‘The Golden Sparrow’, ‘The Battle of Plassey’, ‘The Sepoy Mutiny’, ‘Jhansi ki Rani’, ‘Jallianwala Bagh’, ‘Bhagat Singh’, ‘Dandi March’, ‘Lal-Bal-Pal’, ‘Quit India Movement’, ‘Mahatma Gandhi – Father of the Nation’ – all these words evoke a memory of nostalgia, of slavery, of rebellion, of the constant suffering and struggles for more than 200 years, of which we got rid ourselves from on 15 August 1947.
In all those 200 years, while we Indians have been together fighting for its freedom, sovereignty and dignity, there has been one more battle that we have been fighting consistently – The Battle of Belonging. And this battle goes on!
Yes, the battle of knowing where we belong and who we are! From being a part of princely states to abiding by the central governance and one sovereign country; from being a part of License Raj to a free operating economy; from the land of 100s of languages to being a part of one nation, from wanting to adopt a western lifestyle yet sticking to our desi traditions; from growing individually to becoming a part of the collective growth – this constant battle of belonging is only getting difficult to fight for. No doubt, we have come so far but there is a long way to go.
Where do we come from and what do we stand for? What makes us and where do we go on from here? What was our past and what does the future hold for us as a nation? These very questions help us understand where we belong! These questions need to be constantly asked and answered by the public and the public representatives as well. These questions are pertinent to the times we live in, we are a part of.
In the digital age where all of us are more free to express our opinion and wear our individuality – there are more reasons to develop an unknowing disliking for someone who doesn’t adhere to our view points, our thought process, doesn’t dresses like us or is different in how we would like to think and live. It is thus easier to develop a perspective about someone who is seemingly “not amongst us” and suddenly becomes “them”. Therefore it is becoming easier for divisive forces to come into play and leverage those differences to their advantage. This approach attacks our sense of belonging and the freedom of our nation as well.
In this constant battle of belonging, we are constantly being asked (tacitly and at times openly) to define our belonging (adherence) to one cohort or the other, to take sides. When in reality we all are one unified part of one nation and that is India. It is during such times when our so hard earned freedom is in more danger than ever.
You might not want to believe it but that is the sad state of affairs which we often chose to ignore. It is important to take note that we were able to attain freedom after 200 years of freedom struggle because 300 million people believed that they all belonged to one country called India, one emotion called Bharat. That collective emotion is what made us achieve our freedom. It might be a convenient thought to think that we have attained our freedom once and forever.
But that is not how it really works. To stay free as a country is a constant battle that always remains to be fought by the citizens of that very nation. Our freedom is hard earned, bitter-fought and the foundation of which is laid on certain pillars. The pillars of Secularism and Democracy (legislature, executive, judiciary and now media included as well). And to remain a free sovereign country is a constant battle where 1.3 Billion people today can keep their sense of belonging intact along with the pillars of the foundation of our nation.
Families feud, to locality rifts; sub-caste, caste to religious conflicts; language barrier to a unique statehood; political loyalty to ideological affinity – it has become easy today to classify ourselves in smaller subgroups and polarise the entire national ecosystem. Sadly, we see people taking pride in such bifurcations and classifications thereby further weakening the social milieu and thread of our country. It all must seem very easy because we see our individual gains from such a sense of belonging. But this is farce. Our sense of belonging gets attacked. Our pillars of foundation are attacked. This is vicious for us as a nation leading to an existential crisis in the times to come.
As we celebrate 75 years of Independence, Azadi Ka Mahotsava – I think we need to drink more vish than amrit to save the very freedom we celebrate today. We really need to stop seeing differences amongst ourselves. Kochi or Kashmir, Bengali or Maratha, Aazaan or Aarti – be it language, religion, ideology or ethnicity – we need to ensure that we all see in each other an Indian first. There is an enigma in celebrating Ganesh Chaturthi, Govardhan Pooja, Vara Mahalakshmi Pooja, Onam, Maha Shivratri, Bihu – with the same fervour and zeal. From farmers to IT, local artisans to unicorns – India is at the cusp of becoming the most powerful nation in the world. Thanks to its powerful legacy of the last free 75 years and thousands of years before that. There is only one thing that can stop us and that is our weakened sense of belonging.
There is no one more anti-national than someone who attacks the founding pillars of India and its democracy. There is no one less patriotic than the one who aims to divide the 1.3 billion people on the basis of religion, caste, colour or language. There is no one more desh-drohi than the one who weakens our sense of belonging.
We need to ask ourselves as members of judiciary, executive and legislature and media – if our sense of belonging to the nation is weakened today or not? Are we free to operate in the ambition of safeguarding the national interests or are we busy protecting the vested interests? Are we truly representing our people and their concerns or are we limited in our servitude to plain ribbon-cutting ministers glorifying their own presence rather than representing the public at large? Are we as a media house presenting the truth to the public we are meant to serve or are we showing a concocted story? To our family and friends at the helm of affairs from district to state and to national level – we need to ask if we all are working towards keeping our sense of belonging intact and safeguarding the freedom our forefathers won for us? Or are we busy depleting that very thread that weaves us into one nation?
As a citizen of this country, unless we identify ourselves with that sense of belonging, no one can ever save us. What makes India is its utmost respect for humanity, human values, ethics. The unapologetic secularism and the indefatigable democratic setup makes India India. Every single time this gets attacked, we inch away from our sense of belonging. We part ways from what defines India.
As a citizen of this country, it is our duty to belong to this sense of Indianness and uphold its values where we truly belong. As a citizen of this country our sense of belonging lies in that emotion called Bharat and not in a political party, or a party hero or a plain ideology that separates India into “us” and “them”.
It has been 75 years and even more – us fighting for this battle of sense of belonging. Today this battle needs to be fought – with more passion and vigour than ever before.
Har Ghar Tiranga Lehrayega,
Bharat Vishwa Shakti Kehlaayega!!