Why The Founding Forefathers Of India Would Have Been Sad This Independence Day
Pandit Nehru, Babasaheb Ambedkar, Mahatma Gandhi, Sardar Vallabhai Patel symbolise the struggles of every patriotic Indian.
“The service of India means the service of the millions who suffer. It means the ending of poverty and ignorance and disease and inequality of opportunity. The ambition of the greatest man of our generation has been to wipe every tear from every eye. That may be beyond us, but as long as there are tears and suffering, so long our work will not be over. And so we have to labour and to work, and work hard, to give reality to our dreams. Those dreams are for India, but they are also for the world, for all the nations and peoples are too closely knit together today for any one of them to imagine that it can live apart. Peace has been said to be indivisible; so is freedom, so is prosperity now, and so also is disaster in this One World that can no longer be split into isolated fragments.
To the people of India, whose representatives we are, we make an appeal to join us with faith and confidence in this great adventure. This is no time for petty and destructive criticism, no time for ill-will or blaming others. We have to build the noble mansion of free India where all her children may dwell.”
We, as a nation, remember the opening lines of Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru’s historic speech made on the eve of India’s Independence in 1947, what we forget, however, are our words of commitment and responsibility we made to this nation. The very founding principles of this great nation have been summed up not once, but several times by India’s first Prime Minister.
As the country completes 71 years of its hard fought independence, Indians need to be reminded of our founding principles. We, as a nation, have collectively faced and recovered from various decisions that concerned our economy, our relationship with the world beyond our boundaries, our handling of situations internally, however, what we can never recover from, if we don’t fight hard enough, is the destruction of the very ethos that our nation stands for and has believed in. It predates our tryst with destiny on August 15, 1947.
What does India stand for? Manmohan Singh had aptly stated it in one of his speech: “Our civilisation has had a message for the world that of ‘unity in diversity’, of pluralism, inclusiveness and secularism. The idea of Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam — The whole world is one family. Our nationalism was not based on narrow chauvinism or aggressive jingoism. At the time of our independence, the world had just rid itself of one manifestation of such negative nationalism, when it defeated fascism. Our nationalism was elevated by larger universal principles as well as an abiding commitment to the wellbeing of our people. That is precisely why it was an enlightened nationalism.”
Why is it most important to reiterate this now? Because there’s an atmosphere of hate, negativity and narrow mindedness that prevails over ever narrative today. It is important to speak of it when India’s fourth pillar of democracy – the media – is hounded to submission because it dares to show the mirror of truth to power.
When I recently came across the news about a cartoonist being asked to toe the line and his refusal to submit to these demands, which led to his sacking, I am reminded of Panditji’s “Don’t spare me, Shankar” line.
Today when journalists are thrown out of their jobs for refusing to bend or crawl, I, more than ever before, value my country’s founding fathers’ true visionary policies when they set out to draft India’s Constitution. If this narrow mindedness prevailed then we wouldn’t even know today what freedom truly means. When criticism is clamped down and frowned upon, I am reminded of the anonymous letter then published in The Modern Review Calcutta in 1937, which was later found to be written by Nehru as a reminder to himself, “We Want No Caesars” – “He calls himself a democrat and a socialist… but a little twist and he might turn into a dictator… His conceit is already formidable. It must be checked.”
We have come a long way since then!
When one sees how the current government in its petty mindedness has morphed pictures, planted fake stories, edited Wiki pages, and made several attempts to obliterate India’s first Prime Minister’s name from history textbooks, we must remind ourselves that it is not the person they are attacking, but his liberal, progressive and inclusive ideas for the nation. This is their source of anger and hate. The idea is not just his, but belongs to India, a country that has culturally espoused this cause. Nehru only furthered it, by making it a part of the young nation’s ethos and culture through its Constitution.
Gandhiji on August 15, 1947, was on a hunger strike to bring peace in areas where violent clashes broke out in Calcutta due to Partition. Sardar Patel assured and ensured the safety of those who migrated to India from Pakistan. Nehru tirelessly worked towards calming the nation and healing its wounds.
That has been the ethos of India. To not segregate on basis of religion, caste, creed, ethnicity. It was divide and rule by the Britishers then, it is divide and rule by the ruling dispensation now.
Pandit Nehru, Babasaheb Ambedkar, Mahatma Gandhi, Sardar Vallabhai Patel symbolise the struggles of every patriotic Indian who fought for India’s Independence and the sacrifices made by every Indian to fight against the British. They embody the true spirit of what India stands for. Every petty attempt made by BJP to change will be met with resistance. Let this resistance be our resolution this Independence Day.
“Do not go gentle into that good night
Rage, rage against the dying of the light”
Priyanka Chaturvedi is a spokesperson of Indian National Congress.