75th year of Indian Independence

Celebrating the idea of freedom

Mahatma Gandhi and Jawaharlal Nehru before the inauguration of the All India Village Industries Exhibition at Tilak Nagar, Faizpur.   | Photo Credit: The Hindu Archives

I am reminded of the profound words of Mahatma Gandhi, published in Young India in 1931: “I shall work for an India in which the poorest shall feel that it is their country in whose making they have an effective voice; an India in which there shall be no high class and low class of people; an India in which all communities shall live in perfect harmony. This is the India of my dreams ... I shall be satisfied with nothing else.”

Amid the vagaries of the COVID-19 pandemic, we embark upon the historic celebration of the 75th Independence Day with hope of freedom from fear, intolerance and a sinister ploy of polarisation of minds and people. The freedom which we have won gives us the responsibility of making and marking the future of this New India.

We liberated ourselves from the oppression of over a century of colonial rule, traversed through the challenging times inflicted upon us by poverty and lack of infrastructure and worked assiduously to transform India as one of the most successful foodgrain producers in the world through the Green Revolution. We must realise that the freedom struggle was more than an agitation against the colonial rule. Our heroes of the freedom struggle were able to bring a nation full of varied colours and hues on a single canvas called India.

No celebration of India’s Independence can be complete without remembering the historic address of our first Prime Minister, Jawaharlal Nehru, upholding the freedom as a step in the direction of realising the dream of Gandhiji. We cannot forget the visionary approaches of the thinkers and nation builders and the contribution of the people who inherited a country plagued with discrimination, untouchability and inequality.

India is one of the few nations on earth which have retained some of the ancient ideologies. The founding fathers of our nation were the guardians of our ancient Indian principle of Vasudhaiva Kutumbukam and Sarv Dharma Sambhav, which also found its place in the structure of the Constitution.

Gandhiji said, “I shall strive for a Constitution which will release India from all thraldom and patronage.” We must realise today that Pandit Nehru and his contemporaries exhibited a respect and acceptance of non-agreement and divergent views but worked together towards nation building, evident by the appointment of Baba Saheb Ambedkar as Law Minister and Syama Prasad Mookerjee as Industries Minister.

Creating nation-building institutions in a fledgling country and setting up strong foundations for infrastructural, industrial, social and economic growth were a daunting task because there was no base to build upon. Any building, however beautiful, is only as strong as its foundation. We must appreciate the vision of Pandit Nehru finding its place with the Planning Commission recommendations to build the first Indian Institute of Technology at Kharagpur in 1951 to nurture the Indian youth to prepare them for a greater role in nation building.

For, people questioning the 70 years of the Congress’s efforts in nation building fail to acknowledge the creation of the Bhabha Atomic Research Centre in 1954 and the first atomic reactor in 1956 depicting an energy revolution in a young India.

Lal Bahadur Sashtri, who became Prime Minister after Pandit Nehru, exhibited indomitable leadership in neutralising the Pakistani invasion of 1965, establishing the military might of the Indian Army. Shastriji gave the slogan Jai Jawan, Jai Kisan to motivate the soldiers and simultaneously mobilise the farmers to protect the sovereignty of the country and increase the production of foodgrains to reduce imports and strengthen food security. The country attained further heights under the leadership of our beloved Prime Minister Indira Gandhiji with the establishment of the ISRO in 1969, a successful military campaign against Pakistan in 1971 followed by the nuclear test on May 18, 1974 at Pokhran, thus becoming a nuclear power and heralding the making of a stronger, greater and self-reliant India.

Our leaders were able to sense future requirements and took appropriate timely steps such as the creation of the ISRO, atomic infrastructure or a great vision of 21st century envisaged by Rajiv Gandhiji way before people could understand it. He made India an IT and telecom powerhouse. The spectrum of Rajivji was wide ranging from technological initiatives to grassroots democracy by bringing in the historic 73rd and 74th Constitution amendments, thereby ensuring local self-governance in the truest sense.

Under the leadership of UPA Chairperson Sonia Gandhiji, the National Advisory Council recommended historic steps for freedom of the poor from food insecurity, hunger and employment and ensured education to the children. The UPA government brought the loan waiver scheme to benefit the farmers and also passed the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act and the Right to Information Act in 2005, the Right to Education Act in 2009 and the National Food Security Act in 2013 to ensure prosperity of sections of society.

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We are free for 75 years now. The Mahatma’s Charkhah represented Swadeshi, self-sufficiency and interdependence. It embodied the dignity of labour and equality. The ideals and teachings of the Mahatma need to be visibly executed by the government at the Centre. The institutions created and preserved for decades serve as checks and balances for the functioning of an independent democracy. The crumbling of the independence of the judiciary, the free press, the CBI, the enforcement agencies such as the Enforcement Directorate to instil fear in the minds of people will never lead to a free democracy.

The revered scriptures of the Bhagavad Gita give freedom to the devotee to ask questions even from God. In the present context, it is ironical that raising questions leads to attack on the intent and character of the questioner. There should be no room for hatred for divergent views and criticisms. Let institutions built by our great leaders be utilised for the objectives they were formed. Let’s strive to protect the freedom and values enshrined in the Freedom Struggle and the Constitution.

Ashok Gehlot is the Chief Minster of Rajasthan


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Printable version | Oct 16, 2021 4:39:01 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/celebrating-the-idea-of-freedom/article35911291.ece

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