Happy Independence Day. Why day? Why happy? Most importantly why the Independence?
First and foremost, why must we celebrate an Independence DAY? Surely the massive struggle for Independence was not achieved in so insignificant and insulting a time as a day. It was a gut wrenchingly slow and dragging battle for which thousands of souls over far too many generations fought and died. It began from the first feelings of unrest among those suffering under the yoke of colonial oppression and continued till the last of the colonial overlords, wearied to the bone, finally took his leave of the land that had been to him successively a trading haven, a conquest, a property and a home.
Even if we do, in the impatience of contemporary life, choose to allot a mere day to acknowledge this monumental episode of our past, how can the complex emotions triggered by its memory be labeled by that grossly simplistic umbrella emotion: happy? It was a hard won independence, resulting as the result of a long drawn struggle, a world war, mutinies, marches and the silent protest of a nation wanting to exist. It inspired an utter cacophony of emotions. Feelings of relief, euphoria, thankfulness, bliss, bittersweet triumph and pure epiphany all swelled up when the realization dawned that this land was finally solidly ours. At the same time the joy was drenched in the sickening memories of partition, of violence which tore a country apart and the irreversible damage it wreaked. Will any amount of relief drown out the horror necessarily attached to the same historic incident? Surely the drowning cannot be so complete as to even leave behind an overall feeling of ‘happiness’ in its wake…
Finally, to tackle the issue of Independence: Why use such an uncompromising psychologically and socially relevant term to describe a historical victory? Our freedom from colonial rule was certainly a magnificent triumph leading to the re-assertion of our identity. However our country existed far before the British ever came seeking us. We have in turn been conquered and ruled by many invaders; most of whom got assimilated and became us while some were thrown back. Did we celebrate as Independence each little skirmish that led to an oppressive tribal chief, city chieftain or even king being ousted from power? However those fights won freedom too, highly valued by the victims in each case. Even today the struggle for independence is far from over. Whether it is a corrupt government, a negligent minister, an unfair law or even a tyrannical teacher, there will always be people trying to overpower us and deny us our rights. The fight against these oppressors can never cease as indeed our quest for finding new ways of defining and achieving freedom can never end.
Independence is a state of mind. It cannot be brought about unless every citizen truly feels free in our country. Perhaps when India can satisfactorily fulfill the needs of every person calling it home, protecting them and nurturing them, it will achieve that which is closest to ‘Independence with a capital I’- the selfsame one we so presumptuously celebrate each year.
However until that utopian ideal is achieved, let us be content with hoping that each one of us shall appreciate and acknowledge the multiple facets of one great historical achievement of our country, not an Independence but a more temporal albeit equally creditable struggle for freedom.
Here’s to a great victory!