What does freedom mean to us?

Freedom means different things to different people.

To school children, it means march past, singing the national anthem followed by cultural programs and the ubiquitous sweet or biscuits. It is an occasion to be enjoyed, a break from their monotonous school routine of classes and classes only, with no outdoor activity.

To many adults it is a break from work as it is a national holiday when they can relax, sit back and probably  watch some patriotic films on television- Mani Ratnam’s Roja or Khadgam and many more are always aired with great patriotic fervor and the problem is to choose one.img 1
To the more “nationalistic” of us it is a time to get up early, listen to the Prime Minister’s address to the nation, share it with their lazier colleagues and distribute national flags and India maps proudly.

This is our limited perspective.

Let us now see what freedom  means to some others in India.

To the Dalits of Gujarat , it is an unforgettable day. After marching  350 kms from Ahmedabad on foot to Una ,they will declare their independence from dehumanizing work like skinning dead cattle,animals, manual scavenging and claim a life of dignity and self-respect. This day- August 15th 2016 will be remembered as their day of Independence. This photograph (credit- Dalit camera) tells us their story in a thousand words.

Now, what does it mean to the war veterans, the ex-servicemen? They allege that the Government has betrayed them and diluted the one rank, one pension scheme(OROP).Major Gen Satbir Singh(retd), Chairman of the Indian Ex-Servicemen Movement, wrote to the Defence ministry on August 3rd to convey “his anguish for this attitude of neglect of defence personnel” by the government.  Their struggle for freedom is still ongoing in their retired life when they should sit back and rest.  

img 2As humans we are curious people. Let us see what Independence means to people in Kashmir- the “atoot ang” of India. The killing of civilians- nearly 60 people  and the blinding of more than 200 youngsters including children at the hands of the police has been on our conscience since more than a month now. Has the tricolor been unfurled there?

This youngster, probably only a boy of 12 or 15 does not care if he is shot or blinded as long as he can throw that stone and fight for “azaadi.” The people of Kashmir only want freedom from India and Pakistan, even at the cost of their lives. Does it sound like India and Britain, 70 years ago?

  Freedom means different things to different people.


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