ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Threescore and Ten

Do we today celebrate our independence, or mourn all the lost opportunities?

The flame of hope lighted at the midnight hour of 15 August 1947 is today dimmed. Our first Prime Minister, Jawaharlal Nehru, called independence our collective “tryst with destiny;” the chairman of the Constitution drafting committee, B R Ambedkar, warned the young republic of its “life of contradictions” where it guaranteed political equality while denying the most basic social and economic rights to its citizens. Mahatma Gandhi walked in Noakhali and, perhaps characteristically prescient, used the language of the communists: “Yeh aazadi jhooti hai”!

This ambivalence, and the accompanying debate about whether our independence is real or illusionary, has remained a constant companion over the past 70 years. There is much to celebrate. We have remained a democracy and it can well be argued that millions of people today are far more empowered about taking decisions about their lives and livelihoods than they were 70 years ago. It is equally a banality of daily life that Dalits die cleaning sewers, women are attacked and Muslims lynched on the streets. We have managed to build and run institutions that have excelled, whether it is the Election Commission or the Indian Space Research Organisation, while we have also hollowed out many institutions that are foundational to the health of our republic. We have not only managed to avoid some of the worst excesses of religious violence and discrimination that postcolonial nations have faced, but have also preserved our plurality and tolerance; and yet, we have elected governments which work to destroy secularism as state policy and encourage majoritarian violence.

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Updated On : 24th Aug, 2017

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