Wednesday, August 20, 2014

68th Independence Day….Should we be proud?

India has a rich and interesting history, taught to us in a very boring way. Even though we used to run away from our history teachers, there was a message that we all took from our not so pleasant history lessons. The lesson was: “Our elders had sacrificed a lot, and fought hard for our independence; they earned it from the cruel British”…and we believed them. As we grew older we learned history from other sources, and realized that the reason we earned freedom was far more complex than just the efforts of our elders. Though victorious, British were left wounded after World War II. The victory in World War II was mostly due to the efforts of Russia and USA, while Britain was left drained out of energy and resource.  The grand empire was crumbling like a cookie, and they were not strong enough to keep their prized possession, India. And we also learned that, while the British rule in India was cruel, not all British were. So, was the history taught to us biased? Should we be ashamed?

Biased? Yes.
Ashamed? No.

The sole purpose of teaching history at school is to create pride for your country. No matter which country you belong to- China, UK, US -history taught is always biased in a way to fulfill that purpose. India is no different, and there is nothing to be ashamed of. When we learn that the history we knew was biased, we tend to think that all of it was a lie. The histories taught in our schools are a bit stretched and probably a bit hypothetical, but not all synthetic. The efforts and sacrifices of our elders did not all go to the bin.

The English educated middle-class Indians slowly made their way into politics. Formation of Indian National Congress (INC) gave India her political tooth, which did take some time to grow strong and sharp. Scientific findings like Jagadish Chandra Bose’s invention of radio, Satyendra Nath Bose’s contribution to quantum mechanics and many others showed to the world that Indians were not an inferior race that needed British protection. The speech of Vivekananda in Chicago exhibited to the world about the brilliant mind of our ancestors. Add to that Tagore’s contribution to literature, and Gandhi’s non-violent philosophy. The world was starting to respect Indians.

Partitioning of Bengal was the first sign of British nervousness. India’s immense contribution for British in First World War was unfairly rewarded with the Rowlatt Act, which was soon followed by the Jallianwala Bagh massacre. Justifiably, Indians became angry and disobedient. The civil disobedient movement was not an official success, but it did manage a bite that would make Suarez proud. No wonder British had boards which said “Dogs and Indians not allowed”, no love bites there.

It was the pressure from Indians that led to the Government of India Acts of 1919 and 1935. This meant that Indian parties like INC could now take part in the elections for the provincial assemblies. These acts came to force when British Empire was strong. Our elders can take credit for that. Then there was the Second World War. Indians have learned from their mistakes in the First World War. They were reluctant to give full support this time. Gandhi called for non-violent ‘Quit India’ movement and Netaji ran away to Japan in a German submarine and created the aggressive Indian National Army (INA). Indian armies attacked Britishers and surrendered to the Japanese forces in Christmas Island during the war. The Royal Indian Navy went on strike. The trials of the officers of Indian National Army made matters worse for British in India. For the last time the Muslim League and INC protested together against the trials. Though the movements were failure, ruling India became a difficult ordeal.

After the war was over British were weak. They desperately needed the cash flow from India and hoped India will remain part of their ‘Imperial Defense’. But the riots in India meant they could no longer afford her. The British armies were too tired from the wars, and they were in no mood to come to hostile India. There was no other option for the British but to leave India, much against their wishes. They finally did, but not before the bloody partition as per the Indian Independence Act of 1947. Not the happy ending we were looking for, but freedom never the less.

It was our tryst with destiny on 15th August when Nehru gave the famous speech:

“At the stroke of the midnight hour, when the world sleeps (OK, not quite), India will awake to life and freedom. A moment comes, which comes but rarely in history, when we step out from the old to the new, when an age ends, and when the soul of a nation, long suppressed, finds utterance.”

He also warns,

“The achievement we celebrate today is but a step, an opening of opportunity, to the greater triumphs and achievements that await us. Are we brave enough and wise enough to grasp this opportunity and accept the challenge of the future?”

We clearly did not accept the challenge very well. Even though each Independence Day we salute our flag and say that we are the best country in the world, deep within we know it is a lie. We are far from being amongst the good ones, forget being the best. We have our problems of inequality, poor status of women, corruption and more importantly attitude. We lack pride and respect for our country, and more so for our countrymen. So long has our souls been suppressed that we are still in the survival mode that makes us selfish.  We have plenty of reasons to be ashamed of, but our freedom is not one of them.

I have heard people say that nothing has changed after freedom, and probably we were better under the British than being ruled by the politicians. Some might even say that this is not true freedom. I disagree. Our mind isn’t without fear, and our head isn’t held high. The rich and powerful exploits the poor and weak. But that is true for any country. Today we find no place in India that prohibits entry to ‘dogs and Indians’. Today we can travel in first class compartments without being thrown out of the trains. Today we are not second class citizens in our own land. Today we are not hanged for opposing the rulers. Infact, today we almost have no rulers. Today I can write this article without fear of British army at my doors. Today we get more opportunity than we ever had. Today we are better than we were before independence. We are the biggest democracy in the world, with all its imperfections.

On 26th January 1950 we got our constitution that took 2 years 11 months and 18 days to complete. It is the longest constitution in the world. Yes, we have our fascination with longest and largest! It has been inspired by the constitutions of UK, US, Canada, Germany, Australia and even Ireland; much like Pritam’s music. But who cares, as long as it works; and thanks to Babasaheb, it worked. The world predicted doom for India after independence. Nobody thought it would survive without British rule. But we did…we are survivors. One key strength that had held us together over the years is our ‘copied’ constitution, which was made for ‘We, the people of India’. We are SOVEREIGN SOCIALIST SECULAR DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC….and I am proud of that.

We are not the best, but we are not the worse either. Look at Middle East, Africa, and Latin America…and I would say even China in terms of freedom. Comparing is never a good thing...but it helps. Our problem is not lack of freedom, but lack of respect. It is our 'kaam chalao' attitude, and our lack of respect for each other that is dragging us back. Let us RESPECT...let us CARE...Let us be PROUD of who we are and take our country where it deserves to be…Jai Hind

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