Musings on 75th year of our Independence
With India getting freedom from colonial rule, the first Prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru summed up the aspirations and dreams of the leaders and participants in the movement in his famous and apt speech “Tryst with Destiny”. He stated, “The achievement we celebrate today is but a step, an opening of opportunity to the greater triumphs and achievements that await us.”
True to these words he initiated a process of strengthening democracy, one man one vote, on one hand. Simultaneously he started laying the foundations of modern India. In the areas of industrialization, education, health and agriculture there was a massive advancement. The policies adopted, though they had some flaws, yielded to advancement in science and technology (CSIR, BARC, IITs to name a few), led to green revolution and white revolution among others, which enhanced the living standards of Indian people. The affirmative action for Dalit-Bahujan in due course led to their empowerment and some facilities started reaching too far off Adivasi areas as well.
It is not that all was hunky-dory, there were many lapses in policies implementation, the obstacles posed by traditions and blind faith came in the way time and over again despite the promotion of Scientific temper being the part of duties enshrined in the Indian Constitution.
The grip of religiosity started loosening but was very much there. Building on emotive religiosity communal forces raked up the Ram Temple issue and it served as a big springboard for communal forces. The journey which the republic was marching on initially got obstacles from here on.
Later on, there was a total change in the priorities of the state. The communal forces, which earlier were on the margins started getting centre stage in due course and dominated the scene after Babri Demolition in particular. The communal violence, which had taken horrific shape with the anti-Sikh pogrom of 1984, kept on surfacing in dangerous proportions; Mumbai 1992-93, Gujarat 2002, Kandhamal 2008, Muzaffarnagar 2013 and latest in the tally being the Delhi violence of 2020.
The anti-Sikh violence was a single go tragedy.
The anti-Muslim violence kept resurfacing. Lately, Anti Christian Violence, though mostly below the radar has become endemic. With BJP coming to power with a majority in the centre the matters are going from bad to worse, while insecurity of the minorities is skyrocketing, the other marginalized sections are also feeling the pinch of the violence directed amongst them. The policies of this Government with overt communal agenda are also affecting the economic and social plight of marginalized sections of society.
As per the data of the National Crimes Record Bureau (2019) the violence against SCs has gone up by 7.3% and against STs by 26.5%. The ghettoization of minorities is on the rise. The Indian fraternity which developed during the freedom movement seems to be going in the reverse gear, by and by.
While the ruling Government claims to be pursuing the policy of Sab ka Saath, Sab ka Saath and Sabka Vishwas, (Take everybody along, everybody’s development and everybody’s trust) in reality it is few Corporate houses and elite which are flourishing at breakneck speed while the condition of average people is going down as the price rise of commodities and petrol-diesel are touching the unaffordable limits.
India was coming up and improving in global indices related to freedom, hunger, employment and other social indices. The trend is reversing now.
The most glaring insensitivity of the ruling Government, which is pushing the country in the direction of Hindu Rashtra, is manifested in the form of its insensitivity to the eight-month-old farmers’ agitation, to which Government has turned the deaf ear. Unemployment has been rising. According to data from the Center for Economic data and analysis based on the ILOStat database; India’s unemployment was highest since 1991. It has increased sharply to 7.11 (2020) from 5.27 (2019). It is much higher than even countries like Bangla Desh (5.3), Srilanka (4.84) and Pakistan (4.65).
In Press freedom, it has slid down from 133 (2020) to 142 (2016), while Nepal is at 106, Sri Lanka 127, Pakistan 145 and Bangla Desh 152. As far as religious freedom is concerned for the first time India has been placed in the lowest category of ‘Countries of particular concern’ by the US Commission on International Freedom. This has been based on anti-minority violence, CAA, NRC and Delhi anti-Muslim violence in particular. As per the Global Hunger Index report 2019. India ranked 102 among 117 countries.
The last seven years of our republic have been marred by a rise in intense hate against religious minorities. Issues like Cow-Beef, Love Jihad, and Ghar Wapasi have dominated the socio-political scene pushing to the margins the central concerns of the country. These central concerns related to livelihood, agriculture, control over prices of commodities and improvement in health and educational facilities have been eclipsed by emotive issues propped up by the ruling party. The country has hardly recovered from the blow of demonetization, which ruined the small trade, rural employment and economy apart from other factors.
The Government in power is out to suppress the federal spirit of the constitution and now many Governors are openly espousing the cause of the ruling party. The handling of Covid, the sudden lockdown again showed its lack of concern for the lives and travails of average people in general and more and deprived in particular. On top of all this the Pegasus issue, spying over its own citizens has shocked the country to no end.
The ruling Government and its parent the RSS have pushed us back by decades at most of the fronts of democracy, fraternity and welfare of the people. In a way, it should be no wonder as their agenda is based on the exclusion of religious minorities and defends the status quo of caste and gender as prevalent in ancient times. This is an important part of their political ideology. One can only hope that we come back to the path which was envisaged by the freedom movement!