“At the stroke of midnight hour, when the world sleeps, 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, then an age ends, and when the soul of a nation, long suppressed, finds utterance. It is fitting that at this solemn moment we take the pledge of dedication to India and her people and to the still larger cause of humanity.”
We are living in the ‘Republic of India’, which essentially means a form of government in which power resides in the people and the government is ruled by elected leaders run according to law. The “power” in the above definition resides in the people, to select our own leader—someone to steer the nation and ensure the safety and security of everyone and not just the one section of India.
This definition always comes in conflict with the “Idea of India” and what a selective few think, which not only includes the common man, but the leaders as well.
One India marched against British rule in 1930 to fight against the Salt Tax, questioning leadership and demanding their rights because they saw this tax as immoral and unfair to the masses. But Modern India can’t even stand an uprising of women when they question the motives behind taxing a sanitary pad as a luxury item. There was unanimity then but not anymore. People fought for their freedoms back then, but we lable those who speak out as ‘Feminazi’ now.
The first woman prime minister of India, Indira Gandhi, also pointed out in her 1966 speech that we must use ‘swadeshi’ products, but she never said boycott foreign products. She talked about how we must develop ourselves so well, that the whole world looks up to us. But today’s India is all about boycotting foreign products and producing everything in India, irrespective of the fact of whether we are equipped enough or not—comparative advantage is a concept we summarily ignore.
The Republic of India says let the people defend the democracy and question the rulers. But the Idea of India says it is worthy to stop these dissenting voices. Be it during the Emergency, or removing Medha Patkar from conducting a peaceful protest, or brutally hurting the masses protesting at JNU or Hindu College in Delhi.
Even in 1975, the Idea of India was bigger than the Republic. Forced sterilisation was one inhumane activity which will go down in history as something which was gruesome and disgusting, but then in 1985 Rajeev Gandhi addressed the Republic by saying we must progress and not just in material terms but also in the quality of human life. He brought in the ideas of family planning and achieving a stable population. The difference in these two is basic—one basic idea forced, the other called for voluntary cooperation. Can we ban people from producing babies and having sex or somehow incentivise them to do family planning?
In 2002, the then-Prime Minister, Atal Bihari Vajpayee, said that the Government is now preparing an effective, long-term strategy to protect the country from the curse of drought and floods. There will be concerted efforts to save every drop of water and our country will adopt watershed management, rainwater harvesting, and other such techniques. In 2004, Dr. Manmohan Singh pitched the same drought story to the Republic and it is 2017 now, and the question we must ask our current ruling party is what happened to the promises. Have we solved any of the issues highlighted by their predecessor, or have we allowed ourselves to get distracted by menial issues such as fighting over beef and the kinds of movies we must watch and the books we must read? What are the bigger problems that we have managed to solve in these 15 years? All we know now is that we have a Commission to safeguard our cows and a free pass for people to lynch people if they don’t showcase their utmost “patriotism” and see the nation the way it apparently ‘should’ be seen.
The challenge is not to promise more but to follow up on what we have promised already. The real challenge for the Government is to implement the policies and programs and coordinate will with the Central, State and local bodies. Government bodies have the mandate to serve people first. But what we see happening now is parties going against each other even when there is something great for the people at stake. It is like well where one monkey is being pulled down by others because all of them want to be on top.
The issue shouldn’t be whether to change the name of Mughal Sarai Station to Deen Dyal Upadhyay Station, people will still be the same. They are still going to be poor and fighting with their own challenges while the government will grow big by attracting more Dalit votes.
We should not celebrate that we have a new history book which talks about Maharana Pratap as the biggest warrior of the country but we should be ashamed that we are not reading the real history; we are not reading different facets of history but just one. We are now not reading history, but propaganda. But then what about Narendra Modi’s speech in 2016 where says we are the people of a great cultural heritage. This country is full of diversity. This bouquet of Mother India is blessed with different fragrances, different colours, and different dreams. Unity in diversity is our greatest strength. Are we respecting this unity? The choices and culture of different religion, caste and creed?
The idea of India could be very different and perhaps unique to every individual of this country and we must respect that but changing the Republic is something we must argue against. The Republic must feel safe and secure; they mustn’t be living their lives under the threat. It was the united India who fought for years to get us this freedom and liberty, and it is the individual ideas which are now putting chains back in our lives.
Vajpayee in his speech in 2002 said “why can’t we unite and fight against our real enemy, the poverty? This is a challenge. No one is going to come from outside and meet it for us.” But unfortunately every leaders since the beginning of Independence till now has spoken about poverty, has spoken about inequality, has spoken of unity but nobody has managed to eradicate any of these social evils. Look at Germany, look at Hong Kong and look at other developed nations, while we were busy doing our politics and busy fighting, they were growing, they were celebrating freedom and continued to safe guard it.
अद्य भावय सुदिनम्! जीवभूतः काल एषः । प्राणस्य प्राणः । अस्मिन् स्वल्पकाले सत्यमये तव सतः सत्यं तिष्ठति विकासानन्देन कर्मश्रिया सौन्दर्यशोभया । ह्यस्तु स्वप्नः । श्वस्तु आभासः । कर्मकुशलतया आचरिते अद्य गतदिनानि आनन्दस्वप्नमयानि भवन्ति । भाविदिनानि आशाप्रभया ज्वलन्ति । अतः सुदिनं अद्य सम्यक् भावय! एषा उषाभिवन्दना!
(Look to this day, for it is life, the very breath of life. In its brief course lie all the realities of your existence; the bliss of growth, the glory of action, the splendor of beauty. For yesterday is only a dream, and tomorrow is but a vision. But today, well lived, makes every yesterday a dream of happiness, and every tomorrow a vision of hope. Look well, therefore, to this day)