From our Staff Reporter
DIBRUGARH, Aug 12: India gained her independence after a long struggle and sacrifice of numerous people. More than six decades after the momentous event, the day evokes associations that vary with the people of different generations. To understand the changing connotations, The Sentinel spoke to three ladies of the same family to find out their take on Independence Day and its celebration.
Nirupama Phukan, winner of Sahitya Akademi Award for her translation of Godaan to Assamese in 1999, was an witness to the freedom struggle and was close to freedom fighters, among them being her uncle, historian Benudhar Sarma. She used to hoist the flag at home on Republic Day and Independence Day without fail. The writer, who is also known as Anubaad Kouwari, recalls, “We used to go and take part in the celebrations. The euphoria of having won freedom from foreign rule still fresh among the people. They spontaneously came forward to observe the two occasions and the celebrations were fuelled by their enthusiasm rather than being led by the government machinery.” Many freedom fighters were still alive and the sacrifice made by them and others were still fresh in the minds of all. Participating in the observance of the Independence Day was truly a celebration rather than a compulsion, which is what it has become for many now.
The daughter of Phukan, Kalpana Khound, who teaches English in DHSK Commerce College, has good memories of Independence Day celebration too. “As a student of Little Flower School, I remember taking part in the march-past. We really used to look forward for the day.” Students of private and government schools came together and met during the celebration, providing them a common ground and gave them a sense of belonging, she added. The college teacher felt that the young generation has missed out on it due to insurgency, as the celebration became low key during the period. She remarked how the tradition of English medium schools taking part in the celebration has disappeared. “At the multiplexes, people walk about when the National Anthem is being played before a movie, oblivious to the fact that we should show respect to it. Having national pride is very important and celebrating Independence Day is one way of drilling it into the citizens. The youths are not connected to their roots.” Khound also thought the removal of history from school curriculum has caused further disassociation of the present generation with their national heritage. To illustrate their ignorance about the freedom struggle, which has inspired world leaders, she narrated how only one of her undergraduate students in a particular class knew where Kalapani is located.
Supriya Khound, who did her post graduation in Social Policy and Development Studies from London School of Economics and is the grand daughter of Nirupama Phukan, said that Independence Day meant holiday as a school student. “For me, the celebration of Independence Day came very late. When I went to New Delhi , I saw for the first time how the day is observed with festivities. People fly kites.” Yet the former student of Lady Shri Ram College did wonder as a young girl why Independence Day was not celebrated in Assam since she had seen the kind of fervour it is observed with in other countries during the course of her extensive travels. “The fourth of July is observed in such a grand manner in USA . In Vietnam where I worked for sometime, the celebration spans almost a week. When I was growing up, people were scared to step out of their houses on Independance Day. Seeing such fear is not a nice feeling.” Having been a part of the festivities of Independence Day in the country’s capital, the 24-year old does not want to miss out on it any more. “Now whenever it is Independence Day, I want to be out of the state,” she added with a laugh.