My mother told me she was at Queen Mary’s college in then Madras as a student on August 15, 1947. Her face was lighted up. I could only get a glimpse of the joy she felt. Three days of holidays, no tickets on buses. People pouring out on the streets, celebrating. Not only in Madras but all over the country. Oh! it was bliss to be alive and very heaven to be young, as the poet Shelley said. Never again in a Nation’s life.
That day we experienced Independence and freedom. Today we are an Independent nation. Are we free? A high security alert is sent Nationwide before August 15th and January 26th. Long, long queues at all airports. Small kids falling asleep on stationary luggage carts in long queues. Old people looking perplexed tired and harassed. Smart uniformed security personnel trying to be efficient. Asking people to raise their hands and walk. Baggage sometimes frisked twice. Passengers also frisked twice. Hours wasted by each person. Lost National time at Airports alone running into lakhs of hours. Checks on roads and highways all over the country. Curfew imposed in newer and newer districts of this free country before Republic Day. Freedom, freedom heard everywhere, nor any free soul to see – to paraphrase another poet, Coleridge.
Meanwhile, Parliament has 43% MPs with criminal cases. Many enjoy VIP status and are insulated from long queues. They decide that there is a security threat and curb the freedom of the people on the days when we used to celebrate freedom. January 26th is now perceived as a high alert day to justify curbs on freedom. No freedom of views. Only abuse, vilification and personal attacks on social media. If you don’t agree you are a traitor and should be sent to the neighbouring country. Abused sometimes by the same group of people that has 43% with criminal cases.
Do other countries face security threats? Yes, they do. The US saw its main seat of political power, the Pentagon attacked. Their financial heart, the Twin Towers blown up. Could not have been worse. But do they subject the citizens to such curbs on freedom? Do they police the people on their Independence Day? Do they have 43% people elected with criminal records? Do such people get VIP treatment? Do they stop citizens driving on the streets?
We are tolerant and passive, peace loving people. The world looks up to us for spiritual solace. But now they criticize us.
As a great and free Nation, we need to be secure enough to ignore criticism if it is unwarranted and correct ourselves if it is true. The might of non-Democratic China bowed before a handful of protesters in Hong Kong. Did the Government lose face or enhance its image? Only power that is secure can do that. Nervous power starts hitting back at criticism, little realizing the damage they do to themselves. An elephant ignores barking dogs as an Indian saint famously said.
The Indian cricket team at present is a fine example of self-respect and mutual respect among teammates. The world respects them. As a nation, we too will become great again when we respect ourselves and each other. Above all, do we respect our freedom that so many gave their lives for before 1947? Do we respect each other’s freedom?
Ae mere watan ke logon,
Jara aankh mein bhar lo Pani
Jo shaheed hue hain unki,
Jara yaad karo kurbani.