I remember those days when as a child, the first thing I’d wish to do on the Republic Day was to nag my parents until they took me to the bazaar to buy me the tricolor; the Indian flag. It became a twice a year ritual for much of my childhood & each time I’d feel the same surreal sensation while running my tiny fingers over the flag.
The three colors: saffron, white & green; in perfect harmony with each other signify the struggle of the Indian state to forge a society that’s more united, more progressive & above all more inclusive. The flag also represents the mighty struggle our people have undertaken over the past seven decades to build a modern nation- state on progressive ideas of secularism & pluralism; ideas that are deeply enshrined within our constitution.
In a world where theocratic regimes still hold ground, where our neighbors are mired deep into religious fanaticism; India stands out tall as a sanctuary of liberalism in South Asia. We are the noisy democracy of Asia; we argue & we shout. There’s a sea of opinions & counter opinions crashing into each other. It is undoubtedly cacophonous but, this is how democracies work; multiple forces striving for supremacy where each one is capable of checking the others to maintain the right balance.
Democracy is now perfectly ingrained within the fabric of our society. From an era of absolute Congress hegemony for the first two decades of independence to the birth of regional aspirations in form of political entities across Tamil Nadu & the Andhra state. The rise of Communists in Bengal, Kerela & the North-East posed the first serious ideological challenge to the Congress Party. The watershed decade of 1970’s saw Indira; the authoritarian usurp power & push India towards a de-facto dictatorship of the emergency years. Thousands of activists, journalists & political opponents of Indira Gandhi were rounded up. Within months India; the world’s most populous democracy morphed into a dictatorship of Indira Gandhi & her raffish elder son Sanjay. The emergency years & the ominous slogan; “Indira is India & India is Indira” may appear things of bygone era but, the threat to Indian democracy couldn’t have been more real than it’s today.
The civil society & the intelligentsia find themselves besieged by the forces that have little regard for intelligent debates & discussions. “Troll armies” are unleashed on social media on those who are even slightly critical of the government. Invectives & calumnies are heaped on to those who happen to have contrarian opinions. Nationalism is shoved down our throats as if it were the ultimate remedy to all of our problems; poverty, malnutrition & the growing wealth disparity between the filthy rich & those living in squalor isn’t cringe-worthy. However, even a hint of progressive opinion that contradicts the idealistic dreams of the right-wing ruffians is sufficient to guarantee you a free one-way ticket to Pakistan!
What path have we embarked upon? How can rationality turn subservient to outright lies disseminated all across?
This Republic Day ponder a little more on what it means to be a “republic nation-state”, strive more to protect this hard- won liberty, the constitution & our plurality.