Tuesday, August 12, 2014


The I-Day week is underway, and even though, or maybe because, 15 August means little more that a public holiday and the culmination of a series of football tournaments, the week of the 68th Independence Day is as good a time as any to attempt putting our freedom in perspective. Nearly seven decades of self-rule later, the only freedom which we can guarantee ourselves is our political freedom and the attendant rights. Make no mistake, political freedom is important, but it is not complete in itself. What are also necessary are economic and more importantly social and cultural independence. This is a pertinent issue in our country today where rapid developments in various fields, the homogenizing impact of globalization, the elevation to government of a Hindutva ideologue, and the ironically simultaneous percolation of identity issues are collaborating to inflict serious fragmentation of society. The plethora of touchy social issues which are multi-dimensional in nature, but painted in nuance-obliterating swathes making it urgent for free citizens of an Independent nation to go over the basics once again. People’s wants and aspirations have become more intricate. Neither India, nor the world is uni-polar anymore and together with the development of human thought, all areas of human development have also become broader and inclusive in thought, while parochial and paranoid in practice. These are complicated times and knee-jerk condescension or claims to importance and identity that the political freedom guarantees all Indians is not enough for the all round development of the individual or the society.
Later this week, we will celebrate our freedom from colonialrule, but should we just limit our definition of freedom to political sovereignty? If anything, political freedom while giving us the right to choose our ‘rulers’ [it’s unfortunate how public representatives are now referred to as rulers] has also, indirectly, allowed caste and communalism to stifle our social, cultural and intellectual leg-room. The practice of vote bank politics – an unfortunate fallout of “democracy” – conspires to bring each and every move, whether by a politician, the individual or a community, under elaborate scrutiny. A society existing in an environment of suspicion and mistrust is fooling itself if it considers itself free. In the past few years, the concept of freedom in India has experienced a regression especially due to the rise of certain politico-religious ethnic pressure groups and the moral police muscle. Globalisation has taught us about open markets and open economy; about privatisation and MTV. At a time when the government is attempting to relinquish the responsibility of economic activity and is withdrawing from the economic sphere making the term ‘public sector’ almost inapplicable, the extension of various groups, owing allegiance to political parties, into the social domain and attempting to regulate our private lives is undesirable, inexcusable and even confounding. As this happens more often, people find themselves painted into a corner with someone else doing the thinking for them and speaking on their behalf. People need to be empower themselves through more genuine collaborations to break out of these corners. The past few years as a nation have more than amply announced that India as a country and Indians as a people are negotiating through the second phase of independence, the greater freedom, the freedom to disagree, challenge and dissent without risking either State suppression or social ostracism. This greater freedom can only be delivered by us as citizens of India and will not be served up by representatives we have allowed to become rulers or leaders we have allowed to function without consultation. It is a difficult task as there is no tangible body to overthrow anymore and this is also probably the reason why most of us do not realise our subtle subjugation. We can begin by grasping the concept.

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