Fruits of Freedom
By Dr Jyots Bhattacharjee
India became free of British domition 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, Sardar Patel, Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose, to me 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 had taught Indians to dislike our glorious traditions. The situation now is that we are neither Indian nor non-Indian—and we have no ground to stand upon firmly.
Those forgotten great leaders paid a heavy price; for freedom they suffered untold misery and many of them died. And we are enjoying the fruits of their sacrifice without being the least grateful to those noble heroes. Actually Independence does not mean a thing to us; all we do 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 Independence Day celebrations. For them it is just a paid holiday to watch television, to go for a picnic or to visit the zoo with the 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 learnt to take their speeches with a tablespoon of salt. They are disgusted with the deteriorating situation of the state and are fed up with the lies thrown around like confetti. And who can blame them for their disenchantment? After all, they have borne enough and their nerves are frayed. The old people often can be heard grumbling that the situation was far better during the British period. There was no violence, no conflicts 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 grievances are due to 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 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 children 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. They are reluctant to come back and believe that they would not get all 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 tion. We have produced enough food; we have sufficient tural wealth, enough technical, scientific and defence 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 tural calamities. For instance, our state is prey to devastating floods each year. This year is no exception. Thousands of people become homeless, some men die, animals are washed away and communication with other states gets disrupted. We remain helpless spectators when ture strikes lethal blows. Our leaders talking big and showing spurious concern for the plight of the victims are of no use. They have apparently spent crores on these flood control projects, yet floods are as devastating as ever.
That is not the only problem. The country is reeling under corruption. Money seems to speak louder than words. You cannot expect the smallest service in 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 be back home in the evening from your office. A group of young men at your gate give you shivers. You are afraid to go down a dark alley, in case somebody, lurking behind the bushes takes pot 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, extortion, rape etc. 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 neighbour in distress. Fear has clouded our minds to such an extent that we cannot see or judge something ratiolly.
Our social life is a mess. We do not meet our friends or relatives as Television is ruling our homes. Adults 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 are having wonderful gadgets, which were unknown to our forefathers. We are enjoying all the comfort, that science has offered. But 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 realised 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 ours is a large democracy, yet we are not responsible enough to preserve it. Our democracy has turned into mobocracy 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 crimils 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 and preserve our hard-earned freedom. Infiltration from across the border has posed a tremendous hurdle in our path of progress. Some people are trading freedom for persol and political gains.
People have to be made aware of their responsibility and here the children have a great role to play. They are our hope and the destiny of the country depends on them. Childhood is the most vital period in human life. What is learnt in childhood develops character. Therefore instead of giving them career-based education, they should be given value-based education. They should be trained in such a way that they can be worthy citizens of the country in future. The parents and the teachers should note that children learn from what they see and not from what they hear. Every child has potential divinity in him and this divinity should be made actual.
Renunciation was the ideal of ancient India and it is also the need of modem India. Helping others around us will bring us peace and happiness. It will also promote community well-being. Hatred and ill-will can be conquered only by selfless activity. We have to forget petty things. Even a few good people can do a lot. India had a glorious past, but unfortutely the glory was lost in the mire of selfishness, corruption and cruelty. Corruption and modernism have ruined our society. Hence spiritual discipline has become a necessity. The young people have to be trained in selflessness, spirit of service and truthfulness, so that they can lead the country in the right path in future. Once India was a country rooted in spiritualism. But due to western influence now materialism has elbowed out our glorious tradition. As a result people have become incredibly selfish, greedy and cruel. We have lost all our higher values. For peace and bliss spiritualism has to be revived. That is the only way to happiness.
(The writer is a former Head, Department of Philosophy, Cotton College, Guwahati)