Today we celebrate the 70th year of India’s independence from the British. While there is much to boast about the country’s progress in science, technology, economy etc., which certainly needs appreciation, this beautiful country is still swamped in colonialism. 70 years ago a nation woke up to freedom. Today, many are still yearning for it. Freedom, justice, equality and peace have become mere rhetoric. How can we celebrate independence when there is no freedom? How can we celebrate peace when there is no justice? How can we claim to celebrate diversities when we are repelled by it?
The colonizers may have left India but their ideology hasn’t. Yes we are free from the British rule but we are still held captive. We’re not free. We’re not independent. We’re still being ‘colonized.’ Has there been any significant change in the way we perceive the people from the North East part of India? No. They are still hated and cursed. They are still being told that they are not “Indians.” And India celebrates independence? Has there been any significant change in the lives of those who live at the bottom of the social and economic hierarchy? No. Has there been any significant change in the way we treat Dalit people and Dalit issues? No. They are still ridiculed and scorned. Has there been any significant change in the lives of the queer community? No. They may have “come out” but they are still criminals to the law. Has there been a significant change in the way we treat our Muslim sisters and brothers? No. They are still called “terrorists,” they are still being killed by Hindu vigilantes, and they are wanted out of this land. And India celebrates independence?
Every Independence day we speak about or are told to speak about our freedom fighters. Are we so blinded that we fail to see them living in flesh and blood today? There are freedom fighters out there in the streets, near the river banks, in the agricultural fields, and even in colleges and universities. Some of them have even given up their lives; the rest have been forced to do so. How come we conveniently ignore them? Aren’t they all fighting for freedom? Freedom from the clutches of caste, development, hetero-patriarchy?
Every Independence day we speak about or are told to speak about Gandhi, the so-called “Father of the Nation.” Here is why, I think, we aren’t free just yet. Our minds have been colonized and our histories have been colonized by the caste elites. Colonization of the mind takes place when children in their schools are deliberately fed with information about Gandhi and not about Ambedkar. To teach Gandhi and not Ambedkar is to teach a communal and casteist history of India. Where is Ambedkar during our Independence Day celebrations?
India has certainly a long way to go for all its peoples to believe they are free. We need to root out the damned caste system, we need to root out communal hatred, we need to root out privileged nationalism, we need to root out religious intolerance, we need to root out cultural disharmony, we need to root out economic elitism, we need to root out ecological destruction, we need to root out medical abuse and we need to root out queerphobia. Only then can the people of India experience ecological, social, economic, gender and sexual justice.
Independence has certainly left many dependent on the wrong people. We can’t celebrate India and promote discriminatory systems. We can’t celebrate India and not embrace diversities. To discard a certain people, culture, language, practice and place is to celebrate a privileged, elitist, casteist and colonial India. I guess after all the progress the country has made, we’re still (in)dependence after 70 years of independence.