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Thoughts on India's Independence Day

August 15, 2018,

Thoughts on India's Independence Day
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From 2016. Not much has changed.

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I have fond memories of Independence Day Celebrations at school. It begins when the class teacher threatens everyone to come saying she will definitely take the attendance to make sure everyone is present. You see, it's supposed to be a holiday but then we had students participating in march pasts, 'patriotic' plays, songs, and dances which squeezed in a 'hum sab ek hai', 'meri mitti, mera chaman' and 'bhai-behen' wherever possible.The participating students would obviously come that day, but the rest of the students didn't really want to spend a holiday under the scorching sun watching their classmates dance and sing. In the end the authorities feared there being no audience at all to their revelry, and thus the mandatory attendance.

I've attended some of them- as a performer and as a grudging, attendance short student. Sometimes it would be made worthwhile when everyone was given sweets and savouries in small white packets. It would hold a laddoo, a peda, a samosa, and one mango or coffee bite. Those small packets would make the day of us students; making waking up early to watch class mates act badly in plays worth it.

In the end then there was the national anthem. It always moved me. I would stand completely upright, for 52 seconds, my heart full of love and honour for the country, my chest expanding with pride, thinking 'I truly belong to the greatest nation in the world'. It was a high. An overdose of nationalism that all citizens are subjected to from their primary years onwards.

It's a big blow though, when you realise what happened. When your illusion shatters. It hurts when for years you are told that everyone is the same and that your country--your motherland-- accepts you as you are and then you step into the real world and every action screams the opposite. It is hard to accept that a country which proudly proclaims that there is 'Unity in Diversity' actually meant a Diversity predefined by it, not a diversity of beliefs, views, and practises.

Independence Day becomes a conflicting one then. On one hand you are grateful for the struggle of our freedom fighters in freeing our land from the colonial oppressors. And on the other hand, you know that we have exchanged one type of oppression for another. It's hard to digest, but we are still slaves, not to the British, but to another form of oppression that pits people, communities, and even ideas against each other. Slaves to the poisonous ideas that base the worth of a person on the lack of melanin in their skin, to their surname, to what's between their legs.

But worst of all, today we are slaves to a system that thrives in an environment where individuals and communities are othered and ostracised on the basis of their beliefs. You ask yourself then, how did we reach a place where love for the country is contingent on turning a blind eye to the state's excesses and atrocities against a section of its own people. How are we here, in this moment which history will hold us accountable for, allowing those who are meant to protect us to blind our children, rape our women, kill our young men, and jail our students? How did we become a nation that stands mute when its own are forced to add a loyalty disclaimer at the end of each contentious opinion, if the name is a Khan and not a Khanna?

70 years have gone by and we continue to oppress and be oppressed in the name of caste, creed, religion, money. In the name of 'Development'.

I am sorry, but we are not completely free yet. This is not independence. We are not free when just airing this view will most possibly bring to my page a swarm of the most rabid trolls. My people, we will only be free when merely stating that we believe on the contrary doesn't get us viciously attacked, when a surname is needed only to fill forms, when 50% of population doesn't fear the dark, when what's on the plate is less important than what's in the hearts and minds, when development is not at the cost of the indigenous people of the land, when love for the nation is not dependant on hate for its neighbours, when the state remembers that it exists FOR the people- ALL the people, not just the Ambanis and Adanis. When we realize that Justice is far, far greater than any arbitrary boundaries, beliefs, and notions of patriotism, we will finally be free.

Till then, Happy Semi-Independence Day

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