The dream to tread on the free soil of their beloved motherland was a dream left unfulfilled for the countless named and unnamed martyrs of India’s freedom struggle. Long nights of intensive strategising, violent and non-violent protests, famous slogans like ‘Go back Simon’, ‘Quit India’, ‘Give me blood and I will give you freedom’, boycotts and satyagrahas, non-cooperation movements and Round Table Conferences finally gave way to the jubilation of independence. The epic speech of the first Prime Minister of independent India, Pt. Jawaharlal Nehru in the Parliament on the eve of India’s independence towards midnight, as the hour hand and the minute hand shook hands to welcome 15th August, 1947 began thus –
“Long years ago we made a tryst with destiny, and now the time comes when we shall redeem our pledge, not wholly or in full measure, but very substantially. At the stroke of the midnight hour, when the world sleeps, India will awake to life and freedom…..”
What a joyous moment it would have been for those involved in the freedom struggle to breathe the air of their free motherland!!
Today, as we celebrate the 71st Independence Day, we have indeed come a long way. The freedom to emphatically run across the length and breadth of this independent nation with one’s head held high has been long realised. The freedom to own property, the freedom to sow and to reap, the freedom to manufacture, the freedom to buy and sell – has put India among the mighty nations of the world.
From a shattered economy, today India finds its name resounding along with the topic economies of the world. From widespread illiteracy to a decent 74.04% (as in 2016) of literacy of a diverse population amidst various stigmas to education, is no less a feat. The development from crippled industries and roadways to world-class industrial establishments and posh highways, is yet another achievement worth celebrating. From the years of famine and agricultural disappointments to the era of Genetic Engineering and numerous Food Revolutions, the progress sure deserves applause. Speak of Science and Technology we have the likes of Mangalyaan and the Chandrayaan to boast of.
The India echoed in the national song is truly an India witnessed today by the present generations – ‘Sujalam suphalam malayaja sheetalam Shasyashyamalam’.
“Yet the turning point is past, and history begins anew for us, the history which we shall live and act and others will write about. A new star rises, the star of freedom in the east, a new hope comes into being, a vision long cherished materializes.” – said Pt. Nehru in his speech to the nation seven decades ago.
As the star of freedom rose, Indians celebrated the independence from foreign rule. No longer were they subjects under Dominion rule. No longer were their wings clipped down. No longer were sons and daughters required to be martyrs. It was the time of self-rule. With their loins girded, the intellectual think-tanks set to give to Indians the exclusive rights of citizenship. The new found freedom was indeed a prized possession earned with much sweat and blood.
“May the star never set and that hope never be betrayed by.” – remarked Jawaharlal Nehru in his address to the nation that significant night.
The India of today, is a great example of unity in diversity. Diverse languages, religions and ethnicities have made India what it is.
But, the heart sinks as one witnesses the numerous threats to this hard-earned freedom!
The freedom that was reaped by a largely non-violent struggle is subject to vagaries of untold violence in the names of caste, sex, religion and ethnicity. The freedom of speech and expression provisioned by the Constitution has started being stifled to the extent of being silenced forever. The freedom to ‘profess, practice and preach’ the religion of one’s choice is being brought under the hammer with a heavy hand.
The unique blend that makes up India is under the threat of distortion in the pretext of Indianisation.
Social, economic and scientific development never happens overnight, and India is marching ahead in all these aspects. The future is indeed prosperous for this nation. No doubt about it!
But, what about the soul of India?
“We shall never allow that torch of freedom to be blown out, however high the wind or stormy the tempest.” – said Nehru in his speech that night.
However, as the days go by it seems that the torch of freedom is on its way to being blown out – this time not by foreign rule, but by self-rule. The fetters that bind and the guns that shoot, the hatred that boils the blood and claims the lives of innocents, the hands that discriminate and strangle the underprivileged – belong to the high and mighty fellow citizens.
Was it for this type of a free nation that precious lives were sacrificed years ago? Where are the lofty ideals of:
JUSTICE, social, economic and political;
LIBERTY of thought, expression, belief, faith and worship;
EQUALITY of status and of opportunity; and to promote among them all
FRATERNITY assuring the dignity of the individual and the unity and integrity of the Nation
We have so developed a ‘chalta hai’ attitude for everything that happens around us that misgivings don’t seem to be misgivings any more. Corruption? It happens every where! Domestic violence? What’s new in that! Hatred for neighbouring countries? That’s how it has always been! Dominance of the upper caste? That’s the societal norm!
The soul screams – ‘When will man respect man as man?’
Till we have fixated identities of sex, caste, religion, ethnicity, language and economic status of the people living around us, our perception will never be free. The shackles of intolerance, ignorance and apathy need to be broken down so as to be replaced with tolerance, awareness and compassion.
Not that these fetters are unique to free India alone, but the heart-cry of an emancipated soul is to see one’s nation soar high and high way – above the rest – to see the tricolour fluttering high in the breezy sky. As Nobel laureate Rabindranath Tagore penned –
Where the mind is without fear and the head is held high
Where knowledge is free
Where the world has not been broken up into fragments
By narrow domestic walls
Where words come out from the depth of truth
Where tireless striving stretches its arms towards perfection
Where the clear stream of reason has not lost its way
Into the dreary desert sand of dead habit
Where the mind is led forward by thee
Into ever-widening thought and action
Into that heaven of freedom, my Father, let my country awake.
Yes, into that heaven of freedom, let India awake.