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Challenging the Metanarrative Of Indian Independence Struggle.

A historian ought to be exact, sincere and impartial; free from passion, unbiased by interest, fear, resentment or affection; and faithful to the truth, which is the mother of history the preserver of great actions, the enemy of oblivion, the witness of the past, the director of the future, says Ambedkar.

The function of historian is neither to love the past, nor to condemn the past, nor to be free from the past, but to master the past in order to understand its bearing on the present. Therefore, let us re-look into the significance of 15th August 1947 for our country and its citizens. And also what we as Indians technically achieved on our most celebrated and glorified National holiday.

What India got on 15th August 1947?

  • What is a Dominion? Dominion means colonial self-Government.
  • Was the Total independence achieved from the British rule?

The late 19th century till the mid of twentieth century is very crucial in the evolution of Republic of India, as it stands today. This period marks the rise of political conscious and ambitious Indian nationalism. This is the period when the Indians started voicing out their political demands to the British Government. The politics of this time is described by the nationalist historiography as India’s Independence Struggle. This description is hitherto not challenged. Nationalists will not challenge this description is natural and can be easily understood. The Hindutva ideology also does not counter this description and in fact makes an attempt to locate itself within this framework in order to picture themselves and their leaders as ‘freedom fighters’ as it serves their task of Hindu Nationalism. The Ambedkarite Movement, the leftist Marxist movement, the Kanshiram pioneered Bahujan movement seems to disagree with this nationalist description though it cannot be in anyway regarded as countering the fundamental basis of the description and hence cannot be regarded as a challenge to the nationalist description. Their objection is mainly to the title of ‘Freedom Struggle’ and they want to merely describe it as ‘Transfer of Power from B2B i.e. From British to the power hungry Brahmins’. They do not question the fundamental assumptions of this description namely the ‘struggle of Indians against the tyrannical British rulers’, ‘the Congress Nationalism as the only nationalism’ etc. Their complain, being merely over the title and as it does not challenge the nationalist paradigm in any way, hence not fundamental and does not have any major bearing on the nationalist historiography. Thus their disagreement in fact is no disagreement.

Dr. Ambedkar described the Indian politics of his times as having two different aspects, namely –

  1. Foreign politics i.e. Quit India or the Transfer of Power Politics and
  2. Constitutional Politics i.e. the Communal Deadlock or the struggle between the Hindu Communal Majority against the Minorities.

Below is the sequence of events that took place around 15th August 1947, technically:

  1. What India got on 15th August 1947?
  2. On 15th August 1947 India got the Dominion status under the Indian Independence Act, 1947.
  3. Dominion is defined as a British colony with a responsible local self government. This means that India was a British colony even on 15th August 1947.
  4. The below excerpt from the Constituent Assembly debates would serve as the best evidence to understand the significance of 15th August 1947:

The confusion in the Constituent assembly:

Thursday, the 14th August 1947

(2) the Constituent Assembly of India has endorsed the recommendation that Lord Mountbatten be Governor-General of India from the 15th August 1947.

and that this message be conveyed forthwith to Lord Mountbatten by the President and Pandit Jawaharlal.Nehru. (Cheers.) I take it the House approves it.

The motion was adopted.

Friday, the 15th August 1947

The wishes from many countries started pouring in to India for achieving the Dominion status. None of them mentioned  “Republic of India” but just “Dominion of India” in their wishes.

Few messages could be read as below:

Message from Dr. Soedarsono on behalf of the Republic of Indonesia:

“On the eve of the establishment of the Dominion of India it is a great pleasure to the Republic of Indonesia to express her feelings of heartfelt joy, sympathy and friendship.”

Message from the President of the United States of America:

“On this memorable occasion I extend to you, to Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru and to the people of the Dominion of India the sincere best wishes of the Government and the people, of the United.States of America. I wish to avail myself of this opportunity of extending my personal congratulations to Your Excellency on your assumption of the post of Governor-General of the Dominion of India and at the same time to convey assurance of my highest consideration.”

H.E (His Excellency), the Governor-General: Mr. President and members of the Constituent Assembly:

“From today I am your constitutional Governor-General and I would ask you to regard me as one of yourselves. I am glad to announce that "my" Government (as I am now constitutionally entitled and most proud to call them) have decided to mark this historic occasion by a generous programme of amnesty.”

 

HOISTING OF THE NATIONAL FLAG

Mr. President: His Excellency will now give the signal for hoisting the Flag.

(The sound of a gun being fired was heard).

H.E. The Governor-General: That is the signal for hoisting the flag over this roof.

Mr. President: The House now stands adjourned till 10 of the Clock on the 20th.

Honourable Members: Mahatma Gandhi ki jai.

Mahatma Gandhi ki jai.

Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru ki jai.

Lord Mountbatten ki jai.

The Assembly then adjourned till 10 of the Clock on Wednesday, the 20th August 1947.

 

  1. On 15th August 1947 what was achieved was not Independence (Swatantrya) but Home Rule (Swarajya).
  2. The Constitutional head of India was the British Crown till 26th January 1950.
  3. On 26th January 1950 after all the provisions of the Constitution were made effective, India became a Sovereign Republic and Democratic country.
  4. From 15th August 1947 to 26th January 1950 India was governed according to the provisions of amended Government of India Act, 1935.
  5. Only on 26th January 1950 all the ties with the British Crown were broken and India was politically and constitutionally free country with all the privileges related to military and foreign relation powers.
  6. Therefore, India became free and got Total Independence (Swatantrya or Purna Swarajya) only on 26th January 1950, at least in technical sense.
  7. More so because even the date of 26th January was chosen for the implementation of Constitution because on this very day in 1930, the Congress passed the resolution of “Poorna Swaraj” in Lahore.
  8. Therefore, 15th August is therefore just a Dominion Day and not the Independence Day.
  9. The below illustration explains the political entitlements and progress India achieved:

 

India before the advent of British Raj

We must remember that what we now see as "India" was originally a collection of petty rajas, and kingdoms. It's the invaders who unified the subcontinent into a country called India. So let's be truthful about the facts and teach history as it happened and notoriously though thank those invaders for the present unity and diversity we enjoy. Myths also have played a major role in India attaining independence. The political movement of the Indian National Congress which started from the demand of ‘Home Rule’ i.e. ‘Dominion Status’ and matured into the demand of ‘Total Independence’ under the pressure of extremist movements outside and within the Congress is referred as the movement of Indian Independence is a point in case. The significance of 15th August 1947 must be seen in the light of these demands. Dissenting voices, if any, are raised only in the academic intellectual circles and are deliberately confined within the closed walls of universities, academic institutions and history congress.

The ‘Secularist’ and ‘Hindu-Nationalist’ Narratives concurrent apparently contradictory but part of the Same Grand Narrative, namely which camp is more patriotic.

 Civic Nationalism (New India) and Anti-colonial Nationalism (Quit India):

Nationalism is not an end but just a means for the individuals to reach the highest stage of Human development. An Individual is an end it itself. To create the social, political conditions in the world where each individual could spread the wingspan to its maximum potential. Nationalism which reformists like Phule and Ambedkar vouched for did not just object to the external domination but also the internal oppression, i.e. their brand of Patriotism deals with both the above progresses namely, Foreign politics as well as Constitutional politics which India as a country was heading towards. Unfortunately, the glorification of 15th August as Independence day which is confined to the mere idea of Foreign politics clearly subverts the latter progress, namely, the Constitutional politics which was also moving forward in parallel with the Foreign politics. Mere celebration of the freedom struggle movement against the British rule, invokes a limited sentiment of Anti-colonial Nationalism. The period of late 19th century till the mid of twentieth century has been also remarkable in resolving the age-old feuds among Indians. The people, now citizens, were nothing but warring camps. The Hindu-Muslim issue. The caste inequalities. The princely states vs their subjects, now citizens. The Zamindars vs the landless.

This period has been instrumental in finding a safe ground plan to address innumerable such issues among Indians for a safe and sustainable democracy after the British rule would end.

Social reform must precede Political reform. Alteast the political reformists must consider Social reform as an integral part of the political reform. But the subversion of Social conference of Ranade by Tilak is the best example of the undermining of Social reform in context of Indian independence struggle. Be it through right from Montagu–Chelmsford Reforms, to the working and contribution of Indian intelligentsia in the works of various commissions, the Round table conferences that followed likewise in the making of India. And then ultimately at the remarkable and exhaustive Constituent assembly debates.

Like Anti-colonial movement, the Constitutional politics involved even more herculean task of bringing all the warring groups on board. All of these efforts involved a series of conflicts and struggle among the Indians to achieve the position of dignity in free India. The biggest example of the conflict among Indians manifested into partition and blood bath that followed soon after 15th August 1947. The constitutional politics was addressing this very problem. It was indeed talking about New India and the new order.

The significance of this period is more relevant in today’s times of continued struggle among Indians. If it is true that Political democracy cannot sustain without Social democracy, then this period of Constitutional politics must be indeed celebrated as Freedom struggle movement. It was the century of the Making of Present India. The test of patriotism therefore does not lie in participation in the Anti-colonial movement. The contribution towards the Constitutional politics is more apt in today’s times of continued struggle.

The constitutional politics plays an instrumental role in defining the present form of India as a Nation-in-the making. Therefore, at least in technical sense, India became free and got Total Independence (Swatantrya or Purna Swarajya) only on 26th January 1950.

The results of glorification of 15th August as Independence day therefore subverts the much needed Constitutional morality which is already lacking among Indians.

Like they say in New Zealand, Happy Dominion day !

 

References

[1] Swatantrata din ki Paheli - A research paper by Sumedh Ukey

[2] Constituent assembly debate proceedings.

[3] http://www.international.gc.ca/department/history-histoire/dcer/details-en.asp?intRefid=10567

[4] http://www.nzhistory.net.nz/culture/dominion-status/symposium

[5] The Modern Law Review,Volume 12, Issue 3, Article first published online: 18 JAN
[6] Conditions precedent for the successful working of democracy, Dr. Ambedkar Writings and Speeches, Vol 17 , Part THREE, page 480

[7] parliamentofindia.nic.in/ls/debates/debates.htm

Next week, we will celebrate yet another independence day. Yet another independence day with fighter planes whirring, tanks roaring, military bands playing and prime minister speaking. We celebrate this independence day with many uncertain dark clouds.

Economy

The second economic survey tabled by Ministry of Finance paints a gloomy picture on the economy and almost neglecting any numbers on employment position in India.

War

After few decades, we are, to put it lightly, in a delicate situation with China. No one knows the end game. All it takes is one man’s anger in Delhi or Beijing or one soldier’s trigger finger to what could not be but called catastrophe.

Divisive forces

What we are witnessing is a propaganda machinery being run over India. Last year I wrote on various methods of propaganda and provided examples to reconcile those methods. It has only grown further.

Surveillance

What we are also seeing is a surveillance state in the making. To crudely translate an old Tamil adage, “In overdose, even the elixir becomes poison.” This touted elixir is Aadhaar. And this has crept up from birth to death, trying to enslave us without our consent.

We cannot much do about economy and war, except to work hard, pay taxes and morally support our valiant soldiers.

But on propaganda and Aadhaar, we, as individuals, as friends, as family, as colleagues, as strangers meeting on social media, we have immense responsibilities. Responsibility to know, responsibility to question, responsibility to agree or disagree, responsibility to keep guard, stay vigilant and thus responsibility to protect our liberty.

On forces dividing us:

One important aspect of liberty is freedom of thought and expression. This expression, invariably will consist of opinions of others which we may never agree. But how do we manage these opinions? There is a long line of tradition in India where very divergent and diverse opinions were accommodated and respected. A very stark case in point. Adi Shankara, in a debate, was challenged in the art of love, by a woman. He was a saint, a celibate, a Brahmachari. But this did happen in our own country. Don’t believe me? Take a look here.

How are differences of opinions handled these days with respect anything that the government does? We can distil it down to “you vs I” theme, or “us vs them” theme.

This ‘us vs them’ theme is identity based. It asks the question ‘are you with us or against us.’ This starts with knowingly false assumptions used to manipulate our innermost identity, here the innermost identity is being a Hindu. You can see the list of propaganda techniques in this post.

This ‘us vs them’ game is called as Hindutva, a political ideology which has to be differentiated from my morning Surya Namaskar, prayer before a meal, festivals, rituals and our temple visits. It can be argued by many that these are one and the same. Don’t trust me. Few sentences will help understand what it is.

“Thus, the seeds of today’s Hindu Jagriti, awakening, were created the very instance that an invader threatened the fabric of Hindu society which was religious tolerance. The vibrancy of Hindu society was noticeable at all times in that despite such barbarism from the Islamic hordes of central Asia and Turkey, Hindus never played with the same rules that Muslims did. The communist and Muslim intelligentsia, led by Nehruvian ideologists who are never short of distorted history, have been unable to show that any Hindu ruler ever matched the cruelty of even a ‘moderate’ Muslim ruler.

It is these characteristics of Hindu society and the Muslim psyche that remain today. Hindus never lost their tolerance and willingness to change. However, Muslims, led by the Islamic clergy and Islamic society’s innate unwillingness to change, did not notice the scars that Hindus felt from the Indian past. It is admirable that Hindus never took advantage of the debt Muslims owed Hindus for their tolerance and non-vengefulness.”

Do you want to know where this is quoted from? Contact me separately.

It cunningly links Mughals of centuries ago with Muslims of today. I am sure each of us have Muslim friends and if you really think that above paragraphs are correct, pick up the phone and read it aloud and say to him or her that you believe in this. Most of us wont. Because, we don’t believe that we must hold our fellow Muslim friends responsible for an act which was committed centuries ago. So here, we take the easy route of placing the crime on some unknown, that is, ‘them.’

Alternatively, how many of our parents worked in government institutions? Do we say that they are corrupt? No. But generalise that ‘government is corrupt.’ This is another example of ‘us vs them.’ We ignore our immediate surrounding and generalise the fault on unknown ‘them.’

This hate is poisonous. It has become so poisonous that we attribute meanings only after we know the speaker or author of a particular opinion. Even in this example, if I say that I have written it, I will be called a Congi, slave and what not. If I say that this was written by my fellow Muslim friend, well, there are stereotypes for him as well, readymade and ready to fire venom. Or if I say that these are the words of disgruntled supporter of current government, there are other stereotypes for them as well. Is this not right? Have we not seen such instances?

So what this ‘us vs them’ identity based on fake whatsapp messages, fake images, fake quotes, fake testimonials, fake inventions have done is, to either use our existing prejudice or try to create that prejudice in first place.

When Amir Khan felt growing intolerance, I opposed him. I still stand by it. We, as general citizens are extremely tolerant. But this ‘us vs them’ division can co-exist with tolerance and just divides us without us knowing it and we play an unsuspecting target in this con game.

This ‘us vs them’ also sees every issue through this prism. If you have ever disagreed on policies, you would have noticed. Thus, this ‘us vs them’ scheme reduces our freedom of expression, because, it makes the dissenter think twice before what she or he wants to speak. That is not the state of liberty which our independence was supposed to mean.

So this independence day, lets not give into this ‘us vs them’ manipulation of clever propagandists. Its in our hands. No one can come into our brain and take a decision or create that prejudice if we do not allow them to.

On Aadhaar:

This was created for a specific purpose. That purpose was to check the leaks which occur in government bureaucracy and target the rightful recipients. And it was supposed to be of choice. How righteous the cause!

In 2017, this righteous cause has become mandatory. To be a citizen of India, you have to have Aadhaar. Now the immediate question that I had in my mind is, what about the tribes in Nicobar Islands? Are we going to mandate Aadhaar? Or are they not Indians? Never mind. The learned counsels of government will come up with some spin.

This unique identity, which is now mandated, was questioned in the supreme court of India. Government went ahead and said citizens do not have rights over their bodies. If we don’t have right over our bodies, then who does? At this point, we have to be very clear.

THE GOVERNMENT IS FOR US. WE ARE NOT FOR GOVERNMENT.

Why would any government go to such an extent in defence of a scheme whose benefits have been disproved time and again? There is no other answer but the foundations of a surveillance state.

An innocent question posed to us is – “what have you got to hide?” The answer to this is – by liberty, I choose to reveal what I want to reveal. That is what freedom is. Don’t confuse this with income and crime which we have to disclose by duty. There is an interesting question before our supreme court now which asks “is privacy a fundamental right?” We don’t have an answer yet. But the government states that it is not.

An example of surveillance state goes back to World War II and its aftermath. The dreaded Nazi spies and post war Soviet spying on citizens in an era of less technology must deter us from going in that direction. But we are assured. Assured that no, its not. Assured that, this is in best hands with no motive. It says, “trust us.”

It is worth remembering John Stuart Mill on this day. He wrote ‘On Liberty,’ which is a must read for any person who wishes to understand what freedom means.

“…if by momentary discouragement, or temporary panic, or a fit of enthusiasm for an individual, they can be induced to lay their liberties at the feet even of a great man, or trust him with powers which enable him to subvert their institutions; in all these cases they are more or less unfit for liberty: and though it may be for their good to have had it even for a short time, they are unlikely long to enjoy it.”

Person that we must infer here is Aadhaar. We are allowing this to subvert all our institutions. We are allowing this to spread its tentacles to all walks of life. We are allowing to surrender our liberty to this master.

By now, most of us have Aadhaar and must have linked it t our bank accounts or PAN. If you haven’t, continue your resistance. If you have, lets us pray that this monster will be slayed by some government in the future, for we must demand it.

I will end by quoting Mill again, for even after many days I could not think of a better sentence to convey.

“There is a limit to the legitimate interference of collective opinion with individual independence: and to find that limit, and maintain it against encroachment, is as indispensable to a good condition of human affairs, as protection against political despotism.”

Happy Independence day!!

Originally published here.

1

I met kavitha during my visit to Pandharkawada village, Yavatmal district, Vidarbha 

This is the story of Kavitha, who is a mother, a babhi, a daughter, a wife, a homemaker, now a farm widow turned farmer in the capital of India, Vidarbha and she is just 27 years of age. Despite the gravity of the situation, she spoke with great confidence and she spoke with an infectious smile.

The mother:

Manasi, her 8 year old daughter, was very happy since it was the Independence Day and she wore her favorite 10 Rs tri-colored hair band.

The 2 year old daughter was home with her in laws.

The mother also told how she draped her daughter with a tri-colored saree and when how when Manasi entered the class room everyone would say "Look Bharat Mata is walking into the classroom".

The Bhabi:

Bhabi was very worried about her 15 year old brother-in-law because he wasn't getting any work. He only had 2 pairs of dresses which he carefully juggled through. He would be very calm and very quiet, often refused to take part in any social gatherings or any celebrations. He didn't have any footwear, which was one reason why he was feeling very shy to move around. Bhabi was very happy when they managed to buy a pair of chappals for Rs 100.

The daughter:

Her parents were working as landless laborer s and their income these days isn't consistent. They have work only on a few days. Her brother is also looking for a job. She is worried about her brother as well who is looking for a job.

The homemaker:

The kids school expenses aren't that much. The books, uniforms etc. cost about Rs 500 a year. It's the other expenses that add up to about Rs 3000 or so.

The wife:

Kavitha finished her 12th grade and after her marriage had discontinued her studies. Her husband was very troubled and increasingly frustrated over his helplessness and his never-ending debt situation. He had shared this with Kavitha as well but she could not anticipate that her husband would take such an extreme step.

The farmer:

3 acres of land is all she has on which she cultivates cotton and soya bean. There is an outstanding loan with the bank which hasn't waived yet. The price of cotton in the market isn't guaranteed and there has hardly been any rains adding more trouble to the already troubled situation.

There have been many Kavitha's before, many Kavitha's now and unfortunately, if no intervention, there would be many more.

  
If we blame the politicians for being indifferent, then we are to be blamed equally, for we are indifferent to their sufferings

If we blame the govt for being ignorant, then we are to be blamed equally, for we are completely ignorant of their sufferings.

If we blame the govt for not having the will to solve the crisis, we are to be blamed equally, for we never had the will to question and hold our ministers responsible and accountable.

2

It is the day for cute messages and wearing your patriotism on the sleeve. It is a day that has increasingly lost meaning for me. We got independence from the British Raj. That was 68 years ago. Are we free?

What does independence mean? Was really racist enough to think that we needed the white skins out? I don't think so. Many freedom fighters too enaged with the world beyond India, got educated in the west. Indeed most of those we bother to remember as leaders of our freedom struggle were. They have continued the thought, the methods, the dysfunctional laws to keep the natives in line.

But if you take a moment to think about it, was this why the Indian masses fought for freedom? Poor starving masses have no ideology. They resist oppression. Their ideology is survival. Their ideology is their right to thrive. Many places had every home throwing up a satyagrahi or a rebel. They did not do this because of inspiring ideologies. They did this because they could not thrive under the British. They did not like being second class citizens, they did not like their wealth being stolen, their grains feeding far off wars while they died in famines. They fought against the British because the British WRONGED them. At the top, those with fancy ideologies, who were rarely poor enough to worry about whether they could survive formed grand theories about how they were the rightful custodians of India. But the Indian masses supported them for the hope to an end of their , not fancy ideologies or even democracy.

These people are still struggling. They are still being evicted from their homes and roots in the name of development that happens elsewhere. They are still providing cheap food so that the subjects of the Raj don't revolt, even as they the drought with their sweat and blood. They are still demanding their rights. they aren't revolting because they don't know how. There are no elite with their ideologies to tell them how to fight this time, because the elite are busy squabbling over the loot from the last time. Besides, there is a danger in reminding the masses that they didn't fight for freedom because the colonists were British - many invaders have ruled India without uprisings. There is a danger in reminding that they fought the British because they were harmed and humiliated. Because they still are.

The danger in reminding people of this is because very little has changed for those who gave uprisings their power. Their living conditions have very little change. Most freedom fighter stories - it is the season now, check them out - still describe the freedom fighters living in poverty, forgotten. These stories talk of India's lack of gratitude for their contribution. But these stories also stand witness that the conditions that led those people to revolt for their freedom still exist. In effect, they achieved nothing for their own realities.

The that made a career out of hyperbolic patriotism as idolizing soldiers evicted protesting soldiers on the day before Independence Day celebrations. The 68th "Independence Day" and soldiers can't even ask for their rights without being attacked by the state. What were they asking for? Their basic rights. One rank, one pension. . An old age without needing to beg from those they put their lives on the line to defend. The country is dotted with struggles. I doubt if there is a single district in all of India without some struggle still going on. Whether it is desperate slum dwellers fighting for their homes, or farmers fighting for something as pitiful as allowing them the income for survival so that they continue to subsidize the food for this colony. A government that is asking people to give up their LPG subsidies never thinks of asking people who can afford it at least to pay the actual cost of what it takes to grow food and profit from it. We hide the harm to farmers, sneer at any effort to make their lives easier as "handouts", while filling our bellies with the handouts from farmers.

Aren't celebrations a bit premature?

India is STILL bleeding money, draining most of the country for the prosperity of a few. Is it even freedom if criticizing the government means being declared a supporter of India's enemies and jeered at and being asked to leave the country? "Go to Pakistan!" Why? Because this is the country of your colonists. Not yours for you to stay here, right?

We have a  poverty line that is so absurd, it is more like a miracle line - incredible people who can survive on nothing. And we still have about a fourth of us living UNDER it. MAGIC. Perhaps we can earn TRPs if we turn it into a TV series. Oh wait they usually don't survive. They exist starving till something they can't afford to cure takes them down. There is a government hell bent on emptying vast swathes of India for the profit making industries with little regard for the people or the forests. We are now redefining things so that they don't sound so terrible. We tweak statistics to make them sound less terrible. We call the cutting down of age old forests as reforestation because surely, someone plants a few saplings somewhere.... Forest dwellers are now the homeless. Massive displacements "compensate" the development hit masses for the loss of their livelihood, their homes, their sustainable communities that were their support structures and nurtured the environment, their sources of food... with pigeon hole housing - because hey, if we give them a home, we just shifted them for progress and didn't really harm them. Right?

Celebrating 68 70 years of complacency over colonization this IndependenceDay

The drought saw young daughters studied till the 12th class come to Bombay to work as prostitutes and send money home instead of dreaming weddings their families can't afford. Parents gave daughters to bride traffickers to feed the remaining family even as trafficked brides get shared among brothers, discarded if the husband dies or no longer wants her. Parents marrying daughters off with just one consideration - that the boy's home is in a place where there is water. There are men marrying water wives to fetch water for their real families. While resorts boast of swimming pools and cities suck up water from hundreds of kilometers away while people nearby die of heatstroke chasing the scarce water tankers. We saw those accused in the irrigation scam give themselves a clean chit while others condemned them. Not one voice spoke of the need to make reparations to those development-hit people denied water for 10 years.

Today is the deadline for providing feedback on Net Neutrality. The government and internet providers are deperately looking for ways to make massive profit from an unequal internet by finding ways to call it equal. The previous feedback seems to have gone into some blackhole and there is a new, short deadline for providing new feedback if you are still planning to persist on fighting for your internet. Poetically, your chance to have a say ends on independence day. Oh and the government has formally declared in court that you don't have a right to privacy, even as your information torrents into big data for someone's profit. With the government's blessings.

The British jailed journalists and editors who wrote to oppose them. Our government has sent notices to on how they were reported. Crimes against inconvenient natives go unpunished. We are actually diluting the laws for whistleblowers making it illegal to expose wrongdoings that the government doesn't allow you to. Propaganda continues to convince the people that the rulers are their best interest, just like the old days.

Does it sound like these people are independent yet? Can a country with most of its people living hand to mouth - if at all - even call itself free? Can a country that denies dignity and income to those who feed it, serve it, protect it be called free? Can a government that silences people critical of it be called a government of the people? General Dyer merely ordered the firing at Jalianwala Baug. The soldiers were Indian. As Indian as our agencies inventing crimes against people who are opposing wrongs by our colonists against the natives.

Picture abhi baaki hain dost, the freedom struggle is not yet over!

Is this independence? Are Indian people really rulers of their country? I don't think so. Independence day is just a PR game for me. The elites telling people they have something precious, even when people cannot experience it. The freedom struggle is not over yet. The so called Independence Day merely marks a change in colonizers. The freedom struggle is still on, invisible, modest but determined all over India where people are STILL fighting an unjust state that is trampling all over their right to thrive on their land.

Old post. Still valid, so no need to write a new one.

1

How can we be more independent on this independence day? A commitment to celebrate, explore and expand freedoms. To live with purpose.

A confession. I am not particularly patriotic. I have always had trouble defining my motherland. Is it the home I was born into, the family I was raised in, the locality, city, state, country, continent, planet.... who am I really, to draw a line and say, "ok, this is mine". What is not mine about the remaining? From that point it gets very confusing and I haven't quite figured it out.

Indian flag created out of a collage of photographs by Dinesh Cyanam, based on his work with India - A multitude of people and cultures.

The closest I can describe it is P L Deshpande quoting Keshavsut in a speech at the Kanadi Sahitya Mandal, which translates roughly to "Wherever I go, I find siblings. Everywhere I find signs of home". That whole speech has to be one of my most treasured gifts ever, and I just heard a recording. Just for those thoughts to exist is a gift (it sounds considerably nicer in Marathi than my ad hoc translation). Another thought from that speech compares the difference between Karnataka and Maharashtra - states; and Kanadi (Kannada) and Marathi - languages. He remarks that states have boundary lines dividing them, but the languages have meeting lines where they mix with each other. My view of the world I inhabit is somewhat along this theme.

In fact, ever since I lived as a nomad and called wherever I landed up my home, I have a vague unease with the idea of owning land itself. That belonging to nowhere and being at home everywhere.

That said, I have never inhabited parts of the world outside India. I haven't inhabited all of India. But somewhere, I have tasted enough of the diversity of our country to experience it as home. To see echoes of me in the most varied people, to see them as companions in this narrative over a billion people weave. I appreciate India for them enriching my life.

And I hold independence very dear. To me Independence Day is a day of new beginnings, and if we celebrate it every year, it is a good enough reason to keep reinventing ourselves as a country. To find better ways of existing as a country.

As we stand on the crossroads of emotions as Indians, where our sense of Indianness is under severe challenge from overwhelming frustrations, I want to admit there are rays of hope. There are people  who care. There are good things happening. There is more that can happen.

Potential excites me. Frustrations bore me. This national situation of limited choices irritates me. What do you mean limited choice? Why can't we do all we want to? Why should one answer be chosen out of two opposite ones, so that someone always loses? Why does empowering one have to mean disempowering another? Why does one view have to be right and another wrong? I have no answers to these whys and no patience for them either. My imagination is caught on doing it all. How?

I think unless we start asking ourselves questions like that, we will never be able to get our laundry list of wishes complete fast enough in a lifetime, let alone enjoy the results. This is unacceptable.

I think what we should be doing this time around is not dismissing any need as "regrettable". Live with no regrets. Do it all. Let all religions find joy and freedom. Let us figure out ways we can feed, clothe, shelter all. Let us start insisting on the rule of laws we have let slide out of little more than laziness. Let us start being nosy, asking questions, getting things done.

Most importantly, let us start finding solutions that work for all, or growing together so that all interests can be accommodated. Let no tribal be sacrificed for the greater good, abandoned to die in insulting neglect. Let no child be lost for opportunities. Let women fly free to reach wherever they want. Let us just stop living in instalments and start LIVING.

Lack is a state of being far more than it is a limit on real possibilities. Let us stop being lazy and thinking there are only two lousy options and we must choose the less worse, and instead dream of having it all, and not making a choice till we find the option we can pick without regrets.

And then let us do this every year.

In my view, it is pointless to celebrate an event from 65 years ago just because the date matches. To make soldiers march around, fly a few planes, make a few speeches, stare at flags till our eyes cross and get a day off that we really hate for not really being off with the flag hoisting and thing. It must have meaning beyond tokenism. If we must celebrate Independence Day, and I do think it is a great idea, then it is worthwhile to do it in a way that magnifies the value of our independence and keeps expanding it with each year. People have to feel free, you know, we have to be free, experience freedom. That is what independence is about, not the color of the skin of people collecting taxes and making decisions.

Today is independence day. We should start living free. Not holding back, living to our highest vision. It will be creaky - we are fairly lousy at most things from utter neglect. But we must go at it as if it works, be surprised when it doesn't and fix it as we find it. We MUST trust the system to work, even if it betrays us over and over. Power isn't in cynicism, it is in generosity. Just listen to the sound of the words. It isn't gullible to keep trusting, it is a symptom of a large heart. We are people. We learn from experience. We fail, and we can learn better. We have to aim right, though. Aiming low is a guarantee for a mediocre life.

It is true the system sucks. That society can be really retarded. But we don't have to be retarded. And we could start using what is working and fixing what isn't. The more space we occupy, the more space starts getting organized for use. One factor we can most definitely change is us and that is considerably under our control. Let us do it. Let us be more. I don't think it is unreasonable to expect that we can, if we want, fulfil many wishes and every need of everyone if we put our minds to it, instead of being cynical, as if it somehow makes us superior.

India got political freedom sixty five years ago. The next struggle for independence is going to be one of freeing minds. Of exiting this limited, limited kind of being and go at it like we mean it. Today is independence day. Might as well get started without delay. I am planning to up a gear in living as I dream and get started today.

Wish you a purposeful Independence Day, year, life!