As I flipped through an 8th grade Social Science text book, I was fascinated by the section on Constitution and Fundamental Rights. Well, it’s nice to know that the children are learning about the ideals that make this country a democracy and the promises that the State makes to safeguard individual freedom in a markedly diverse cultural environment. However, how far the principles of equality and justice are going to protect them is something that they need to understand from their interactions with the society. I say “how far” because not all of us enjoy the same rights nor do the Constitutional remedies become accessible to all the citizens. As we celebrate the 71st anniversary of Indian Independence, the truth stares us right in our faces. The question that often occupies our thoughts is “Even After 70 years of Independence, on the 71st Independence Day 2017, is India Really Independent?
India is still a land of depravity and uncertainty for a majority of its residents. From a nation ravaged by the turmoil of a prolonged freedom struggle and partition, we haven’t come very far in these 70 years. The issues that bothered the leaders of that time are still present in the country’s core existence, only more pronounced these days.
Grim realities do bite! And, for a mother like me, they bite real hard. Questions and doubts echo in the back of our minds. What do we have in offer for our kids? How free are they going to feel in this ‘free’ country? Who decides the extent of their freedom? A weird sense of patriotism, morality, and individual rights patronized by fundamentalist and jingoistic factions actively functioning across the country regardless of religious, political, and socioeconomic backgrounds has transformed the meaning of freedom into a skewed, vulnerable, and much-misinterpreted reality. Going by the current scenario, there is nothing much left to hope for the future generations.
Freedom, as we have known and experienced in the past, has lost its all-encompassing potency and has been limited to select spheres and segments of the society. If it is gender bias in one place, caste becomes the weapon for discrimination in another situation. While thousands of children cannot go to school and have to work for meager wages to support their families, the people of the country are engrossed in the sacred duty of protecting ‘their gods’ from the followers of ‘other gods.’ We may have won international recognition and accolades for our missiles and space programmes, but poverty in its various manifestations that question their survival and their kids sleeping hungry is the only reality for lakhs of mothers across the country.
We may project an image of global standards and prosperity reflected in our multinational companies, metros, and malls; but deep within we are still a primitive settlement grappling with antediluvian ideas. We speak of empowering women citing the inspiring tales of Rani of Jhansi or Kalpana Chawla. But, the truth is, women in the country are rendered poorer and weaker with regards to their free thinking, choices in what to wear, and how far and when they can venture outside the four walls of their houses. Worse, they are not even allowed to be born.
How can I miss mentioning those ‘expert comments’ by our ‘so called politicians? ’ I envy our mothers and aunts who walked freely on the streets in their sleeveless dresses because the guardians of morality and ‘Indian culture’ had not been appointed then. Today, you will want to ensure that your daughters are covered up when they go out because skin show in any form is a license to molest and rape. And as they have ignited the sexual desires in otherwise celibate men, they need to be punished appropriately. Women are goddesses as long as they remain indoors, that too only if they obey the ‘house masters.’ Independent Us, aren’t We?
Politics is a necessary evil in a democratic country, but it has become the demon that puts heavy shackles on our country’s slow march to development. Roads won’t be repaired with quality materials; how else are the contractors going to get a steady supply of work and the authorities their share of freebies and payoffs? Politicians wouldn’t want issues to be solved; otherwise, what are they going to promise to solve while begging for votes?
This is the India our children have to live in and deal with. This is the cause of anguish for many mothers rather than exam grades. It is these struggles for individual freedom that the kids must learn, more than the lessons in textbooks. They are the future of the country. They are the ones who will be responsible for freeing India from these chains of slavery.
I dream of an India where the females feel safe to step out of their house, where every child has the right to education, where no mother lives under the fear of abduction of her child, where no farmer commits suicide, where no citizen die due to hunger, where Governments work towards the development of the country and not for their own bank balances. Only then can we celebrate Independence Day freely, because then, India, MY INDIA, will be really Independent!
Wish you all a very Happy Independence Day 2017! Jai Hind!