15th August 2006 will mark yet another Independence Day for the modern
Fifty nine years ago this day Pandit Nehru, the country's first Prime Minister,
famously declared the new born nation's 'tryst with destiny' and promised to
make Independence a vehicle of future peace, prosperity and democratic rule
for his country men and women.
But as we stand today at the threshold of India's sixtieth year of
free existence for millions of people living in this vast and diverse land it
is as if Independence never arrived and our colonial rulers never left. There
are two simple questions they pose that nobody seems to have an answer for-
WHOSE freedom is it that 15th of August represents? And WHO does this country
really belong to?
For in the harsh daily reality of their lives what they experience is the same
old pillage, plunder and injustice from successive Indian governments. Indian
Independence instead of being a vehicle to the promised peace, prosperity and
democracy appears to them more like a brakeless burning train headed for complete
A burning train that is commandeered by a paid bureaucracy willing to obey
any orders their political and corporate masters give no matter what principles
of basic humanity are broken in the process. Anybody here with a conscience
is soon hauled over the coals - more fodder to feed the ever starving, ever
The politicians smugly sit in their first class AC carriages insulated from
the electorate in whose name they rule and cozy up to the captains of domestic
and foreign capital who are their real constituency. Once in several years they
lean out of their windows to beam their plastic smiles and wave their stodgy
hands at those behind them- an exercise the current Indian government proudly
calls 'free market democracy'.
In a small corner next to the politicians and the corporate bosses sit members
of the Indian media intoxicated by their proximity to power. They are there
to entertain the elites with trivia, the 'heroes' playing Nero while the nation
The coaches that follow are full of the Indian middle classes, also mostly
upper caste, who occupy reserved seats, which they mistakenly think, are also
deserved. As they coast along their comfortable journey they chatter on about
how corrupt everyone is (except them of course!) and curse the politicians ahead.
But all the while aspiring, competing, conspiring to privately grab a share
of the same loot they publicly denounce.
At the very end of the train is that single unreserved compartment, meant for
the unshaven, unkempt masses who- according to some ancient Indian logic- get
so little precisely because they are so large in number. Here they go pushing,
shoving, cutting, murdering and slaughtering each other over every inch of space
which represents their very survival. Innocence here is a bird that dies well
before it is even born, for to be alive would mean only ending up in the diet
of some hungry soul or the other.
But there is yet another category of people, the Dalit, Adivasi, indigenous
folk of the Indian North-East and the Kashmiris, who don't figure anywhere inside
the burning Indian train - because the train itself runs not on railway tracks
but on their bloodied backs. They are the colonial subjects of the colonized,
the slaves of the slaves, the shadow of shadows with no human rights because
they are supposed to be mere living ghosts.
And why exactly is this train called India headed for disaster?
Political disaster because our politicians, despite the façade of periodic
elections, do not represent the Indian people any more and have transformed
into middlemen bargaining away national interests to the highest bidder. Most
of our leading (or misleading) political parties, instead of helping defend
democracy and national sovereignty, are busy trying to make India a junior partner
in the global crimes of US Imperialism- even if the process leads to the recolonisation
of the country.
Administrative disaster because the government 'public servant', in a perversion
of the original concept, treats the public like his servant and instead serves
his real masters in the world of wealthy corporations. Despite living off the
Indian State all these decades today many of them are the ones most enthusiastic
about selling it off to private owners.
Economic disaster because what used to be a national economy has turned into
one more game of roulette in the global casino whose spinning wheel spells fortunes
for a select few and pauperizes the already poor majority. The evil mantras
of Liberalisation, Privatisation and Globalisation are taking India back to
the days of princely kingdoms, with the only difference that today the monarchs
are the large corporations that dominate the national landscape.
Social disaster because injustice breeds more injustice, greed breeds more
greed and the frenzied search for security of the few makes the multitudes insecure.
While we have successive governments splurging billions of dollars on militarization
in the name of 'national security' the real problem remains at home with simmering
conflicts of caste, religion and nationality ready to explode at short notice
On a burning train survival is possible only over the corpses of fellow travellers.
Ecological disaster because what successive governments in Independent India
have done so far is destroy the country's irreplaceable land, water, forest,
air in the name of national development. A development that worships dead, inanimate
monuments of the graveyard while displacing, humiliating and destroying the
lives of breathing, sentient creatures that eat, sleep, laugh and make love.
Is there a solution to the national mess we are in today?
We have no definite answers but one thing for sure is that the only ones who
can ultimately save the passengers on the great burning Indian train are the
very people whose flesh and bones they travel upon. It is only through a powerful
collective shrug of these invisible people- the original people of India- that
the burning train can be pushed off its tracks- liberating both those beneath
and inside the train headed for disaster.
It may well be time for all of us to jump off this burning train and help derail
it. It is an act of resistance that may launch yet another battle for Indian
Independence- this time from our own home grown Colonial State.
Satya Sagar is a journalist, writer and video maker based
in New Delhi. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
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