This special day is once again upon us, swelling our hearts with pride as we try to manoeuvre our way through traffic diversions (to make way for the iconic appearances of our political and bureaucratic bigwigs) amid the loudspeakers blaring out patriotic songs—some of them almost as old as our freedom. There is always a lump in my throat as I bow my head, saluting the national tricolour on this momentous day when India awoke to freedom as the rest of the world slept.
Alas! We seem to have gone back to a deep independence induced slumber, rising bleary eyed occasionally, on days like this one today, and going back to a state of blissful ineptitude for the rest of the year. Independence Day seems to have become like any other special day dedicated to specific causes – Mother’s Day, Teacher’s Day, Doctor’s Day, Environment Day ....the list is endless. But isn’t Independence Day a bit different from all these? Isn’t it a heady combination of all of them and many more? Unless we are efficient administrators, loving parents, dedicated teachers and doctors and responsible, law abiding citizens, we have no right to rejoice in our freedom.
We freed ourselves physically from the much touted tyranny of the British Raj 63 years ago. But we are yet to gain independence from the insensitive and parochial attitude of our own leaders—be they political, religious or social. As long as people are deprived of two square meals a day, the powers-to-be pilfer the natural wealth of country to fill their own coffers in the name of development, women (and men) are killed in the name of family prestige, hatred is fomented in the name of religion, and lawlessness becomes a synonym for power, we cannot call ourselves independent or free.
The India- Pakistan Peace March and candle light processions for solidarity are laudable initiatives of the civil society seeking peaceful solutions to fiery problems. But the ideas of peaceful coexistence propagated by them have to be imbibed in spirit and not be lost as rhetoric. These efforts have to become more than a ritual. They have to become our way of life.
The real freedom of the spirit, which the Mahatma wanted to instil in us, is still eluding us, or perhaps we are yet not strong enough to imbibe it in our thoughts words and actions. Freedom from want and desire may be too tall an order. But at least we can tread this path carefully and remember that ‘My freedom ends where someone else’s begins’. Only if we could try to live by this credo, there would be no female foeticides, no inhuman subjugation of the weak, and no atrocities on innocent citizens.
There is a lot to be proud of, and yet, a lot of shame needs to be wiped off from all around us, the Commonwealth Games notwithstanding.