Independence devoid of Freedom
On August 15, 2019, India celebrated its 72nd Anniversary of Independence. Befitting the occasion when India was liberated form the yoke of British colonialism, on the midnight hour, he said, “At the stroke of the midnight hour, when the world sleeps, India will awake to life and freedom.”
Nehru in his immortal words clearly recognised the intrinsic link between independence and freedom. However, the current situation in the country has ironically thrown in a tragic juxtaposition of the lack of freedom in independent India.
The past few months (years) leading up to the anniversary of India’s independence, have witnessed the badgering of the primary medium to speak truth to power, i.e. the control of the media exercised by the reigning government. Particularly amongst these, the resignation of Punya Prasun Bajpai from ABP News is fresh and possibly most troubling. As the host of Master Stroke, prime-time news telecast on ABP News, Bajpai hosted the news, exposing the heights that the lengths the present Government has went in order to prevent the truth from coming out.
Of course, this is not the sole example; in general, the current environment in India is one of hate and polarisation, where intellectualism is treated with disdain and accountability as an attack. The government in power has fostered an environment with the clear message of “Go against the BJP Government and face the wrath of the powerful,” as is evident from the attacks on students in universities across the country and particularly the case of Kishorchandra Wangkhem in Manipur.
Independence ensures the rights to freedom and the Constitution of India provides them. The rights to freedom are the most important fundamental, and only its prevalence makes democracy meaningful. Article 19 of the Indian constitution now provides six freedoms namely: (i) Right to freedom of speech and expression, (ii) Right to assemble peaceably and without arms, (ii) Right to form associations or unions, (iii) Right to move freely throughout the territory of India, (iv) Right to reside and settle in any part of the territory of India and (v) Right to practice any profession or to carry on any occupation trade or business.
Since rights can never be absolute and individual rights must be reconciled with the interests of the community, each one of these six freedoms is subject to some restrictions. So, it is logical that equal rights for all must mean limited rights for any. Hence, the state may impose ‘reasonable restrictions’ upon the exercise of any of these rights; but the restrictions imposed by the present government have reached immeasurable limits on Freedom.
Freedom is an innate right of human beings. And although people might have different opinions, definition and thoughts about the idea of freedom, the fact that everyone wants to be free, holds true in all cases. Like John F. Kennedy remarked, “The best road to progress is freedom’s road.” And we have witnessed throughout history that societies which encourage freedom of opinion, thoughts, beliefs, expression and choice are the ones where creative minds flourish.
It is true freedom might connote different meanings in psychological or spiritual terms, but it implies that one’s mind is under no fear or compulsion of safety in life. Freedom is the absence of any pressure from the social, political and religious environment that we live in. And surely, it is not a non-denial of our basic rights as humans. Enjoying our freedom does not mean that we disregard the rights of others and live the way we feel right. We have to consider the rights and the feelings of people around us when living our freedom. Just because some sections of society has got the so called "freedom," they should be aware of the lack of "freedom" from poverty, unemployment and economic worries amongst others which have been deprived from the backward sections of society and which previous and the present governments have failed to address despite their rhetoric or propaganda.
But, as it has been witnessed that Independence Day celebrations from decades back in particular to the state of Manipur and the Northeast as a whole has been indeed been a sham with no “celebrations” but only a disingenuous act staged by one government after another to show the citizens are willingly participating in the so called “celebrations.”
In fact, for most denizens of the State, the coming of Independence Day celebrations have become a dreaded affair, with the public being harassed by the State security forces on the eve of the Day with even senior citizens afraid to indulge in their regular walks. This is a result of the extreme or unwarranted measures taken up by the police forces in order to ensure that nothing which might tarnish the image of the State; although everyone knows the real truth about the discontentment of the public with the atrocious and draconian Acts especially AFSPA and NSA amongst others imposed in the State.
The funniest part about it all is that youngsters or others are being provided with “Freedom” on August 15 to enjoy themselves without any harassment from the security forces since it somehow projects the idea that they are celebrating India’s Independence Day which would be rather pleasing to the Central government. But, the State government seems to be ignoring the fact the public is now relieved that the Day is over and one can return to mundane activities or the “normal way” of daily functioning.
It would not be must of an assumption that the people of the State has become accustomed to the deprivation of human rights as guaranteed by the Constitution of India; but a direct reminder of the deprivation of freedom is akin to punishment. So it is no wonder that the people are heaving a sigh of relief that the ‘Day’ has passed at least for the year.
Leader Writer: Danny Haobam
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