By Ruma Dubey
We are celebrating the 69th Republic Day of India.
It’s a proud moment as it marks us, India, as a country which has scripted its own constitution, respecting people’s freedom and rights.
Two questions come to mind on the eve of this auspicious day.
First, do we have the freedom today? Are our rights being protected? In the wake of Hindu vigilantism, there is a sense of over protectionism and over sensitivity. Every caste and creed wants to “protect” its culture and sabhyata? But really, what is the culture and sabhyata they are talking about? We do not know how to protect our historical monuments and what culture are we protecting? The row over the Holy cow and movie releases, it has all got out of hand. One cannot help but think that movies like ‘Padosan’ or ‘Bombay to Goa’ would never be able to get released in today’s time.
So are we becoming more mature or less intolerant? We are tolerant – we tolerate corruption, we tolerate banks and their NPAs, we tolerate corporate looting, we tolerate women getting raped, we tolerate atrocities by every fringe group. Yes, we are a very tolerant society. But what we cannot tolerate is any threat to the sabhyata.
Today we cannot tolerate any ad, any food, any person or even parts of a hitherto private conversation which went viral or a Twitter post; anything which does not agree with our sensibilities. What does not agree with us, is an insult to us, “as a nation” or “1.2 billion people of this country.” It’s funny in many ways; the PM was waxing eloquent about India at Davos while Indians were busy protesting or supporting the release of a movie.
The second question – why do we have the military parades on Republic Day?
Yes, this questions dogs the mind every single year. As a child it is pretty fascinating. But as one grows up and learns that we as a nation got our Freedom from the British through non-violence and we celebrate Mahatma Gandhi, who symbolizes ahimsa, why this display of arms and ammunition? We have civilian rule in India and not military, right? We should respect the armed forces but isn’t this a misplaced idea of patriotism?
On Republic Day, New Delhi is indeed like a war museum. For countries like China or Russia to have such a display is fine but why are we doing this? Year after year? We continue to face violence on the borders, Pakistan continues to remain the bad neighbor and people living along the borders have never felt more unsafe. So what’s the point of this arms display?
Modi has brought about a lot of change and tried to do away with so many things which were mere relics of the past, serving no utility. So why not do away with this display? Let us showcase things which are changing in India; the digital revolution, the innovations of ISRO, the scientific inventions, the Swachcha Bharat, the smart cities; so many small but significant changes.
And while we are on about ‘doing away’ we surely need to change the way in which our war hero widows are treated. They are made to stand there in front of all the dignitaries while the tribute is being read out. Why can’t she be seated and others stand when she gets the posthumous award? Isn’t that how we should treat those who have laid down their lives for protecting us – a standing ovation is the least we can do.
Thus as we get ready for the long weekend, we should introspect some bit on where we, as a nation, currently stand with respect to our republican aspirations.