of BJP states. It took Haryana chief minister Manohar Lal Khattar three days to break his silence over Junaid’s killing, although he was active on twitter.

Freedom is the primary value from which spring forth all other values. It is the river; the others  are the tributaries. Without freedom, all other values wither and perish.  . True freedom signifies freedom from restraints that we derive from the willingness of others to give space to our our convictions and actins and acknowledge our right to do so. It allows us to live our way  and to pursue our vision  . Being your own person requires independence of thought, feeling, and action.  The wonder of being a human is the unique freedom offered to us through our   distance from every other person and being. Freedom is the ability to do whatever you want, so long as it doesn’t infringe on anyone else’s right to do whatever they want.
The main obstacle standing in the way of achieving   freedom – that is, the ability to work  out the trajectory of our life without self-imposed restrictions – is lacking conviction in what we want to achieve  . When we have conviction, anything is possible. We are free agents in the pursuit of our dreams, only restrained by the lack of faith in our own capabilities. We are meant to be free – but this freedom asks us to take responsibility for our actions and decisions.

Our civilization is scaling new peaks – peaks that   are bringing to us immense gains. But even while make this great voyage, we are blissfully unaware that we are slowly losing one of our most precious assets   – a lifeline that could be summed up in a single word, ‘freedom’. Very few of us can say with certainty that we live in total freedom. Every man is caged by the fetters of ideologies, superstitions, customs and social restrictions. These self imposed fences   restrict the creative flights of man. There is little we can achieve without freedom .An oppressed mind can never open out like a parachute and take to winds.

For centuries, philosophers and theologians have almost unanimously held that civilization   depends on a widespread belief in free will—and that losing this belief could be calamitous. But it is ultimately great revolutionaries who have symbolized through their own lives that this belief can be reinforced by individual sacrifices.

The national anthem of Ghana is an eloquent tribute to the edifice of freedom:

“We’ll live and die for Ghana,

Our land of hope for ages² to come!

Shout it aloud, O Ghana,

And beat it out upon the drum!

Come from the palm-lined shore,

from the broad northern plain,

From the farm and the forest, the mountain and mine.

Your children sing with ancient minstrel lore:

Freedom for ever, for evermore!”

 

The great Urdu poet Faiz Ahmed Faiz very eloquently sums up the plight of a society deprived of its precious right:

“The birds that herald dreams

were exiled from their song,

each voice torn out of its throat.

They dropped into the dust

even before the hunter strung his bow”.

As Jose Marti summed up in his interview in The New Yorker of 27 May, 1975, “Like the bone to human body, and the axle to the wheel, and the song to a bird, and air to the wing thus is liberty the essence of life. Whatever is done without is imperfect.”

Truthfully, we may not even fully comprehend what freedom means to us until we are deep in the process of pursuing it.  That’s why it has consequences – if we knew exactly what we were getting ourselves into and what the results would be when we set out for it, then it wouldn’t be so intimidating to pursue in the first place. Unless we are free to discover our own convictions and to live them, we can never break out of the captivity of convention and timidity. Freedom is woven onto our most joyous experiences – and is essential to love. Love requires an open mind, a free heart.  The struggle for freedom will always be there. The question is whether you want it badly enough to deal with the consequences once you decide to reach for it. We may be enamored with the idea of freedom from our current life, but wholly unprepared to deal with the realities that follow.

Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr., the learned judge of the US Supreme Court, felt that, “if there is any principle of the Constitution that more imperatively calls for attachment than any other, it is the principle of free thought – not free thought only for those who agree with us, but freedom for the thought we hate.” At the headquarters of Burma’s freedom fighters, in the remote village of Manerplaw, a wooden arch leading to a parade ground is emblazoned with the famous words of American Revolutionary War hero Patrick Henry: “Give me liberty or give me death”

Claiming freedom for ourselves can also mean facing opposition, overwhelming self-doubt and insecurity, and even being ostracized. When we do what we truly want to do, rather than what society tells us to do, we aren’t “normal.” We face resistance because we are taught to fear what we don’t know. There are countless inspirational quotes   wistfully extolling the value of freedom, but when it comes down to claiming it as our own, why do we recoil?  We welcome freedom when it comes comfortably and doesn’t deprive us of security. What happens when we are asked to work for it, make sacrifices, be uncomfortable and risk being outcast from the norm? We put our heads down, thrust our hands in our pockets and mumble something about how it’s great but we’ll get to it another time.

Moin Qazi is the author of the bestselling book, Village Diary of a Heretic Banker .He has worked in the development finance sector for almost four decades .He can be reached at moinqazi123@gmail.com

 

One Comment

  1. K SHESHU BABU says:

    The struggle for freedom is not yet over …