Dr Jyotsna Bhattacharjee
India became free of British domination due to the selfless endeavour of thousands of our country men. Who can forget the contributions of our great leaders like Mahatma Gandhi, Pandit Nehru, Lokmanya Tilak, Sarder Patel, Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose, to name only a few? It was due to their sacrifices and untiring efforts that India became free from the shackles of slavery. Our imperial masters left India, but they taught us to dislike our glorious traditions. The situation now is that we are neither India nor non-India and we have no ground to stand upon firmly.
Those forgotten great leaders paid a heavy price for freedom, they suffered untold miseries and many of them died. We are enjoying the fruit of their sacrifices without being the least grateful to those noble heroes. Actually, Independence does not mean a thing to us; all that is done is to celebrate the event and that too in the presence of a handful of dignitaries. Common people seem to be indifferent to the significance of the Independence Day celebrations. For them it is just a paid holiday to watch Television, to go on a picnic or to visit the zoo with their children. May be they are disillusioned and are fed up with these hollow festivities and are no longer interested in listening to the rehearsed speeches by our dignitaries. The people have learned to take their speeches with a large tablespoon of salt. They are disgusted with the deteriorating situation of the state and are fed up with the lies and promises thrown around like confetti. And who can blame them for their disenchantment? After all, they have borne enough and their nerves are frayed and patience is in shreds. The old people often can be heard grumbling that the situation was much better during the British period. There were no violence, no conflict and no hypocrisy, people could move about freely, even at night, without fear. There was no fear of bomb blasts in cinema halls, market places or buses. There was no fear of hijacking of planes, of abduction or unnecessary killing of innocent people. Perhaps these atrocities are being committed due the frustrations of the people at large, who were hoping for a “Ramrajya” after attaining freedom, as the Mahatma had envisaged.
It is very true that India has developed in an astounding fashion during the last few decades after independence. None can deny the tremendous progress the country has made in all spheres. In the British period we had only a small number of educated people but now due to all these literacy schemes, people have become aware of the value and importance of education and more and more have started going to schools. Now we have a large number of educated people but we are also exporting many, who are giving wonderful performance in foreign lands. We have thousands of talented people, who could have done a lot for the country. But they are reluctant to come back and believe that they would not get that facility here, which they are enjoying in their adopted country. Perhaps they are right.
India does not lack resources. The country has vast areas of fertile land, wonderful industries and sufficient raw materials. With the resources in hand, we have ample opportunity to grow into a great nation. We have produced enough food; we have sufficient natural wealth, enough technical, scientific and defense knowledge; more than our expectations. India is one of the most important developing countries of the world, posing a challenge even to super powers. But all this progress has not been able to give us happiness. Most of the people are poor and are suffering a lot. Our experts have not been able to discover means to combat natural calamities. For instance, our state is prey to devastating floods every year. This is a rule rather than exception. Thousands of people become homeless and die, animals are washed away and communication with other states gets disrupted. We remain helpless spectators when nature strikes lethal blows. It is no use of our leaders talking big and showing spurious concern at the plight of the victims. They have apparently spent crores on flood control projects yet floods are as devastating as ever. It is self interest that is reigning at the most and not altruism.
That is not the only problem. The country is racking under corruption. Money seems to speak louder than words. You cannot expect the smallest service from any department, unless you are prepared to grease their oily palms with your hard earned money. You may not be able to get an honest person, even if you scour the entire length and breadth of any of these Offices. Decades back, in the pre-independence era there was not such large-scale corruption. But now you may not find a single corruption free individual amongst the multitude.
Terrorism has spread like an infectious disease throughout the country and Assam possibly is the worst sufferer. Life has become so very uncertain that you are not sure if you would get back home in the evening from office. A group of young men at your gate gives you shivers. You are afraid to go down a dark alley, in case somebody, lurking behind the bushes takes a shot at you. You cannot go to a cinema or to the market with a mind free from qualms. A bus journey is also not safe for you. We do not know how to protect ourselves from violence, shooting, stabbing, abduction, rape etc. which have become the order of the day. Minor girls are raped by men, old enough to be their grandfathers. That is the situation in a nutshell. We do not trust anybody and do not go to help a neighbor in distress. Fear has clouded our minds to such an extent that we cannot see or judge something rationally.
Our social life is a mess. We do not meet our friends or relatives as television is ruling our homes. Adult and little children sit glued to the TV set without bothering if some of those programmes are worth watching or if the children would be adversely affected by them. The tragedy is that due to the impact of Television, we have lost our friends and our social life has become woefully restricted. Science has made progress by leaps and bounds and we have wonderful gadgets, which were unknown to our forefathers. But all these wonderful achievements have not been able to remove our fears and apprehensions. We are not really happy. We have forgotten the meaning of freedom and that is the greatest tragedy of our life.
Some people are grumbling, especially those from the pre independence era, that liberty has become a liability for us. What has it brought? Merely moral decadence, price rise and violence. But that is not the fault of liberty. The blame actually lies with us. We have not realized that to preserve liberty, we have to make some unified efforts. Freedom without responsibility is disastrous. It is like giving a loaded gun to an ignorant child. We are proud to assert that our country is the largest democracy, yet we are not responsible enough to preserve it. Our democracy has turned into monocracy and it is money that rules the election process.
There does not seem to be any perceptible law or order in our country. People are suffering a lot and the criminals are waltzing around with any number of anti social activities. The talks about a corruption free society have become a damp squib. Lack of responsibility has made us float like a rudderless ship, and we have no idea about how to protect or preserve our hard earned freedom. Infiltration from across the border has posed a tremendous hurdle in our path to progress. Some people are trading freedom for personal and political gains.
People have to be made aware of their responsibility. Our young generation too seems to have gone astray. All these frequent ‘bandhs’, ‘strikes’, ‘road blocks’ etc have caused immense harm to the nation. It is time we pondered over the problem and found ways for the true development of our country. Here children have a great role to play. They are our hope and destiny of the nation. These little children should be given value education, so that they know the difference between right and wrong Morality has become a thing of the past. Indian culture depends on spiritualism, which has to be revived in order to show the correct path to the succeeding generations. Without morality, development is meaningless. Western materialism has elbowed out the spiritualistic attitude of the Indian people, which happens to be our legacy. India has taken rapid strides in science and Technology but morally the country has become bankrupt. Hence it is imperative that our children learnt the value of morality and they should be taught to become honest and then only the nation will be truly progressive and prosperous. Perhaps in that way the Mahatma’s vision of ‘Ramrajya’ can be made actual.
(The writer is a former Head, Department of Philosophy, Cotton College, Guwahati)