Saturday, August 14, 2010


On Eve of the Indian Independence Day

It was nearing midnight three score and three years ago on August 14, 1947. Time stood almost still in Parliament’s Central Hall. All eyes were on the clock above the Speaker’s dais. "Long years ago," Nehru said, "we made a tryst with destiny. Now the time comes when we shall redeem our pledge, not wholly or in full measure, but very substantially…We have to build a noble mansion of free India where all her children may dwell".

As the two hands of the clock joined at midnight, heads bowed in silence. India was free from foreign bondage. The Indian Empire was no more. Gone forever were the pomp and magnificence of Kipling’s British Raj. Outside Parliament House a cry of freedom such as the world had never heard rose up from the teeming millions of India. "Bliss was it in that dawn to be alive/But to be young was heaven!" True, the ambience, the flavour, the ethos of that midnight need the tribute not of sentimental nostalgia but of critical analysis.

The world had never seen anything like it. As philosopher-politician Dr. S. Radhakrishnan remarked minutes before the historic midnight, men like Washington and Lenin, Napoleon and Cromwell, Hitler and Mussolini had used blood and steel to get to power. "We have opposed patience to fury, quietness of spirit to bureaucratic tyranny…" No nation was born in a more civilised way. But barbarity reigned its borders. Yes, the mighty spectacle of a nation born in flames. The civilised air in the central hall of parliament, and the barbarity on the bleeding borders reflected the state of the new nation — a backward nation led by civilised men.

Every one expected that freedom would be followed by justice, social justice. Three score and three years later we are nowhere nearer this goal. Freedom has turned into dust and ashes. It is not necessary to quote statistics to prove it. We as a nation have much to answer for and account to generations of the past and the future. Today hunger stalks the land. Millions are unlettered and jobless. The enormity of the dehumanization in India is beyond words. We have failed to wipe every tear off the eyes of every Indian. We have denied two square meals a day for the majority of our people. The situation echoes the immortal words of Abraham Lincoln: "We cannot live half slave and half free".

The expectations at Independence darkened into deprivation, and, hunger, homelessness, depravation into have-not status and finally despair. This gradual, slow-process of economic destitution and social estrangement has led to the people losing their faith in the instrumentalities of the Constitution, namely the executive, the legislature and the judiciary.

Inevitably, when the state failed the confidence of the people, they took to the streets, to the jungles and to lawlessness. Terrorism was the next step, ubiquitiously shaking up peace and the sense of safety and development. This is the genesis of Naxalism, Maoism and other forms of extremism. The government, instead of creating conditions to win back the confidence of the people, has resorted to guns and police weaponry.

Long ago, U.S. President Eisenhower warned: "Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies – in the final sense – a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed. This world in arms is not spending money alone. It is spending the sweat of its labourers, the genius of its scientist, the hopes of its children."

The consequence was inevitable: more people became desperate. The masses got alienated and bullets did not and could not generate a milieu or haven of tranquility when government policy aggravated militancy and spread demoralisation. Many part of India ceased to be safe or peaceful. Today the situation has deteriorated to such an extent that Maoists are able to fire upon military. The state has virtually abandoned the peace process and resorted to shortcuts to law and order, hoping that soldiers are more reliable force than processes of peace and justice, or civilian forces. Some move here and there to talk peace and tranquility, although some sensitive statesmen have tried to transform social conditions.

Hope and not despair should be the fundamental policy of a great government. The grand green negotiated policy will win. It harvests contentment and contains extremism. The alternative is functional chaos, administrative anarchy and farewell to public welfare.

Article by:

Member: Karnataka State Minorities Commission

501 Indira Residency

167 Hennur Road

Kalyan Nagar 
Bangalore 560 043
Karnataka, India