I find it interesting when Indians greet each other with “Happy independence day” messages. To many of them it would bring back school day memories when an invited chief guest or the school Principal hoists the Indian tricolour flag followed by a shower of rose petals falling freely from the undraped flag and distribution of candy to school children gathered in the assembly.
Many collectorates and secretariats across the nation ceremonially celebrate the day by hoisting flags followed by Police/ National Cadet Corps parade. For many of us who grew up in the environment, it was a holiday and time to play cricket with neighbourhood friends or with the advent of cable television in the mid 90s, be glued to some canned Independence day special programs.
Now that I have moved away from my country of birth and lived across few so-called developed countries and a couple being progressive, I beg to revisit the question, is India truly an independent nation? You may argue it is in terms of its decision making at the global level but is it truly so in domestic sense?
Unfortunately not! The day should be celebrated to remember people who struggled hard to bring the Colonial rule to an end. To assert the identity of local population that has been there for centuries before the colonial conquerors arrived smelling the spices.
The founding fathers of India had a vision. They argued, they debated for long hours on how the baby should be hand-held, how the executive and judicial branch should function and what sort of checks and balances should be in place so the hard fought independence doesn’t cave-in within a decade of self-rule.
A vision of secular and socialist democracy was drafted understanding the demographics that made up the modern day India during the time of independence from British rule. It is easy to portray the conquering Europeans as a common enemy while conveniently ignoring the enemy from within. I am referring to the anti-social and anti-democratic elements from within the Hindu identity or the majority caste Hindu community.
It is very similar to the various tribes in Afghanistan which unite together to fight against a common enemy like the Soviets but when gone, they end up fighting with one another to leave the country in constant turmoil. India is slightly better in the sense that there is no violent infighting between the States but it does happen now and then which manifests in the form of destruction to public property.
Coming back to the question of should India really celebrate independence day? Yes, they should in order to remember the sacrifices of many broad minded patriotic persons who fought against the fascist and oppressive forces. But then we have to introspect and see if we have kept their dream of secular and socialist India alive?
We certainly have squandered it by electing a divisive Government that harbours on communal disharmony and deflects attention from economic issues that has been bothering the nation. We have a leader who shameless exhibits his unflinching support to the right-wing Hindutva group, RSS. He participates in Hindu rituals and is unable to unite people of all faith and lingual background.
His Government promotes brahminism (the very foundation of the dreaded Indian caste system) which considers a certain segment superior and pure over the others and blatantly treats a segment as untouchables and the rest in between. Almost 73 years into independent India, we have not been able to end the dehumanising manual scavenging practice. We still mix religion with public administration. We have regressed by strictly censoring arts and films which were more critical of brahminism and superstitions in the 1950s and 1960s.
We are indifferent to the sufferings of other religious minorities. We consider them anti-national when they protest peacefully against the anti-people CAA and NRC bills tabled by a Hindutva Government which is hell bent on ethnic cleansing and executing its parent RSS’s agenda by tabling parliamentary bills that create further social unrest and division. RSS thrives on dividing people on communal lines.
Our Delhi centric national media is obsessed with its narrow minded coverage and doesn’t care about real issues that affect north-eastern parts of India or southern parts of India. With the privatisation of media, and since media should act as the fourth essential pillar of democracy, Indians are fed with extremely partisan news and the role of State funded All-India-Radio (AIR) and Doordarshan (TV) have been reduced to an operational joke!
Prasar Bharathi (Ministry of Communication) which oversees the censorship of arts and films, is extremely interfering in its role and hence film makers cannot openly disagree with the incumbent Government (State or Central). The Hindu nationalist Government is autocratic in its sense that revenue collection and education have almost become centrally managed items which were formerly under the respective State Government control. This makes the Federal-State setup weak and State Government look towards to Central Government for alms during disaster reliefs and budget shortfalls.
In the 73 years of independence, Indians can rejoice the fact that they are united in their tendency to elect Corrupt Governments which in turn favour nepotism. Caste Hindus tend to favour their own caste and even when it comes to marital association, the bride and groom should belong to the same caste. Inter-caste marriages and inter-religious marriages are frowned upon in conservative parts (which make up at least 75% of the population).
Progressive leaders have been ridiculed upon and people who were peacefully opposed to the draconian AFSPA act in parts of India have been completely ignored by their own people (wondering who it is? heard of Irom Sharmila). Such is the understanding of the common mass and its understanding of how a democracy should function.
People like Varavara Rao, Teltumbde and many left leaning intellectuals are languishing in prisons with no trial insight. The Judiciary which is supposed to maintain checks and balances has extended their custody in spite of the National Investigation Agency (NIA) not being able to connect the dots together that would implicate these intellectuals with Maoist uprising.
Army and CRPF are institutions that are not meant to be criticised? What about their atrocities in special areas that offers them impunity? What about the State sponsored violence against anti-people policy protestors across various parts of India? Talk against the Government and you’ll be branded anti-national. What sort of independence day are you celebrating and independence from whom?
Even the revered judiciary have issued judgements which are a joke. If you thought the Sabarimala judgement was a progressive one, the Ayodhya verdict completely reversed the last remaining faith on Judiciary. Judiciary’s lack of intervention to support millions of stranded migrants during the covid-19 lockdown will go down in history as one of the most intentional blind acts that failed to question the Government’s handling of a humanitarian crisis.
People’s indifference has only compounded post liberalisation. I think it would be better to call “Happy indifference day” rather than “Happy independence day”.
Let us continue to pass on whatsapp messages without truly understanding how an independent and a free country should function.