India celebrated its 58th Independence Day (I'DAY) recently with all pomp and pageantry. The day is meant to remind us of the sacrifices made by millions of faceless freedom fighters to liberate India from the yoke of foreign rule. Maximum involvement of children is ensured in all these I'DAY celebrations with a view to inculcate the spirit of freedom that resulted from a revolution they never participated in. They are reminded again and again about what they would lose if they are not careful in the future. Most of the foreigners came as traders but ended up as rulers by their deft manipulation of our weakness. Few of the natives who collaborated with them at different times made it easy for them to consolidate the rule. Children are told not to become collaborators and tools in the hand of our enemies for petty personal gains.
Perhaps these are broad objectives of our yearly I'DAY celebrations. But isn't it time to take a detached view of these celebrations and see what really happens in the process? Are the children really getting the message and is it producing the desired results? Are we making a mistake by continuing with these celebrations? I think we are making a big mistake. Arguing further on this line, what is the need and relevance of a British Commonwealth? Are we not conceding our sovereignty by accepting the superiority of a foreign monarchy, however insignificantly symbolic it may be? Here is an attempt for a fresh look at these institutions.
History Must Be Taught Selectively
History and mythology have a symbiotic relationship and they reinforce each other to a large extent. But when a modern nation is teaching history to its own young generation, as part of a curriculum, it is prudent to be selective. There is a strong school of thought that history should not be doctored and everything should be taught as such. There are other sections who want history to be rewritten. And then there are small organized sections who want mythology to be made into history. Though mythological stories about Sage Parasurama throwing the axe to create Kerala and Saint Thomas visiting India in 52AD are both popular, there is an organized effort to make the latter as part of our history. Both have no scientific historical evidence and are to be treated as such. In the midst of all such debates and manipulations, the focus on shaping new generations of our nation is getting lost. What is taught as history should be 100% factual but it is not necessary to teach everything in history. There is absolutely nothing harmful in highlighting the glorious past of any nation and shaping proud citizens, if there are reasons to be so.
Our civilization is almost one hundred centuries old, but what is now being highlighted in our school history books is about the two centuries of foreign rule. It is about five decades since the British rulers were thrown out of India and we already have two or three generations of people who are born and brought up in Independent India. As per our latest census figures, such people make up about three fourths of our population. These people have not had the misfortune to live under foreign rule and they never struggled to get even their basic rights. Instead they were born into an atmosphere of freedom and enjoyed equality and justice (at least theoretically) from day one. In such a situation, is there any point in first teaching all about the atrocities under the British Raj and then proceeding to remind them every year that we could eject them in 1947. I think it is time to forget the brief ugly immediate past and concentrate on the greater achievements in an earlier period to build a glorious future for India.
Occupation of any nation by foreigners is akin to violation of its modesty. Apart from the physical violence that it entails, the more devastating aspect is the stripping down of national morale. Children born in such an atmosphere will either develop an inferiority complex for survival or tend to take up violent methods to fight. In the case of India, we were extremely fortunate to get a messiah in the form of Mahatma Gandhi who could guide us to freedom in a novel way. Continental nature of our land and its ancient civilization contributed in large measure to protect our culture even after two centuries of foreign rule. Having survived such bad times, what is the logic in spending public money to commemorate the I'DAY which will only remind us about those unfortunate times? Nobody likes to 'celebrate' a tragedy in family but only learn from it and keep in mind. The more we celebrate a liberation day, the more we tend to remember the tyranny that preceded it. Knowing this basic nature of man, it is time to do away with the I'DAY celebrations and redouble our celebrations on some other day of national importance.
Irrelevance of C'Wealth
Any news about the Commonwealth organization (C'WEALTH) reminds us of a get together by victims of a tragedy under the leadership of the very perpetrator. Imagine an association of Bhopal Gas tragedy victims under the leadership of Union Carbide! It is something like that. What message does any citizen of one of those erstwhile colonies get whenever there is a meeting of CHOGM? Again, we are only perpetuating the memories of an ugly period in our long history by remaining a member of such a club. In modern times it is becoming unacceptable to be xenophobic and nationalistic. But patriotism is a basic minimum requirement of any citizen of any nation. State should encourage patriotic citizens to be proud and fearless by asserting its equality (not superiority) among world nations. If we are targeting to be a developed nation by 2020, one of the first decisions to be taken is to pull out of the C'WEALTH. Once India pulls out, the whole edifice would crumble and only the nations that still accept British monarchy as their heads of state would remain. That looks more logical and relevant.
It is part of recorded history that India had more than 20% of world trade prior to the start of the so-called Industrial Revolution in Europe. And now after all these years of foreign and self rule, our share is down to less than 2% of the world figures. This is what has happened to our wealth and trade. Africans and Americans often say that when colonizers (missionaries) came 'we had the land and they had the book' and then gradually 'we had the book but they took the land'. It is a similar story for Indians too. All the wealth that fuelled the Industrial Revolution in Britain came from its colonies. What was our own wealth accumulated over centuries became common wealth first and then ended up as their own wealth. There is no point in being bitter about the past but to avoid a repetition we have to get over the past completely.
French Model is Better
India should not only get out of C'WEALTH but also downgrade all celebrations connected with I'DAY. A better alternative exists in the form of celebrating the Republic Day a' la French. Our current constitution denotes the First Republic of our country attained in a democratic way. We should designate it as such and go for grandiose celebrations on 26 January every year. It is time to get over our memories about the brief ignominious period and look forward to a much more glorious future. At the height of British Raj, one English writer wrote about 'The Wonder That Was India' but now we should try to change it as 'Eternal Wonder That Is India'.