Thoughts for the Big Day
Dr Mohammad Manzoor Alam’s musings on the 65th anniversary of our Independence
Like always, our Independence Day comes loaded with memory and desire–the collective memory of decades of struggle since 1840s and 1850s till the D-Day, August 15, 1947, and the personal memory of life in an independent country. It all comes mixed with desire of generations of Indians to have a prosperous, just order in a free India.
The memories–from British Raj as well as from years of independent existence–have sometimes been painful. The hardships our predecessors suffered for independence have not always been rewarded with a better life and fair deal to all Indians. Inequity has grown so rapidly that the fruits of development have been denied to at least a third of our population, even though other official estimates say the fruits of development have not reached a majority of Indians.
Over the last six decades we have made giant strides in agricultural and industrial production, infrastructure, IT, private medical and health services, education and innovation in management. We have sent satellites into orbit, developed rocket technology, our entrepreneurs have stepped into foreign countries, our media and entertainment industries have burgeoned. This is the brighter side.
The darker side is that despite our great progress we still happen to be the country where the largest number of the world’s poor live, where the largest number of the hungry reside, which has the world’s largest number of anemic women and malnourished children. This also happens to be the land where thousands of farmers commit suicide every year because they are so indebted that they do not see any point in living further.
Only a few hours before the anniversary of the historic midnight “tryst with destiny” the questions naturally come to us: Who has believed our great expectations? Why have we succeeded so spectacularly and failed so miserably in human development? Who is responsible for this mess? These are important questions to be asked.
It is also important to ask as to why is our political class, our bureaucracy, our police so corrupt and inefficient. Why all of them have worked together to deny large numbers of our people the right to have sufficient, nutritious food and safe drinking water, adequate housing, education and access to health services? Why have they been denied the right to life with dignity?
Denial of justice to large masses of people in India has been a consistent feature of life over the last six and a half decades. This holds true for victims of mass violence in anti-Muslim riots all over the country since 1947. No perpetrator has been hanged, only a handful have been jailed, which is not even one percent of the criminals. The impurity conferred on goons targeting Muslims for murder has encouraged others. The violence has spread to Sikhs, Christians, Dalits and tribals. The criminals, instead of getting punishment, have been voted to power, sent to legislative assemblies and Parliament to become ministers and run the country.
This being the situation, can the victims expect to get justice even in the next six and a half decades? At most places police and the local administration have been either directly involved in the violence in some way or the other, or have chosen to stay away, allowing the criminals a full, unhindered freedom to maim, kill and burn.
Only a few hours before the great moment, these questions trouble me as they trouble most other Indians. Is it the kind of India for which our predecessors had made great sacrifices for decades? This last question is addressed particularly to our ruling class because it is they who have failed us, not our fellow Indians. g