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Emancipation from the bondage of the soil is no freedom to the tree.
~ Rabindranath Tagore

I got up today with an unbearable heaviness in the pit of my stomach. Every effort to shake that feeling of sadness off my being proved futile. Wasn’t I supposed to be happy today and partake in festivities? Wear tricolor attire, eat tricolor food? Hoist the tricolor and feel proud to be an Indian?  It was, after all 15th of August, the independence day of my country.

My county that on days like this is epitomized as the “sone ki chidiya” (golden bird) and people talk about the utopian secularism where a temple and a mosque co-exist in harmony. The day that is characterized by glorification of even the imperceptible of things that exist in this country. Things which, if such days weren’t there would not even be remembered. It is as if the whole nation gets up from its deep slumber into a zone of high activity. Patriotic songs, traditional dances, eulogizing the martyrs and ofcourse tri-colourig everything is what independence day has come down to.   

 This bi annual (the other day being 26th January) euphoria about being an Indian is something that perturbs me a lot.  We talk of secularism on August the 15th as if it’s a sweetmeat being given to children to make them happy. Happy enough to forget the pain the mighty blow has caused them. Hindus versus the rest of religious communities; Dalits versus the non Dalits; Tribal versus the “civilized”, we have made countless classifications. Each of this classifications is neatly placed in a hierarchical compartmentalized box. This box is so ingrained in our minds that we do not even realize when we start practicing it ourselves.  The gulf between the us and them is so wide that I apprehend that it’ll take a long time for the “We” to emerge from this polarization of “us” and “them”.

“Mother “is the word that we Indians use to describe our county.  With immense pride we rattle off the names of a handful of women whom we have placed on a pedestal of immortality. Women who certify India’s status as a nation believing in gender equality. The reality is far from the rose tinted portrayal that is shown to the world.  A woman is raped every 30 mins in this country. The abysmal sex ratio (943 women per 1000 men) and even more alarming child sex ratio (927 girl children per 1000 boy children) is enough to shake your faith on the claims of  women being  worshipped in Indian culture. We are a nation where the sex ratio is the most skewed in the poshest of places and highest among people who are considered “primitive” and “uncivilized”. The educated, the suave, the upwardly mobile population  of South Delhi has a sex ratio and child sex ratio at 799 and 888 respectively, both much below the national average. The so called “uncivilized” tribal population, despite being rendered landless with little or no education has a sex ratio of 990 with an equally impressive figure of 957 for child sex ratio.

Sure we stand united as a country, strictly on occasions only. More often than not that occasion is a not a happy one (barring when the men in blue are on the field).  We need a death or an equally serious event to jolt us out of our comfort zones and empathize with a fellow being or a compatriot. We need a tragedy to strike to break that cocoon we have so assiduously woven around us to keep us safe and insulated.  The unity that we exhibit is only temporarily though. It disappears as the effects of the tragedy either wears off or yet another issue comes up that merits out attention to our parochial divisions of caste and religion. The demise of Dr. APJ Abdul Kalam showed that we are capable of grieving together as a nation. The same nation however had turned every possible media outlet into a battle ground to discredit each other when the dreaded terrorist Yakub Memon was accorded the death penalty.  There was a parallel debate that was going on apart from the death penalty versus life imprisonment. The parallel debate being the association of his religious identity as a Muslim and the ‘alacrity’ shown by the Supreme Court towards his irrevocable punishment. He was meted out the severest punishment existing under any legal system of a county because of the barbarity of his crime not because he belonged to a specific religious group.

   There are days I feel as if I am living in a junk bin where I have been piled up with so much refuse that the mere act of survival becomes a big question mark. To be alive with dignity remains no more a right but a privilege. Sixty nine years of freedom and we are still not ready to translate the constitutional right of equality in our behaviors. Sixty nine years of freedom and we are still gathering courage to break free of the shackles that enchain us.The freedom to be who we want to be without any fear ; the freedom to walk on the streets in the dead of the night with no trepidation; freedom to give love and receive it without my sexual orientation being rediculed.  We have made Gandhi sigh unnumbered times that he must have stopped keeping a ledger every time his dream was shattered.

 The tricolor has been unfurled, the national anthem sung and the customary speech about the greatness of our nation given.  It’s not the end of the independence day, it’s merely a beginning because independence is not just celebrated, it is practiced. 


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