By Gangeyyo Bhattacharjee (LTSL)
The other day, as I was eating my dinner it occurred to me, someone was going to bed without even having a single bite. As I sit down to write this article, someone in our country is being tortured for not being born in a traditionally acceptable class. As I set the temperature of the air conditioner to 27 degrees, someone is struggling to find a place to sleep on some roadside pavement.
Seventy years of independence and a mere 30 minute-drive away from the rich national capital city can bring us face to face with our achievements. It will take us to a place where nothing really has changed. I used to often ask my grandfather, how was it on the 15th of August 1947? “Did you fight against the British?” “Did you meet any freedom fighter?” I tried very hard to connect the achievement which was so glorified in my history book with what he felt. And to my utter balloon-bursting dismay, he would nonchalantly say, “Nothing really changed”. I didn’t understand it back then, but today, I do.
The world has changed a lot from 1947, and so has India. New technologies have led to new industries. World economy has progressed. Most of our lives have become more comfortable than what our grandparents had at the same age. People have become more connected than ever before and sharing of information has become a lot easier. This has been a global trend with some countries leading and some countries lagging behind and if you for once imagine this happening even without the British leaving India, it will not be a totally wrong judgement. Without any disrespect to the martyrs of our freedom movement, will it be totally wrong to assume that today’s India is not the country they dreamt of passing on? Will it be absurd to think that whatever progress we have made, is just statistical and has been achieved riding the global current? On 15th of August, India became Independent, but freedom of Indians is still to be achieved. And the onus is now on us.
We find incidents of atrocities across India. To list a few among the current ones, an Indian family became targets of bigotry because of their choice of dish. Women were beaten up by a misguided mob. Two boys were inhumanely tortured simply because of their birth. A major chunk of the youth is in constant protest in some places against the Indian Army. Some of our compatriots have for decades in their struggle for land and human dignity have resorted to an arms battle against the government and people from both the belligerent sides are dying every day. Bomb attacks in some or the other part demanding a separate state is common. Thousands have been killed in the northeast alone in the past ten years because of political violence. Crimes against women have been staggering and page 2 of every newspaper in the country has become the “rape” page.
After 70 years, we are still so ill-literate that the government is forced to start a national campaign to stop female foeticide. After 70 years, our countrymen need to be taught about the benefits of hygienic defecation. Sadly, after 70 years people have been flying out of our country to settle for a better life. If the visa norms were abolished and entry to a western country was unbarred, perhaps half the population of India would go and settle elsewhere. The country has become a prison they want to get freed from; not a home they want grow in. Violence before 1947 can easily be credited to the British, but isn’t it shameful that we Indians are responsible for all the internal violence after 1947? We have no one to blame when we become our own slaves.
But there is still a lot of hope. I have been to places outside our country and I know that no country is perfect. There are people more intolerant than us. There are countries where even writing this article makes me a criminal. There are countries where one is not free to speak, worship, sing, dance, smile, laugh, work… without the state’s approval. But let’s not be like them. Let’s be the all-inclusive fuel of encouragement and make the spirit of the nation the Bharata Bhagya Vidhaata once again. Let’s pledge not to discriminate among fellow countrymen and learn from the mistakes we have committed. Then only on a rainy dull day, can our tricolour fly high and flutter with pleasure of freedom and independence, bringing hope that one day there will be bright sunshine all around.
All the best to all of us!