Here we all are, celebrating the 70th year of Independence and being a proud citizen of the largest democracy in the world, India. The country which gives its citizen six fundamental rights and gives them the freedom to exercise them in the most appropriate ways. But are we truly free yet?
According to the Constitution, we did get freedom on August 15, 1947, from the British rule but how many years more we’ll get independence from our own society and its evils.
The society that still looks down upon, same sex marriage. The society that still feels that it is her clothes that provoked him to force himself on her. The same society where 5 men will look at my legs hungrily when I walk down those streets wearing my favourite pair of shorts. Yes, I am talking about the society where a dowry still exists and the cases have only doubled in the past five years.
It is not about whether women are getting their share of equal rights or not, that is another discussion for another day; it is about whether we all as individuals are completely liberated or not.
“We have achieved much but still we have to fight against poverty” was the first thing PM said while addressing the nation. Though I never heard Nehru’s first address to the nation, I am pretty sure that fighting against poverty was his agenda as well. In fact, this single line was a part of every address that was made to the nation on the eve of independence, every year. And we have 70 such addresses.
70 years, and we are still fighting against poverty. 70 years and still more than 250 million people sleep hungry. 70 years and yet 290 million people don’t have access to basic health amenities. 70 years and yet 130 million children are withdrawn out of schools before they turn 15. And we talk about growing economy and being the biggest democracy!
The question is, is this the independence Bhagat Singh laid his life for? The socialist who believed in inclusive growth and for him true independence meant equal opportunity for all, regardless of caste, creed, region, religion and most importantly money. This is what he hoped he was laying his life for. He gave his life to free us from the British, but sadly we could not free ourselves from the shackles of poverty, the fetish of hunger and greed of money.
We have come ways over the past 70 years in different aspects of life. We have taken a huge leap of success with technology forming a great web around us all, our literacy rate has increased by a huge margin and so has the population and job opportunities in the employment sector.
As the dictionary says, the literal meaning of the word ‘independence’ is self-sufficiency, self-reliance, autonomy, freedom and liberty; our freedom of speech to question our independence runs even deeper. Our answers may vary with different aspects.
Have we really been living in a free, independent nation, where we abide by our own wishes, get bogged down by norms and expectations of society? Does every single citizen of India feel fully enabled to achieve his or her dreams? Or do some sections of people feel completely helpless and dependent on another privileged lot, for the fulfilment of even their basic needs? The question looms back to haunt you every time you see a child begging on streets, poor farmers toiling in scorching heat on someone else land, and talented but poor people not being able to achieve their dreams due to poverty.
Somewhere, that does make it look like we have a lot to go till we achieve real independence. But then, is it really such an achievable thing? Is there any country in the world which is prospering and can claim to have true independence?
True independence will be achieved when we achieve freedom of minds; when our entire society becomes open to everyone’s freedom. Several times, brilliant minds have been killed by society’s mindset and restrictions. And can that be achieved in absolute terms and by a given time-frame? I don’t think! Reform is an ever-growing process. People and society will have to keep reforming themselves. And achieving absolute freedom never seems an achievable target. That’s primarily because good and bad are always going to co-exist in society. So expecting a perfect, fairy tale society, where nothing will go wrong, and everything will happen to one’s satisfaction really does seem a little too much to expect. But yes, we can still go a long way, and achieve much more degree of independence, as never settling for anything is what keeps us going.
Wishing you all a very happy Independence Day and let’s promise ourselves to take our country to new heights and make the sky your workplace, and not your limits.