Freedom came at midnight and we welcomed it with an overwhelming sense of emotion. An era of torture was over, we were home now, and our oppressors were finally leaving. It was everything India ever wanted.
It is our 69th Independence Day. Most people across the country wake up early, wear one of the tri colours (or all of them) and go to schools, offices or society gatherings and salute the national flag, towering over them.
What then? What happens afterwards?
The moment of national pride is soon over and everyone goes back to what they really were – not free, not independent.
A country can only be independent or free if there is social independence. Sure, we have laws in practice which guarantee education of kids through schools and other institutions, which make it possible for them to learn things beyond science and mathematics.
But how can we talk about freedom if we slap or scold the child when (s)he tries to voice his/her opinion? The country gives you freedom of speech, but no one mentions the consequences of talking freely.
Talking about social issues like poverty, population explosion, rape, unemployment and child labour is taboo these days. When people see a 5-year-old serving tea to them, they do not raise eyebrows. If we see a beggar with a couple of kids who look like they are on the brink of starvation induced death, we avert our eyes and do not give it a second thought.
That is the core issue here – we have the freedom to look away, but we do not have the freedom to think.
The definition of independence, of the freedom, which we welcomed home 69 years ago has remained the same. We have changed, the country has changed, but the way we define freedom has not.
Even today, we expect women to stay in the kitchen. The argument about how feminism is taking over the country is invalid, because very few people are aware of what it actually means.
The country will not be free or independent until a person belonging to any religion can love, marry or worship the God of any religion they want, or not worship God at all. What freedom are we proud of when it has been 12 years to the day we cut each other up, based on religion? Those scars show how freedom has resulted in hatred, not in love.
India is not free if the country is led by people who sleep at work, who manipulate people to vote for them and if that doesn’t work, they influence the voting booths. The transparency, the country that was ‘of the people, for the people, by the people’, no longer looks like one.
How can we be free if we go against love? Whether it be the practise moral policing or honour killings, it is reflective of the society’s ‘holier than thou’ attitude. There are arrests happening because the police think of some behaviour as immoral. These are the same police officers, who do not hesitate to rape a gay man.
This brings us to the biggest irony in the context of Indian independence – homosexuality. The country refuses to recognise a part of its population simply based on their sexual orientation. They see them as people who have some sort of a disease; they beat them in the name of ‘discipline’.
When will we learn that what people do in their own personal life will not make a difference to us? When will we understand that before we scream ‘freedom’ from the rooftops, we must learn to mind our own business and to not appoint ourselves as the moral police?
India is a free country, you say, but what about the time when a citizen had everything they needed to get a loan from the bank, but could not get one till they paid something under the table? How exactly is corruption, freedom?
We take a lot of pride in saying Atithi Devo Bhava, but do not hesitate masturbating at women who travel from other countries to see the culture and beauty of India. We are not free till everyone feels at home in India. At one point in time, the country was known for its hospitality. Let’s ask ourselves, are we those people anymore?
So if you think about it, are we really free?
Will people stop wanting a male child from today and stop killing female foetuses? Will women stop being afraid to live in the country’s capital? Will the beggars on the street stop drugging children? Will we forget religion, gender, caste, and race and accept each other as we are? Will we let everyone around us take decisions on their own? Will we accept every person for who they are and try not to make them into a replica of our own? Will we raise our voices against corrupt politicians, against injustice, without the fear of punishment? Will we not think before falling in love?
The question we all need to ask ourselves is – do we really want this freedom?
Or is it more comfortable to let this pandemonium go on?
If we do want it, what are we doing with it?
This Independence day, instead of resuming our lives the next day, let us think of what freedom and independence actually mean to us and let us wonder about the shackles that bind us tight.
Let us break free.