Happy Independence Day!
With pride I watch, like every other Indian, the unfurling of the tricolor and the celebrations on the 71st Independence Day. India celebrates her birthday, her liberation from the largely perceived as “oppressive and repressive” 200-year colonial British rule. India has galloped ahead since those times, the naysayers notwithstanding, more so in the last decade. And in my mind questions abound –While India the federal union celebrates her freedom, are we, the people of India, truly free?
When we stop judging a woman by the length of her skirt or the color of her lipstick…when the birth of a daughter is revered as much as that of the son…when she can belong to her workplace as much as to her kitchen…when she can walk as freely on the roads during the night as in the day…when instead of chipping her individuality to mold her into “what she should be,” she is given wings to explore “what she can be”…when instead of protecting her, she is given a choice…that is when we, the people of India, will experience true freedom.
When what I eat is dictated by taste, not caste…when what I wear is decided by choice, not religion…when every Indian sings the national anthem with pride…when the law of the land, instilled in the Constitution of India, will reign supreme for one and all…when the religion is practiced within the four walls of the house…when repressive diktats and oppressive fatwas find no place in public conscience…when there is a distinct separation between organized religion and state…when the Indian in us rises above fault lines of faith, regionalism and linguicism, only then can we, the people of India, experience true freedom.
When the streets are as clean as our homes…when the child on the road reads like the one in the home…when universal healthcare is no longer a pipe-dream…when “retail corruption” is a thing of the past…when the politics of quota and reservation becomes obsolete…when “sabka sath sabka vikas” is not just a slogan but a reality…only then will we, the people of India, experience true freedom.
We, the people of India, will experience true freedom only when we succeed in shrugging off our cloak of indifference. Isn’t it always “their” responsibility…Aren’t “they” to be blamed for everything…As long as it does not affect “me” why should “I” get involved. This habit of blaming the abstract entity, the determined apathy…is this a coping mechanism, a fatal fatalism, a pervasive loss of hope, or just a pass-it-on attitude…what drives this, I wonder? “The world suffers a lot, not because of the violence of bad people, but because of the silence of good people”, said Napoleon. The good people of India are guilty of silence allowing the ranters and ravers a free reign. The interpretation of freedom as being able to say and do whatever one wants, without respect for the law of the land or the right of another, is a surefire recipe for disaster in a pluralistic society. “Freedom and power bring responsibility,” said Jawaharlal Nehru. When freedom of speech is tempered with freedom of thought, i.e. awareness and understanding of a situation, along with the ability to choose the “right” response, both individually and collectively, only then will we, the people of India, experience true freedom.
We can call ourselves a truly independent and free country, as guaranteed by our Constitution, only when we free ourselves from our oldest curses…our misogynistic attitudes, divisive religious belief’s, and our determined apathy. Are we ready for this challenge, another struggle for Independence, this time not from the colonial rulers but from our own “oppressive and repressive” attitudes I wonder?