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Ask If We’re Really Free This Independence Day

A free, liberal and progressive society is not fearful of exercising its freedom, or expressing its opinion, or questioning the dispensation.

As we, in India, prepare to celebrate our 72nd Independence Day, it is worth looking at how far we have reached since the British left us.

To use a Physics analogy – the concept of time is an interesting one. The Big Bang Theory explains how universe and time began with a bang and has been moving in one direction since. The theory also establishes that time moves in the direction of increase of entropy. The latter statement holds true if we consider August 15, 1947 to be India’s big bang moment. With the passing of time since that historical day, the entropy or disorder in India has increased. So much so that in 71 years we are facing a crisis for the second time, where the very foundation of our democracy is at stake. India today without a doubt is listing towards regression and religious fundamentalism resulting in a constitutional crisis.

How did we reach here in spite of starting with the right blueprint – that of a modern, scientific, liberal and an inclusive democracy? In today’s India, regression in the social values is the new cool. The sanctity of the social fabric stands shredded. Words like secularism, liberalism, intellectualism and inclusiveness are abhorred and people who believe in them are trolled, abused, and are even attacked physically, or murdered. It makes one wonder what freedom are we really celebrating. The burning of the copy of the Constitution by some men in the heart of the capital city just a few days before Independence Day is certainly reason enough to question this independence.

No, we are not free! That is the subtext.

A free, liberal and progressive society is not fearful of exercising its freedom, or expressing its opinion, or questioning the dispensation. A free society values education and celebrates its intellectuals. A free, modern society gets rid of the age-old shackles that have existed under the garb of culture using scientific temper and rational arguments. In today’s India, it’s fair to say that none of the above is happening. On the contrary, resistance to all these liberties is being strengthened and normalised and is being practiced with impunity. So, where did we go wrong?

While India remains largely a third world country, she does have a substantial population that had access to higher education, thanks to its reputed institutes such as IITs, AIIMS, and IIMs and other universities. Contrary to what the present dispensation wants us to believe, 70 years did give India these top class institutes.

However, India missed a trick when it did not focus as much on the quality of middle and senior school humanities education.

During my time in school, everybody just wanted to focus on engineering or medical colleges. Engineering and medicine were considered to be lucrative professions that would allow the family to climb the social ladder. No emphasis was given to humanities. So much so that humanities were never a choice but considered a last resort. As a result, we have a population of engineers, doctors and management consultants who have no education in humanities and bear a scant regard for it.

Essentially we’re a population with a superiority complex because of a degree, which allows one to be arrogant and opinionated, but lack in empathy. This is the lot that speaks vociferously about the model of development, which is hollow and devoid of any compassion. They have no understanding of the value of ideas like justice, inclusivity, secularism, democracy and free speech. That’s why today students of humanities in one of the most prestigious universities are hounded for wasting taxpayer’s money, branded “anti-national”, charged with sedition, thrown in jail, and even attacked. For this educated mob, democracy and its pillars are a hindrance in progress and burning of Constitution is freedom of speech.

The importance of technical education cannot be denied, what India needs today, more than ever, is empathy towards fellow Indians. We used to laugh at each other, with each other. We used to feel proud of our unity in diversity. Let’s try and rediscover that laugh and that pride. Let’s find our lost India.

Sanjay Rajoura is a stand-up artist.


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