By Ezra Rynjah:
To my patriotic brethren,
Two decades ago, Republic Day seemed like such a strange and distant holiday for me in terms of its meaning and significance. Yes, I remember spending the morning in front of a television at my aunt’s, watching phallic objects that could explode being paraded around and followed by swathes of coordinated dancers in over-starched uniforms who only knew one robotic move. I also recall threats against public celebration from local Nationalists who despised such display but dreamed of a chance to exhibit their own phallic objects.
However, growing up, it was always more about bicycles and games and the drawing to a close of the school winter break (only a month remains!). I never considered it as patriotically as my family apparently did – rejoicing the fact that on the 26th of January, 1950, India as a nation adopted the Constitution – but of course I had more pressing concerns at the time.
Fast forward to today and I honestly can’t say that my perspective of this day of celebration has changed. Imagine this: you’re walking home from a long day at work and all you want is to get back to a nice hot meal waiting for you at home. What do you get instead? A bullet in the back of your head is what your patriotic self will get, that’s what. Shift to another scene where you’ve just enjoyed some fresh fruit picked from the forest next to your home and are washing your hands in a gurgling stream nearby. You hear the alarm call of some birds and wonder what the fuss is about when you see a man in a suit accompanied by some goons drawing near with the usual plans to buy your plot of land so he can start a mine.
I must ask if celebrating Republic day would mean anything to you if you were in either situation. AFSPA in Kashmir and Manipur where innocent people are being murdered in fake encounters, paramilitary forces being deployed in Central India to acquire mineral-rich land– a State that imposes martial law on its own people! Is this what a republic stands for?
I probably seem like a ranting jholawalla at this point to all whose eyes are constantly glued to any manner of electronic rectangle through which scenes of violence keep assaulting the senses. But of course there is a reward for becoming so desensitised: Barack Hussain Obama is coming to visit us for the parade! He seems to have conveniently forgotten that he had denied Narendra Modi a visa for the longest time because of the Premier’s alleged responsibility for the Gujurat riots of 2002. Obama must have noticed that India condoned this violence by electing him to the highest post in the country and if the largest “democracy” in the world does something, who’s to argue? I don’t see why Obama was so uptight about it in the first place though. Granted that he won the Nobel Prize for Peace in 2009 but is also responsible for the drone strikes that are killing innocent civilians in the Middle East, and the continuing occupation of Iraq and Afghanistan. “War is Peace” as any gun-slinging Rambo-impersonator or, now affectionately known as ‘Leader of a Nation’ would say.
The sad, undeniable truth in all of this is that we have forgotten what a republic stands for. If it is to mean that we are governed in public interest, does the public exclude people under AFSPA? Does it exclude the indigenous who are struggling for survival in Central India? Or does it mean a majoritarian form of governance where the flag of democracy is unfurled only to overshadow the marginalized in our imagination?
With love and concern,
A troubled “Citizen”.