SEVENTY-SEVEN years of being an independent country! India. How are we going to celebrate India’s 77th Independence Day on August 15, 2023? The world still perceives us as the largest democracy in the world with the second largest population and one of the youngest! If any economic boom is going to happen it has to be in India or so is the widely held premise and promise…providing of course there is political peace and the people of India are united in the diversity of the its states, people, religions, cultural moorings of both indigenous and colonial kind from the countries of the West as also the countries of the East.
Globally, the thinking is that it is the time is ripe for India to rise and shine now. What do you think? Will this 77th Independence Day usher in peace and prosperity for an India looking forward to better times from bottoms up and not top down – where only the government and its creamy classes on top of the pyramid of life gather the myriad flowers of an exclusive good life devoted to health, wealth and endless self-glorification!
While those at the bottom rungs struggle to prop themselves up to stay alive in the unending grind of poverty, trying to make ends meet with few and fewer comforts – just roti, kapda, makaan, paani, bijli, sadak. Will yet another Independence Day celebration usher in amrit kaal for the few or for the many in an India where our leaders today constantly harp about how great India or rather Bharatdesh was once upon a time (no thanks to them)!
We asked a some folk about their thoughts on what Independence Day means to them? A few thought-provoking responses….
Compiled by Goan Observer Team
SAIDNYA SALGAONKAR, 24, physiotherapist, Physiotherapeutics, Panaji:
WHAT comes first to my mind is freedom struggle. But then come to modern times and I feel very few people feel this freedom! Why? Because our education rate is very low and most people cannot speak up for themselves, so more education is required about everything – than there would be freedom, although there are pros and cons in society. My parents always told me to respect the freedom fighters because they made many sacrifices and that’s why we are a democratic society today.
NATHAN GOMES, 24, software designer, Panaji resident:
IT happened a long time ago but I guess it’s the birthday of our country! I’m not very charitable but we have come a long way from slavery under the British without knowing it, now too it is slavery under a new regime. India is considered the largest democracy in the world but it is at the bottom of the list when it comes to freedom of speech, practically yes, people try to shut up for the sake of peace. The RSF index reports that India is 161 out of 180 countries when it comes to freedom of speech…this year it’s a score of 36.62 out of a 100!
RAVINDER PANT, mid-50s, F & B Manager, Fidalgo enclave of restaurants, Panaji:
BASICALLY I feel Independence Day is about freedom. It is freedom to express yourself in speech but there are certain rules and regulations for every citizen. We are governed by the Constitution which lays down the rules and regulations, that defines independence for me and Independence Day. When I was assistant Food & Beverage manager J A Resorts in Maldives I remember it was Independence Day and someone painted my face to look like the Indian flag! I am from Uttarakhand, Uttar Pradesh, but when we are abroad we are termed by the passport as from India, we are Indian, I forget I am Pant from Uttarakhand!
KHYATI KASHYAP, mid-20s, young entrepreneur from Bengaluru, has started an outlet called Samosa in Caranzalen, Panaji, which retails all kinds of samosa:
INDEPENDENCE Day means nothing much to me! It’s just a day like any other regular day. But I do have memories of celebrating it back in school in Dehra Doon (that’s where India’s first IIT is if you remember at Roorke)…but I’m from IHM Bengaluru and settled in Goa for the last five years. In school I remember we hoisted the tricolor on Independence Day, sang the Jana-gana and ate samosa – everybody loves samosa, ladoo or gulab jamun! That’s what Independence Day means to me. Come and eat a samosa with me at Samosa one of these days!
ANNY GOMES, 47, works at LIC, Panaji:
INDEPENDENCE or Independence Day for me is freedom from corruption in this country. Whenever you go to government offices work should be done quickly and not stalled just for want of bribes. Independence means everyone should have quality life and there should be no poverty, and India should be a developed country. Then maybe we can really celebrate Independence Day!
ARCHANA NEGVEKAR, mid-20s, she is a computer engineer, traveller, photographer and founder of Out-Of-Context Book Club, also likes to cook, Panaji:
Being a daughter of independent India, I feel lot of gratitude towards life for placing me in the economic and cultural strata that I am in. It means freedom to become what I want, live my life the way I want, spend my money the way I want. A lot of my sisters in the rest of India and the world don’t have this freedom. True, freedom ill come when a woman can walk proudly as if she owns the ground beneath her feet!
BHARATI PAWASKAR, mid-40s, media person:
IT actually means nothing! We are still bound by the rules that the Britishers and East India Company coined for Indians to rule over them. We still follow those laws formed back then in 1800. We still have their syllabus in our education system. We still believe the Aryan invasion theory. We still wear those dresses, suit-tie and gowns irrespective of the weather conditions here, we still have summer vacation system. We still say those prayers in convents instead of our Saraswati Vandana. Our police still do lathi charge on the innocent crowds. Our judges wear those English gowns. We wear those robes on graduation. We still have our Kohinoor in their royal treasury. We still have our gold thrones and swords and idols in their museums. We still say Good Morning instead of Ram Ram….We still have old age homes…And orphanages which ancient India never had…We still have nuclear families instead of joint families. Are we really independent, I wonder!
ASMA TORGAL, 28 , media person, Delhi:
FOR whom is it Independence Day? Indian women are still seeking independence! It’s been decades since we were free from the clutches of British rule in India. But as today’s woman do I feel the real freedom? Well, I might not enjoy many perks like the other women in their countries do, but I feel the urge to tell you what freedom doesn’t look like when….When women are paraded naked in Manipur, molested and gang-raped and nothing much is done. When an influential figure is accused of sexually harassing many Olympian wrestlers, “calling them to rooms, putting his hands around their waists and chest”—nothing is done. When a rapist, and murderer named Ram Rahim is granted repeated parole by the Haryana government…when Bilkis Bano who was brutally gang-raped, seen her family members were killed, those rapists and murderers were released from jail on Independence Day, all remained quiet.
Well, my kind of freedom is allowing me in my own country to be able to go for long walks in the middle of the night, travel on my own, wear what I want and live every moment of life without the “unsafe” scare! Apart from being a woman, I am also an Indian Muslim. I too go to symbols of progressed Indians, where I have to struggle the fact that societal expectations have not changed but instead double-burdened me. The scope of the loyalty test has also been expanded accordingly. I now have to demonstrate that I am committed to the unity and integrity of the nation.
Perhaps the most important is to remember that this discourse of expectations does not affect any other religious community except Muslims! And that may be the reason people ask me, “How do you Muslims celebrate Independence Day?”
WHAT DOES THE NATIONAL CONGRESS STAND FOR?
Devsurabhee Yaduvanshi reminds us from where the Congress party politics is coming from, in contrast to the BJPs narrative…
Devsurabhee Yaduvanshi is State Social Media Coordinator for Goa Pradesh Youth Congress at Indian Youth Congress
MANY say that Indian National Congress (INC) stands for India first, while BJP stands for Hindu first. This statement is not only false and misleading, but an encapsulated story of creating a fake brand identity by the RSS and BJP for themselves.
Why? This is a question whose answer lies in the pages of history. Crafting themselves as pro-Hindu was more of a compulsion rather than a choice because the parent organization of BJP, the RSS, was clearly a militant, pro-British imperialist and distorted theocratic group that took shape and root inspired from Nazi Germany and Mussolini. Now, if you notice this group’s contribution towards the freedom struggle in India, it’s absolutely nil. Even today, the BJP and RSS are hell bent on hijacking the legacies of stalwart freedom fighters like Sardar Vallabhai Patel (who banned RSS), Bhagat Singh and Subhash Chandra Bose, because they don’t have their own crop of freedom fighters to speak of, to support their manufactured brand of patriotism and nationalism.
What they do surely have are mercy petitioners like Savarkar, who beseeched the Hindi community to side with the British and oppose the freedom struggle at every juncture, even to the detriment of the Hindu community at large.
Why delve into history and analyze the foundational stance of RSS? It gives us a lot of perspective on the present and serves as a fact check. Hinduism is and has always been an extremely private faith, one where every Hindu decides what Hinduism is, hence making it as diverse as the number of its practitioners, to the extent of openly welcoming atheism and agnosticism as a living tradition within Hinduism.
The crucial aspect is the absence of any dogma or spiritual hierarchy as opposed to that in dogmatic Abrahamic religions. It is this which is crucial differentiating factor, since the founder of RSS M S Golwalkar was so smitten by Abrahamic religions and wanted to organize Hindus along similar lines, thus wanting to destroy and obliterate the millennia old identity of Hinduism.
The result of this very narrow, distorted and militant version of Hindutva is the slaughtering of Hinduism’s inherent spiritualism at the altar of naked, violent power and wiping out of decency, which is anti-Hindu to begin with. Part and parcel of this phenomenon is that the RSS and BJP are militantly pro-upper caste, holding on to violently maintaining status quo between the Savarnas and Bahujans, which is what will lead to the ultimate implosion of what we know as Hinduism, because who now wants a life of subjugation, after 75 years of advancement and development for every citizen of India?
That begs the question, what sort of Hinduism are RSS and BJP supposedly protecting? The REAL Hinduism that exists as millions of versions of spiritual advancement or the misappropriated, politicized, weaponized bastardization of an ancient culture that seeks only to usurp power forcefully? The irony in this entire situation is that the very Abrahamic minorities the RSS and BJP so badly want to obliterate, are the very structure they so want to adapt Hinduism into.
As most born Hindus would agree with, why would we want to give up our very private faith and replace it with some hollow, un-spiritual straight-jacket version of Hinduism, that seeks only to serve the interests of the few who have forcefully taken over the mantle of protecting the Hindu Dharma, without anybody requesting them to do so.
It would also serve as a reminder that the RSS and BJP have repeatedly espoused the regressive and anti-progressive steps taken through history, being anti-women, anti-dalit and adivasi, anti-OBC and anti-people in general, by standing with the oppressive practice rather than against; their pro-sati stance is one of many such examples.
After numerous deliberations, and respecting the identity of every religion in the sub-continent, the Indian Constitution was brought into existence on the premise of equality for all, equal application of the law for all, and by not going down the path of becoming a Theocratic State; a choice that has led to the galloping growth of India, with opportunities for every citizen of India, no matter which caste or religion they belong to. A development which has benefited the Hindu community the most, since this central covenant of a Constitution served the interests of all those who had been downtrodden, left behind for millennia.
Thus, our Indian Constitution is the basis of the idea of India that has kept together our country, thriving, taking great strides as a nation in the Modern World. When you juxtapose the two very different approaches throughout history between the RSS and the Indian National Congress, it is very clear which stance is pro-India, pro-people and which one is anti-people and ultimately anti-Hindu.
Personally, my take is that for lack of having anything of value to say, and keeping in line with a very Savarna militant perspective, the RSS and BJP don’t have another brand positioning to adhere to, other than parading as pro-Hindu, which they aren’t either. Their complete lack of involvement in our freedom struggle against the British is one of many examples which repeatedly positions RSS and BJP squarely against our great nation’s interests time and again.
Don’t believe it? Look at how much we’ve regressed in the past nine years under the BJP regime. From the steady drop in international press freedom, democracy rankings to actual conditions on the ground, we’ve only regressed, while the bought out media sells us lie after lie of acche din.
Ultimately, it is the secular, democratic, unifying idea of unity in diversity by the Indian National Congress that has kept India together, and it is this idea of India that will keep this nation thriving and moving forward. The idea of a Hindu nation as per RSS and BJP is not palatable to most Hindus, myself included, because it stands for regression into an oppressive, militant, casteist abyss that we all have happily left behind generations ago.
The pro-India and pro-diversity stance given to us through our Constitution will ultimately prevail, because it resonates with our DNA, and has crystalized the best in every religion to bring together a balanced, peaceful coexistence, keeping pace with the changing times. We are a nation after all of having had the greatest diversity throughout history, coexisting together, revelling in the rich culture and tradition that we have developed and acquired over time.
The distorted, insecure militancy of one section of society cannot obliterate this desire for unity in diversity; those parading as wolves in sheep’s clothing or as pro-Hindu, will be exposed for who they truly are, power-hungry opportunists, who have no respect for human life, a basic tenet of Hinduism.