Writing for essay competitions, speaking for elocution, dancing on nationalistic fervour-filled songs on the eve of Republic Day celebrations was part and parcel of growing up. It was an exciting moment then, am sure it is an exciting moment for the kids growing up today.
It is seventy years now, our beautiful country was always about unity in diversity or “anekta mein ekta.” A red-letter day in Indian history as the Constitution came into force making India into a fully independent republic.
While I was growing up, my parents were quite unhappy with the fact that we were not asked by the school authorities to learn the Preamble by heart. It was a matter of pride from the people of my parents’ generation to recite the Preamble whenever asked to.
Today, I see people and student leaders reciting the Preamble while having it printed on an A4 size paper and reading out loud to a bunch of protestors in India or abroad. While people of my generation have access to much better educational facilities, then how come reciting the Preamble without Googling is such a difficult task?
I hail from Assam and having grown up in a fairly cosmopolitan environment, I say this with conviction that I am proud to have more non-Assamese friends than my fellow Assamese friends. It makes things beautiful as to how much of a heterogeneous society one can belong to. It also brings up the topics of discrimination and why it is needed to be addressed irrespective of caste, language, race or religion. Above all, it teaches empathy and acceptance.
The ritual of every R-Day would be to get up and switch on Doordarshan for the live telecast of the celebrations from Rajpath. Starting from the Amar Jyoti Jawan, receiving the chief guest for the event, seeing the parades, the passing of the tableaux of different states and having a discussion as to how previous year’s tableaux looked better than the current year, the bike show and the air show all got me glued to the TV screen.
It was always a dream to watch it live in Delhi. I did land an opportunity to watch the 2018 Republic Day celebrations at India Gate from close quarters, despite reaching a few minutes late to almost not getting allowed to go inside because of the huge crowd that was getting impossible to accommodate. It was the year when India did not have just one guest but ten guests owing to the developments in the India-ASEAN relations.
For all those who have not witnessed this live from the capital, trust me it is an exhilarating experience and will make you proud as an Indian, no matter which far off corner of the country you come from!
Over the past few years, India’s image has been declining on various indicators, be it on the parameters to judge freedom of speech and expression, HDI, safety, unemployment, democracy, etc. This is happening despite the fact that our country is aiming high to becoming a superpower. One becomes a superpower only if a country believes and respects its human resources!
People are now out on the streets for all the right reasons, i.e. for defending the democratic and constitutional values but are equally getting polarised with varied opinions. Protests are happening in almost every state now since the CAA, despite internet and communication blockades. I was a victim of internet ban for ten days straight when the protests were at its peak when it was still CAB and not CAA.
Students who are protesting are getting bashed up mercilessly for speaking up their minds, for resisting fee hikes. This not only kills the spirit of the people but it kills the very soul of the nation. But these students are adamant to face draconian regimes with the very hope that peace will prevail, and that the poorest of the poor have access to education, jobs and health care facilities.
Women who have been always within four corners, who have been victims of patriarchy all these years are today out in the biting cold, sitting for more than forty days straight, feeding their babies while protesting and wearing the bindi and the hijab to protect their idea of India. Will you come across such diversity ever in any other country?
Whereas in the far-flung areas of the northeast, women have come out in their traditional attire raising slogans in their mother tongue; fearless and leading it from the front despite being tagged “half-naked” by some newspapers who want to shove down their linguistic chauvinism upon indigenous tribes. Women from the NE are not getting covered as much as the women from the capital.
As the world is changing, as our societies are changing and wishes to become less rigid, my idea of India should also be able to speak up for the marginalised communities who are economically and socially backwards and whose numbers are still very large even today after more than 70 years of standing tall and independent.
It should be able to speak up for the rights of the LGBTQ+ community who must greater access to every dream they want to pursue, access to feel included, access to speak up their minds against oppression. My idea of India should be able to make citizens more aware of climate change and address it from their home fronts as it demands behavioural change.
My idea of India should be able to wake up people from their slumber and resist people like President Jair Bolsonaro who has a major role to play in the Amazon fires and making absolutely racist remarks on the indigenous tribes of Brazil, from being invited on R-Day celebrations in the future!
As we step into the 71st year, let us pledge to now remember the Preamble of the Constitution to uphold humanitarian values and to accommodate the varied ideas of “my idea of India.”