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Celebrating August 15: Are We Really Free?

By Aamir Habib & Adfar Shah

12 August, 2013

The Independence Day to every Indian is a symbol of national pride, for it is this day which reminds us of the cessation of the prolonged era of ill fortune. About seven decades back, it was the day of 15th August that our forefathers had laid the foundation of a classless (still not realised) Indian nation. It is on this day that we celebrate the spirit of being a part of the larger state irrespective of our linguistic, religious, social and ethnic identities and a plethora of other micro level distinctions. However, looking at the declining collective morality, disasters and tragedies (2G, common wealth, Satyam, coal gate, etc) that struck this nation almost every day now, one wonders if this nation has really achieved freedom or are we really free today?

Over the years, the meaning of liberty has taken several turns in our lives. We need to introspect whether August 15 really means anything special to us or is it simply a day off from work. August 15th 1947, the year that gave us the independence from foreign domination was actually a watershed year for our forefathers who witnessed history being made. However, as the patriots of this nation; are we travelling along the footsteps of our forefathers or have we simply moped up this historical experience along with bed time fictitious stories. As Indians what do we want to discover out of this one day holiday is a bigger confusion in itself.

People both urban and rural would desperately wait for this day and enjoy it like a weekend or a normal holiday. Prior to looking at the eighth month’s calendar (August), the employees eagerly pray that mid month’s vacation should not fall on the weekend else it will be their loss to miss the due holiday. This is not the case only with 15th of August, the same kind of mindset prevails there for every festival or holiday even the day of Gandhi Jyanti (October, 2). August 15th is a day that most of our fellow countrymen associate with normal holidays, thereby getting together with family and friends to have fun. To youths of this nation it is a day off from work or college and a bonus day to visit some natural or historic place, devour burgers, enjoy pizza-pastas, etc,. Not only this, but people observe freedom by flying kites or just kill time in cinema halls rather than realising the essence of freedom and paying true respect to the idea of freedom by honesty, inculcating rich value systems, spirit of national integration, egalitarian ethos, etc,.

Needless to mention that, the whole nation is witnessing a rapid change in every field of life where on one hand the people have changed their priorities as well as the life styles. Progress is just understood as imitation of the west and tradition and traditional value system has gone to dogs. On the other hand, mass media/technology has progressed so fast that every small piece of information is transmitted to ones pocket. Cell phones have wreaked havoc to the thinking capability of the man as one hardly gets time to think about him/herself even now. From religious sermons, social awareness, yoga to violence, dating, pornography and perversion, all carried out with one single device called mobile phone. The vision of the youth of this nation is stimulated by the life styles of the celebrities, business tycoons, models, etc, (imitation of everything).We have changed to the extent that we take pride in the culture of others rather than of our own. We are too crazy about KFC’s and McDonalds but feel ashamed of our cultural roots and heritage. To cite an instance, couple of day’s back one of the national news papers reported that in the single month of June (2013) in India an adult film star was searched some 3.5 crore times on the internet, reflecting our priorities, innovation, morality and tastes. It is all this sort of freedom that our youths desire to keep living, wherein one will have the freedom to degrade morally/mentally to the extent s/he wants and without any body’s interference even not of the parents.

If one searches for the word "independence" in the dictionary, one finds the definition, "the state or quality of being independent", or "freedom from the control, influence, support, aid, or the like, of others". Where Independence Day is a day to honour those who fought for and continue to fight for our rights and liberties, many of us entirely fail to reconcile with the definitions cited for independence or freedom, while thinking of the plight, poverty, alienation, criminality, chaos, corruption and politicisation of almost everything. Although India has made its place among the newly developed(ing) nations, but in reality we are still half-witted in comparison to the developed countries be that human values, safety and security, life with dignity and honour, social security’s, etc,. The triumph over the end of foreign colonization and corruption is right however the haunting reality is that we are being engulfed by the monster of internal issues like land grab, Adivasi alienation, human life in conflict zones, the state of our women, etc,.
We have forgotten the idea of true freedom and even citizens are killed while protesting against the state. The recent killings at Kishtiwar (Jammu and Kashmir) is a proof of this reality that toward the people of other communities we have a lot of abhorrence and bitter feelings and it also reveals how state treats its own people and how the armed forces handle social crisis. Even today we are certainly not free from biases and prejudices, envy and hatred for we keep on displaying the same in one form or the other. We make every effort to take lead from others not by doing something worth/intellectual on our own but merely by cleverness and cunning to push the people behind us. Every second day there is a case of honour killing or caste discrimination, does anybody care? Our women get raped but fear to enter the police station to complain simply to avoid the double rape, is anybody listening? We are trapped today in the chains of corruption, communal tensions, class distinctions (My Baap Culture) and false sense of pride and emancipation. We do nothing but curse the system and politicians forgetting that system is always credible and politics is an important institution of the society. Why to blame the system when we have ourselves maligned the one. We love the country but continue to be tax evaders, corrupt, fraudulent, etc,. Is it really fair to continue with dishonesty and chant patriotism simultaneously?

Yes we do show respect when the National Anthem is being sung or the tricolour is hoisted, but deep down we lack the real patriotism. It is the nation where even protests against HR Violations are carried on selective bases. If a person is murdered/raped in Mumbai or Delhi, there is a huge hue and cry, but if the same person is killed in the country’s periphery (say northeast, Kashmir), nobody feels touched or shouting. It is a state where child labour and brazen crimes against women still continue even after the decades of the independence (Fir Bhi Dil hai hindustani).Labourers like scavengers, children or those in constructing roads and buildings are subjected to deplorable conditions or forced to work long hours with little or no advantages provided directly to them, who cares? India though has accomplished a lot after its freedom from the British however; the main problem of poverty has not been still defeated. For sixty six years we are battling poverty still our political stars even maintain that poverty is nothing but just a state of mind purely because it has not touched their skin.

The Country’s security measures have not still progressed to the extent that can make Aam Aadmi feel free and secure. The common man feels much regulated, even his call details do not go unnoticed in the world’s largest democracy (where is the public space?).

It would be unfair to say that the state cannot do anything. If we pledge whole heartedly to do anything, nothing will be impossible for us. Liberty is not an end in itself but a means to achieve an end. Freedom never means to be absolutely free, it means free yet carrying the obligations (are we aware of our duties as Indians?).

It is true that Independence Day is not the same as other holidays since it is because of this day that we are able to celebrate every festival or auspicious occasion under the free sky and sun. However we all need to introspect at our own level about the contribution, we are making to the nation we belong to. August 15, must be the day of our true emancipation and sense of security from all evils. India can grow really big provided its citizens realise the worth of belonging to this vast nation and contribute in their ways toward the growth, progress and beauty of this country. Let us listen to Adivaisis, let us listen to Manipuri’s and Kashmiris, let us understand the policing in this country, let us ponder over the plight of women and children in this country, let us return honour to our nation by working honestly, earning rightfully, respecting human dignity and above all let us not get caught in identity and personality crisis. Let us not malign each other’s religious or ethnic identities but learn to coexist with harmony, love, peace and brotherhood.

Our idea of freedom till date seems merely an illusion of freedom. Faiz-the progressive revolutionary rightly says,

“Yeh Daag Daag Ujala,Yeh Shabgazeeda Sehar
Woh Intizaar Tha Jiska Yeh Woh Sehar Tou Nhi”

(This stain-covered day break, this night-bitten dawn. This is not that dawn of which there was expectation).

(Authors are research scholars at Jamia Millia Islamia, Central University New Delhi. Mail at adfer.syed@gmail.com)






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