Photo: A cow belonging to one of the villagers in Chikandakuvi area in Hwange lies dead on the ground in the bush with about half of its remains already devoured by stray lions after they pounced on the unfortunate animal. In another picture, a hide of a cow eaten by stray lions in Chikandakuvi is spread on the ground in the bush. Credit: Jeffrey Moyo | IDN-INPS - Photo: 2021

Will India Return to The Path Envisaged by The Freedom Movement?

Musings on 75th Year of Independence

Viewpoint by Dr Ram Puniyani

This article is the 16th in a series of joint productions of South Asian Outlook and IDN-InDepthNews, the flagship of the International Press Syndicate. The writer is a former professor of biomedical engineering and former senior medical officer affiliated with the Indian Institute of Technology Bombay (now Mumbai) and meanwhile a social activist and commentator. This article was first published on on August 11, 2021.

NEW DELHI (IDN) — With India getting freedom from colonial rule [on August 15], 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 of 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 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 a big springboard for communal forces. The journey which the republic was marching on initially got obstacles from here on. Later, 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 demolition of the Babri Masjid]. The communal violence, which had taken horrific shape with anti-Sikh pogrom of 1984, kept on surfacing in dangerous proportions; Mumbai 1992-93, Gujarat 2002, Kandhamal 2008, Muzafarnagar 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 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 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 National Crimes Record Bureau (2019) the violence against SCs has gone up by 7.3% and against STs by 26.5%. Ghettoization of minorities is on the rise. The Indian fraternity which developed during 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 Satth 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.

The unemployment has been rising. According to data from Center for Economic data and analysis based on ILOStat data base; 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, SriLanka 127, Pakistan 145 and Bangla Desh 152. As far as religious freedom is concerned for the first time India has been places in the lowest category of ‘Countries of particular concern’ by 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.

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. 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 the 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 exclusion of religious minorities and defends the status quo of caste and gender as prevalent in the ancient times. This is important part of their political ideology. One can only hope that we come back to the path which was envisaged by the freedom movement! [IDN-InDepthNews — 14 August 2021]

Photo: Screenshot of “Tryst with Destiny” full speech delivered by Jawaharlal Nehru, the first Prime Minister of independent India, to the Indian Constituent Assembly in The Parliament, on the eve of India’s Independence, towards midnight on 14 August 1947. Uploaded by Xplorer India.

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