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Mainstream, VOL LV No 34 New Delhi August 12, 2017

Pledge-taking on ‘Quit India’ Anniversary

Saturday 12 August 2017, by SC


Today, August 9, 2017, happens to be the seventyfifth anniversary of the ‘Quit India’ movement also known as the August Revolution that, alongwith the Azad Hind Fauj’s daring exploits in South-East Asia right up to the borders of North-East India, eventually led to the British withdrawal from the ‘Jewel in the imperial Crown’ within five years, that is, by mid-August 1947 thereby ensuring transfer of power to its subjects—Indians in India and Pakistanis in Pakistan.

It is good that the Government of India has decided to befittingly observe the anniversary with the citizens being asked to collectively pledge to build a New India. The relevant government announcement on the subject reads:

“Come let us together pledge for building a New India by 2022.

“Let us together pledge towards a Clean India.

“Let us together pledge towards a Poverty-free India.

“Let us together pledge towards a Corruption-free India.

“Let us together pledge towards a Communalism-free India.

“Let us together pledge towards a Casteism-free India.

“Let us all strive in spirit and soul to accomplish this pledge for building a New India.”

The official advertisement embodying this pledge, published in today’s daily newspapers, carries excerpts from a message of PM Narendra Modi that inter alia reads: “Let us pledge to work shoulder to shoulder and dedicate ourselves towards creating a ‘New India’ that would make our freedom fighters proud.”

There is no harm if a pledge is taken to that effect. In fact one would wholeheartedly welcome it. But the moot question is: do the developments in the last three years, since the Union Government headed by PM Modi assumed power at the Centre, inspire any confidence, based on dispassionate analysis of the events in this time-span, towards the construction of a new India “that would make our freedom fighters proud”? The categoric answer is: a resounding ‘no’.

Congress President Sonia Gandhi, during a special discussion on the ‘Quit India’ movement in Parliament today, wondered in the Lok Sabha in the wake of recent developments if the “forces of darkness” were trying to destroy the roots of democracy as “clouds of hate and division” hovered over secular and egalitarian values. In the same breath she unwaveringly declared without mincing words (though she didn’t mention the ruling party at the Centre by name):

“We will not allow the idea of India to be a prisoner to narrow-mindedness and communal ideology. Today it looks secularism and free speech are in danger. If we have to preserve freedom, we’ll have to defeat the forces endangering it. We can’t and won’t allow sectarian forces to succeed.”

And she put the present struggle in the country in perspective when she said:

“People have to fight for the India they believe in, which is loved by one and all and which was envisioned by the freedom fighters.”

And the former Chief Justice of the Delhi High Court and erstwhile Chairman of the Law Commission, Justice Ajit Prakash Shah, in an interview published in The Hindu today itself, lamented:

“Today, in India, we do not talk of inclusive nationalism. What we have is a situation of enforced cultural nationalism. It is a culture of hate that is being perpetrated in the name of nationalism. There are repeated lynchings in the name of cow protection—from Mohammad Akhlaq to Junaid Khan, it is all very disturbing, to say the least. There is an invasion of university space. Independent thinking is being killed. We seem to have forgotten the all-inclusive nationalism from half a century ago, and we have inverted it into something that is undesirable.”

Thereafter he underlined:

“As Tagore said, when the nation becomes powerful at the cost of harmony of social life, that day is an evil day for humanity. What do we have today instead? People speak of removing the thoughts of Tagore from textbooks.”

The prevailing scenario is indeed dangerous and frightening. If we have to reclaim the legacy of the freedom struggle, offer our sincere homage to the soldiers of the 1942 ‘Quit India’ movement (many of whom laid down their lives in the process), it is necessary to revive the values for which the freedom fighters fought under the leadership of Mahatma Gandhi, Jawaharlal Nehru, Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose.

The manner in which the officially sponsored pledge-taking ceremony has been held today cannot be a substitute to that. Unless we eschew from our polity sectarianism and narrow-mindedness—the vices being sought to be perpetuated by the present-day rulers at the Centre—the futility of the aforemen-tioned pledge-taking exercise would become palpable in no time. In fact it will only achieve something quite contrary to what our freedom fighters had dreamt of when they strove to break the fetters of colonial bondage.

August 9 s.c.

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