“Celebration of Independence Day with great pomp and show was quite appropriate when we were fighting for independence which we had neither seen nor handled. Now we have handled it and we seem to be disillusioned. At least – I am, even if you are not. What are we celebrating today? Surely, not our disillusionment”– This thought of Mahatma Gandhi, the father of the nation, would have been haunting the entire generation if the WhatsApp University syllabus wouldn’t have come up for their rescue and created an entirely different imaginative bubble of the idea of India; which in no way resembles with what Gandhi and other freedom fighters fought for India’s Independence.
Well, Gandhi’s whole list of ideas would make this piece a lethargic read. So, I would discuss only 3 of his most important ideas which I feel we have forgotten or have been misled into in the very first place.
The thought which Gandhi emphasized most on was Equality, the abolition of the caste-based division, and removal of untouchability.
“We cannot have real independence unless the people banish the touch-me-not spirit from their hearts”– This was his idea of real independence and what he expected of people’s representative. But, 70 years later, here we stand. Still, in a mature democracy like ours, we all aren’t born equal, and nor is merit isolated from social standing. This corona crisis clearly showed how unequal some people and their existence is that the government even does not bother to prepare data about their miseries and hardships inflicted upon them. The caste-based crimes have increased by 25% over a decade and pending investigations in those crimes have increased by almost 99%. Equality has been a myth, with a great inequality remaining and widening with a new kind of divide, known as the digital divide, grabbing hold of the society. Today’s India would have reminded Gandhi of India under British rule, where justice, prosperity, freedom, and the right to question and stand up for basic human rights was considered sedition, and anti-national activity and for which draconian laws were formed and imposed upon the most vocal voices.
The second idea is that of Swaraj. Gandhi Ji was a great advocate of self-reliance and believed that the country can be truly self-reliant only if the smallest entity that makes up this country, i.e., the villages, are made self-reliant. The idea of local self-governance, which was included even in the constitution of India under the Sections of D.P.S.P (Directive principles of state policies), was in a sense the brainchild of Mahatma Gandhi. But, despite all these measures, theoretical assurances, and years of policy framing, we saw that people were forced to leave villages, stop practicing agriculture, and depend on others instead of becoming self-reliant. The contribution of agriculture, the most important activity pursued in rural India has decreased from 52% in 1951 to 17% today despite almost 60% of our population being engaged in it. Also, the idea of Swaraj very closely resembled the idea of democracy, where we assume that our issues are talked about, where we choose our representatives and our welfare is talked upon. But, in this age of surveillance capitalism, democracy might be present but just on paper. We’re slowly turning into a banana republic, where the personal interests of those who control money and technology, determine the policy and the concerns of policymakers. If this wouldn’t have been true, then farmers won’t have been protesting for weeks and they being the stakeholders here, would have been consulted before any bill being passed through parliament, a place touted as the source of democracy which has now turned into its graveyard.
The third and most important idea of Mahatma Gandhi is of Satya and Ahimsa or Truth and Non-Violence. “An eye for an eye would turn the whole world blind.” – This was what he felt violence would bring to this entire world. Despite, many great personalities after M.K. Gandhi acknowledging the power of non-violent means in changing the course of history and creating a peaceful society, we as Indians have forgotten it. Today’s India is in a state of anarchy, where violence is termed as a way to overpower the opposition being presented. Be it the numerous riots that happened, or the state-sponsored witch hunt in name of their propaganda, we’re turning more and more intolerant with every passing day. This is because we’ve forgotten the tolerant way, i.e., of non-violence. “Complete independence through truth and non-violence means the independence of every unit, be it the humblest of the nation, without distinction of race, color, or creed.” The social divide that is growing in India might not widen if we implement the ways of truth and non-violence in our daily lives. Imagine, an India fighting the wrong with flowers in hand and not sticks and guns. Now, this line might sound fascinating to few and crap to many, but the thing is, we got united for our freedom struggle through these ideas only.
Now, is the high time that we make choices. The dream of India which our freedom fighters gave their life for is far-fetched and not even visible. We haven’t developed or improved if our sisters aren’t safe in the streets or even in their own houses. No progress has been made if the farmer still chooses suicides. No democracy is left when the rulers turn a blind eye to the grievances of the people being affected by their policies. To safeguard democracy the people must have a keen sense of independence, self-respect, and their oneness. Gandhian values which I discussed and which I haven’t might be a way to achieve what we dreamt of in an independent India. Let’s be vocal about what is wrong and stand against the brute force and refuse to do what these rulers want from us. They might torture us, broke our bones into the atoms, or even kill us. But even after this killing, they might have our dead body but not our obedience. This way, we will be the victor and not them, because they failed in getting what they wanted to be done.