By Dr Jyotsna Bhattacharjee
India became free from British domination 70 years back, that is on the 15th August, 1947. The country had gone through immense suffering and lots of sacrifices before finally winning freedom. The memorable event occurred due to colossal contribution and scarifies of great and noble leaders like Mahatma Gandhi, Pandit Nehru, Sardar Patel, Lokmanya Tilak, Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose, to name only a few. The contributions made by the common people were also significant. In our own state also quite a number of people sacrificed their lives for the sake of freedom. But as we see today, our imperial masters left Indians to dislike their own glorious tradition. The situation now is that we are neither genuine Indians nor non–Indians and it has become our second nature to imitate the western people and to accept their customs as our own, and also to abandon our own culture as antiquated. Hence now we have no ground to stand upon firmly.
Those forgotten great leaders of the earlier era paid a heavy price for freedom. They suffered untold misery and some of them died. And we are enjoying the fruits of their sacrifices and sufferings, without being the least grateful to those noble leaders. We remember the Father of the Nation, Mahatma Gandhi, occasionally, that is, on his birth and death anniversary. Perhaps politicians remember him at election times for strengthening their vote banks. Actually independence does not mean a thing to us. It has become a routine affair for VVIPs to hoist the national flag in presence of a handful of dignitaries under heavy security cover. They deliver rehearsed speeches regarding their imaginary achievements and make hollow promises. Common people seem to be entirely indifferent to these Independence Day celebrations. For them it is just a paid holiday to watch television programmes or to go to the zoo with children or to enjoy the day by doing something else. They are disillusioned and are totally fed up with these hollow festivities and are no longer interested in meaningless rehearsed speeches, delivered by the leaders. They are disgusted with the deteriorating situation in the country and are fed up with the lies thrown around like confetti by our distinguished leaders.
I remember the euphoria of the people across the country on that first day of independence. The residents came out of their homes at midnight, when India won independence. Processions were taken out, sweets were distributed and old and young sang and danced in gay abandon. Even strangers were hugged excitedly by the frenzied crowd. There was no division amongst the happy people, they all belonged to one nation. Expectations were high and so were the dreams of the people.
But within a few years after independence our dreams were shattered to smithereens. Naturally those of us, who witnessed the first day of independence, feel cheated and are disillusioned. We do feel that the things were much better in the pre-independence era, when there was no violence, no corruption and no hypocrisy. People could move around freely even at night without fear. There was no fear of hijacking of planes, abduction or unnecessary killing of innocent people. Prices of essential things were reasonable and there was no adulteration. Today we are totally frustrated, as we were hoping for a “Ramrajya” after attaining freedom, as the Mahatma had envisaged.
Unfortunately India was divided on the basis of religion, and the country witnessed wide spread communal violence and hatred as never before. Friends turned into foes and there was bloodbath with people getting killed due to hatred and violence. The harmony amongst the different sections of the people in the pre- independent India was lost forever. The Mahatma was very sad at the turn of events. He preached and practised non – violence, he strove for unity amongst various sections of people and for peace in the country. But what he saw all around was hatred and he himself fell down to assassin’s bullet. That was perhaps the beginning and now India has been torn asunder by violence and hatred. Mahatma’s non–violent India has turned into a hotbed of violence, intrigue and hatred. What a sad end to his vision!
It is true that in technology and industrial sector India has made outstanding development after independence. None can deny the tremendous progress the country has made in all spheres. During the British regime we had only a small number of educated people. But now people have become aware of the value and importance of education and more and more children have been going to school. At present the country has a large number of educated people excelling in diverse sections. But we are also exporting many talented persons, who are giving wonderful service in foreign lands. In the process we have lost thousands versatile persons who could have done lots of good for the country. They are reluctant to come back as they believe that they would not get the facilities here which they are enjoying in their adopted country.
India does not lack in talents or resources. The country has vast area of fertile land, wonderful industries and sufficient raw materials. With all these resources in hand, we have ample opportunity to grow into a prosperous nation. The country has produced enough food, has sufficient natural resources, enough scientific and technical knowledge – perhaps more than our expectations. India is one of the most developing countries in the world, posing a challenge even to superpowers. But all this progress has not been able to give us happiness. Most of the people are poor and they are suffering a lot. Even babies are getting sold due to poverty and there does not seem to be even a ray of hope for these unfortunate people. Our experts have not been able to resist natural calamities like floods, earthquakes etc. Every year many people die due to these natural disasters. It may be that even experts are powerless against natural forces.
They are natural evils and human beings have no control over them. But there are also man-made evils which can be checked. The country is reeling under corruption. In our country money speaks louder than words. You cannot expect the smallest service, which is your due, in some of these departments unless you are prepared to grease the oily palm of these officials with your hard-earned money. Decades back, in the pre-independence era, we never heard of such large-scale corruption.
Terrorism has spread like an infectious disease throughout the country, and Assam probably is one of the worst sufferers. The situation is such that you can not be sure if you would be back home in the evening from your office. We are afraid to open the door to answer the bell. We cannot go to the cinema or to the market with a mind free from qualms. Bus journey is also not safe for us, nor is train or air travel. We do not know how to protect ourselves from violence. Shooting, stabbing, abduction, extortion, rape etc. have become the order of the day.
Our social life is a mess and we have no fellow-feeling. We do not meet our friends or relatives, as we are bogged down by worries and fear. Whatever relaxation is needed we get from television. Adults and little children remain glued to the TV sets without bothering if some of those programmes are worth watching or if the children could be adversely affected by them. We are revelling in the wonderful gifts of science. Seemingly we have got everything required for a comfortable life style. But we are not really happy. We have forgotten the meaning of freedom and that is the greatest tragedy of our life.
Some people, especially those from the pre-independence era, say that liberty has become a liability for us. What has it given us? It has given us merely moral decadence, violence, unhappiness and price rise. But that is not really the fault of liberty, rather we should take the blame for all the sufferings, which are man-made. We have not realized that to preserve liberty in good order we have to make some unified efforts. Freedom without responsibility is disastrous. India was famed for spiritualism in the past. Renunciation was the idea of ancient India and it is also the need of the modern India. Helping others around us will bring peace and happiness. Spiritual discipline has become a necessity. The young people have to be trained in morality, truthfulness, honesty and spirit of service, so that they can lead the country in the right way. Then only India will be a truly progressive country.
(The writer is a former Head, Department of Philosophy, Cotton College, Guwahati)