Reflections on the 69th Year of Independence

We need a Lutheran approach to understanding our democracy and our republic. We need to get back to the basics, learn and understand for ourselves what our freedoms are, and demand that state see us as individuals capable of deciding our own lives

On the 28th of April 1947, just before the start of the third session of the constituent assembly of India, the president of the assembly, Dr. Rajendra Prasad, brought to the attention of its members that Burma had elected its own constituent assembly, quite similar to India’s with the objective of a free, independent Burmese Republic. General Aung San would be the prime mover behind Burma’s transition to Independence. Two months later on the 21st of July 1947, the Indian constituent assembly began its session with condolences on the assassination of General Aung San and his colleagues.

The constituent assembly would go on to meet for another 2 years, its numbers fluctuating with partition, deaths, and elections. In August 1947, it would meet to debate its own status as a constituent assembly and a legislative body. It would meet in November 1948, to offer silent tributes for Gandhi, 10 months after his assassination, and a silent tribute to Jinnah 20 days after his death. The assembly would meet through the most tumultuous times in the Indian subcontinent, fully aware that the institutions that were being created, the republic that was being constructed by the 299 representatives, will have to weather the saints and the scalawags of an Independent India.

68 years after Independence, the union still stands; free, democratic, secular and a republic. It stands in the midst of a subcontinent beset by wars, dictators, military rules, constitutional crises and unstable governments. The neighbourhood is evidence enough to realize the enormity of sustaining an independent republic, and the extraordinary nature of our political system that has shown to be capable of navigating the excesses of meaningless diatribes, alongside the dearth of consequential deliberations. The cracks are however starting to show.

The combined power of an passionless populace, petty politicians, and pestilential politicking have considerable weakened the republic. Murmurs of authoritarianism being preferred over democracy or an oligarchy being favored over popular politics have begun. What drives these movements forward, more than the dream of an utopian state, is an ignorance fed by decades of closing education inside ‘narrow domestic walls’ and ‘dreary desert sand of dead habit’.

Part of the reason for our indifference lies in the way we are taught about our history and in the failure to encourage critical reasoning, rational thinking and learning through questioning. Our education like Gradgrinds school in Dickens’ Hard Times teaches us about facts and nothing but cold hard facts. We do not learn completely about the many ideas that shaped our Independence and our republic. We do not learn about why the men and women who travelled the world to muster support for an Independent India settled on this idea for our country. The insufficiency in our education also means we dampen creativity, ignore argumentative analysis , and refuse to engage in exercises that would help us gain a better understanding of our history and our republic.

Every democracy goes through periods of introspection and fine tuning. It requires the citizenry to look at what has gone right and what can be set right. To lazily entrust the responsibility completely to one individual and willingly forego freedoms in exchange for imagined security & prosperity is not the answer. What we need instead is a Lutheran approach to understanding our democracy and our republic. We need to get back to the basics, learn and understand for ourselves what our freedoms are, and demand that state see us as individuals capable of deciding our own lives. We need to introspect, understand and argue for better rights. We need to teach the next generation to seek refuge in reason and not drown in dogma. We need to overhaul our systems and our institutions, part by part, and push them to create a new generation of citizenry, who can judge for themselves and raise questions that can take them to places where the ‘mind is without fear’

For 2014, I elaborated on Ambedkar’s idea that Social Conscience is the only safeguard for all rights, fundamental and non-fundamental

For 2013 I wrote how Independant thinking, Informed criticism and introspective analysis should be the way forward

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