A Note of Caution: India’s 77th Independence Day

Dr John Mohan Razu

As India celebrates its 77th year of Independence, a glance at our free, democratic, and sovereign republic will reveal whether our country is moving in the right path or direction or just the opposite. Hundreds and thousands of people had sacrificed their lives and shed their blood, and so, enormous struggles and sacrifices go behind our independence – a free independent nation-state. India is considered as the largest democratic country in the world which is premised on constitutional democracy that offers to all its citizens freedom of religion, speech, movement, basic rights, and host of others. In recent years we have been experiencing systematic ways of bulldozing of basic rights that the Constitution has provided to its citizens.

As we celebrate yet another year and a day of India’s independence, our celebrations will have to take us to higher levels of freedom, equality, liberty, and fraternity that we have been experiencing and move from the current phase. The question that arise: is: are we progressing or regressing as a nation? In fact, Independence Day should prompt us to laud the progress and achievements that the country has made in the past one year and envision what we have planned for the current year. It is not just at quantifiable indicators, but more on qualitative levels. 

India’s parliamentary democracy has hit so low that eroded the sanctity of our Parliament where we witness not debates but rhetoric. Pandemonium is now the order of the parliament. The treasury and opposition all the times get involved in shouting at each other and accusing one another. Healthy and matured debates hardly take place in Parliament, whereas blame game and stooping down so low exchanging verbal tirade demeaning one another Shouting and counter-shouting, walk-outs and disrupting the parliament sessions leading to logjams have become the order of the day. 

We are increasingly witnessing the sinister and subtle designs of the government at the Centre to curb the freedom and smooth functioning of the judiciary in matters of concern. Hindutva constitutionalism is gradually gagging the freedom of citizens, journalists, and those who opposes the government’s policies and programs. Custodial deaths and hundreds and thousands of innocent people lingering in prisons across the country without any trial stands before us – the visible truth before us. The recent happening in Manipur has further pushed our democracy in limbo. It is nearly a month since the video of two Manipuri women sexually assaulted and paraded naked went viral. The brutality happened on May 4, 2023, but the state government and Centre stepped in only after a public uproar over the video on July 19, 2023. 

The Supreme Court has described the situation as “horrendous” and “unprecedented magnitude”., appointed former Mumbai police commissioner to monitor the CBI on incidents of sexual violence. The state administration said that there were 6,523 criminal incidents that had occurred. It is also said that since the first incident of sexual assault, multiple accounts of gang rape, gender violence and murder have to light. Christiana Lamb, while writing on “Rape” in her book Our Bodies, Their Battle fields elaborates that is “the cheapest weapon known to man”, which is the most effective. Ancient Greek philosopher Homer talks of rape as a military tactic in Iliad. It is unfortunate that the system of patriarchy has not learnt anything from history. We have many with criminal backgrounds in politics as ministers and legislators. 

Moral authority, political accountability, and personal integrity are gradually ebbing out in the Indian society amongst the citizens as well as public servants. Over and above, Indian polity is increasingly becoming dispensing ‘bulldozer justice’, is now the order of the day – care a damn to the rule of law. Corruption and nefarious activities are on the rise. A culture of acceptance is dominantly seen and thus creeping and manifesting in immoral activities and thus pervading into all sections and sectors of society. Corruption is now an accepted norm of our Indian society and it is being practiced at diverse levels.

We used to cherish and laud and promote higher maxims of life such as the rule of law, live and let live, unity in diversity, common humanity, allowing and respecting the views of one another, and India as one family have lost its essence and relevance. Conflicts of diverse facets ranging from religio-cultural-to-socio-economic-to-political ravages and have vertically and systematically polarized the Indian society. Identity and communal politics have taken the center-stage of Indian society.  Indian society has been peeled layer by layer and dissected in such ways suspicion and hatred looms at large against one another wherein mutual trust is lost. 

Never in the history of India have we observed such toxic atmosphere operating in high voltage between ethnicities and caste groupings. Political parties and cultural organizations of diverse shades and persuasions have sown the poison amongst ethnic and caste communities that now tearing apart the very fabric of the Indian society. Along with these, couple of others factors are increasingly posing dangers to the unity and integrity of India. India believes in federal structure wherein the states and the central governments work in unity respecting one another. Likewise, the organs of the State such as Executive, Legislature, and Judiciary though distinct have to work in harmonious fashion. But now there is a growing wedge between these.

Without saying every Indian believes in the matrix of “Nation first, and always first” which implies or pre-supposes that other things come next such as political party, ideology, philosophy, power, family, and many others. On the contrary, what we have been observing is the party or the self or the family takes precedence and the nation takes the back seat. All these become jingoistic and mere slogans for power and position. Conception of ‘nationalism’ that undermines the very fabric that constructs and constitutes a nation by all means will have to be contested and questioned. Nationalism has been viewed and perceived differently based on one’s ideological, philosophical, and political, but needs a comprehensive understanding.    

India is in cross-roads. As we commemorate the 77th day of India’s Independence, many questions emerge about the future of India and the path it takes. We are increasingly disturbed by a spate of incidents that recently happened lingers in our mind igniting doubts and questions about the future of our nation that determines the future of generations to come. Undoubtedly, the future of our children and grandchildren is highly dependent on the health of our nation, meaning what type of nation we leave behind. India as a nation is endowed with enormous human and other resources. 

If properly utilized, garnered, nurtured, and governed, India as a nation and a republic has all the potential and strength to becoming the top nation in the near future because of the fact that more than half of India’s population is young. Let the young generation, of the present and future be vigilant and constructive as they build India – as a country, more dynamic, democratic, free, just, inclusive, and participatory. Long Live India.