“At the stroke of the midnight hour, when the world sleeps, India shall awake to life and freedom.” These were not just words from any ordinary speech but the very first Prime Minister of Independent India was addressing the nation for the very first time. This independence he claimed was not free, we had to pay a huge price for it. Many have sacrificed their valuable lives, thousands have attained martyrdom so that this coming generation would be able to live a life of liberty.
As India celebrates its 74th Independence day on 15th August 2020, it is of utmost importance and prestige and that we remember all those because of whom we are able to live freely today. We have had challenges in the social, political and cultural sphere of governance but we have been able to breach the fortress of distress and anguish every time through peace and harmony.
When India gained independence on 15th August 1947, many power centres and political experts of the West claimed that we could not even survive as a democracy for 10 years. The founding fathers of our nation realized the values of the constitution and ensured equality, liberty and justice to all irrespective of religion, caste, race or sex. The Constitution framers also sensed the upcoming dangers on our democracy and made certain that this earned democracy will not anyhow be changed to majoritarian rule. When the West claimed that India would not be able to accommodate such a large diversity and would tear apart in the near future, our standing up together till now is one of the biggest accomplishments. But why did not we break apart? The answer is because of the remarkable generation of Indians in the Constituent Assembly who united the country politically, emotionally, and socially, legitimising this unity through the document we call the Constitution of India.
If India had been a start-up in August 1947, not even the most venturesome of venture capitalists would have invested in it. No new nation was born in more inhospitable circumstances. The Partition of the country had been awful enough, in the scale of its violence and the mass displacement of people from their homes. All this occurred against the backdrop of food scarcities, shortages of foreign exchange, and the refusal of the large and strategically vital princely states to join the Indian Union. The question still remains that what has actually been achieved in all these years after independence?
When the country attained independence, the literacy was less than 10%. The market was ruined by the British. Economic growth could no where be seen. Public institutions were not developed. Schools, colleges and hospitals were still a big dream even for the middle class. Agriculture existed but was in primitive state. Industries were in poor condition. Labour laws were even worse. Average life expectancy was hardly 30-35 years. There was a huge difference in sex ratio. Connectivity was not visible. People were distressed. Per capita income as claimed by the famous Socialist leader Ram Manohar Lohia was a meagre 3 anna. Nobody could think of a self-reliant India which Gandhiji used to preach about. This was the India which had to be re built, reformed and re developed.
With the effort of every government at both Centre and State Levels, we have been able to get a literacy of about 75% today. Average life expectancy has increased to 60-62 years. Schools and educational institutions are developed. The movements like Green and White revolution strengthened the areas of Agriculture and made us self-reliant to an extent. The introduction of LPG policy and new economic reforms of 1991 opened the Indian markets, stopped the License Raj and flooded India with Foreign Direct Investment. This led to the emergency of the ‘Middle Class’ and shot up the Per Capita Income of the nation.
We had faced some threats and tough challenges when the democracy we earned was at the risk of been taken over by an authoritative rule. But we have had people like Justice Khurana of the Supreme Court who had the spine ro say that Right to life could not be abrogated even under Emergency. Emergency of 1975-77 still remains a blot on the Indian democracy.
Our policy of Kashmir also remains troublesome and not very successful. All the governments have tried but what has been missing is that we have never been able to win the trust of Kashmiris. Recently, it became the only state in any democracy to be put without any internet connection for such a long period of time. Time has come that the sufferings of Kashmiris finally end and they rightfully get what they deserve from the Indian state.
Another aspect where no significant change has been made is the subject of Casteism and Untouchability. It still exists in various forms. Casteism is often made a tool in Indian electoral politics to win votes. It just acts as a tokenistic representation wherein for the sake of it, a few are benefitted and rest are just left behind. The objective to bring several tribal communities into the mainstream is still seen nowhere near of being accomplished. They too are left behind. The atrocities on Dalits are increasing day by day. It is still something to be looked and worked upon.
Another adversity which needs attention is the problem of increasing intolerance and mob lynchings. The cases of increasing violence due to religious disparities is something that is jeopardizing for the secularism of this nation. India has always taught the world the lesson of ‘Unity in Diversity’. We have always believed in the saying ‘Vasudev Kutumbakam’ i.e the whole planet is our family. The cases where a mob lynches an individual brings shame to the entire nation. All lives are equally important. Fundamentalism and Extremism are both hazardous for the Indian democracy.
It is worth mentioning that we have come up a long way in these 74 years. We have achieved much and yet to accomplish much more. It is the idea of Indian nationalism which holds and binds us. We are still a democracy because we have been to respect every opinion. Criticism is always necessary for the existence of a healthy and successful democracy. This is what Indian nationalism is all about.
An instance which can be recalled here is when India became independent in 1947, many social groups including the Communist Party of India termed this Azaadi (Independence) as a hoax and refused to believe that India is free. They never believed it till the further 10 years and mobilised others to believe the same. But Nehru and Patel never called them ‘Anti-Nationals’. They wanted to instead talk to them and hold deliberations but they never put them behind the bars for not believing that we were not independent.
The space you provide for the opposition or dissidence is what that determines the efficiency of a democracy. It is high time that we learn this lesson soon and start working on what is left to be worked upon.
Image Credits: CNBC TV 18