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PASSAGE TO LIBERTY

Let us salute the people of India on this very special day. India fought hard — through satyagraha, non-violent agitation, dialogue and debate — to become free from colonial domination. The movement was led by Mahatma Gandhi in which thousands of men and women had participated across India. They had set the standards and lived and worked relentlessly on that broad but deliberate moral ground. Those stated parameters should have been the obvious formula for this young State which is struggling with an unnatural and forced division of its body politic. The impatient politicians are leading the movement against the State, compelling what could well have been a seamless transition to freedom and liberty, into an ill-fitted straitjacket that does not pay attention to the cultural truths and philosophical realities of the Indian people.

We were restrained by a set of ‘words’ that were to determine our new ‘foundation’ upon which we were expected to build and grow. The strong, tried and tested formulae that had been intrinsic to this civilization were discarded. It could have been the base on which modernity and the new tools of good self-governance could be added. Communities were placed in categories rather than learning to respect diversity, as they had done through the millennia, in spite of the aggravation caused by differences. Traditionally we did not use the word ‘secular’ but the people of India lived within a secular frame. With the introduction of rigid compartments in which our professional and private lives were structured, a profound unease began to grow because this new imposition was alien to the inherent culture of this sub-continent.

Blurred lines

The lines have always been consciously blurred to enable us as a civilization to interpret the negative as well as positive interventions in the past with an in-built humane compassion which encouraged business, discourse, analysis and engagement. This national trait, along with the ability to absorb the good and discard the unnatural and the incongruous, has been our strength over centuries. It is now being rudely assaulted by judgmental and polarized ideas of ‘right’ or ‘wrong’, with no place for grey areas.

More than six-and-a-half decades down the road, an Independent India has not been able to liberate her people from the bondage of gross misgovernance laced with an abject disrespect for the culture of this State. There is no excuse for this failure of governance. In contrast, the art of corruption has been mastered by the administrative and political class with much success. These are two ends of the same spectrum. To liberate and free India from the yolk of corruption, much like colonial domination, the country must ensure the corrective is initiated top-down and not the other way around. Leaders have to work for the cause and cease to protect their kin and kith and their friends and comrades-in-arms. The overall cleansing of the rulers of India has to be voluntary.

Thereafter, the list is long. We must liberate ourselves from a third-rate education system that kills the quest for knowledge, free ourselves from disease and malnutrition, not tolerate corrupt municipalities and governments that shirk their responsibilities and allow the public space to become a garbage dump, women must be freed from their bondage and should be given equal status to that of men in the workplace and people should be freed from fear. Innovation and experimentation must be the mantra of this rashtra. “Where the mind is without fear....” — these great lines by Rabindranath Tagore, should be made the additional national anthem to remind us of the path towards true liberation.