Into that heaven of freedom…
India celebrates yet another Independence Day. The time has come to take stock of the value and real meaning of freedom. As Amartya Sen observed in his illustrious work, Development as Freedom,
India celebrates yet another Independence Day. The time has come to take stock of the value and real meaning of freedom. As Amartya Sen observed in his illustrious work, Development as Freedom, “Freedom is both the primary end and the principal means of development.” The eighteenth century poet William Cowper said, “Freedom has a thousand charms to show, That slaves howe'er contented, never know.”
Despite unprecedented increase in overall opulence, millions of people are still unfree. Even if they are not technically slaves, they are denied elementary freedom and remain imprisoned in one way or another by economic poverty, social deprivation, political tyranny or cultural authoritarianism. The independent India still suffers from several of these malaises in some degree or other. The free nation has to conquer this scourge.
So long as you do not achieve social liberty, whatever freedom is provided by the law is of no avail to you, said Dr B R Ambedkar But, multiple forms of social exclusion continue to persist in free India. Political ideal set in the Preamble of the Constitution affirms a life of liberty, equality and fraternity. What are we having this liberty for? We are having this liberty in order to reform our social system, which is full of inequality, discrimination and other things, which are in conflict with our fundamental rights.
An appraisal of independent India’s track record in social emancipation only makes a disturbing reading. The Independence Day celebrations should not be a Pepsi Cola jamboree but the time for honest introspection and a solemn occasion to redeem our pledge. Mahatma Gandhi’s concept of freedom can serve as a barometer to measure our accomplishment so far. Gandhiji said, “It gives me both pain and surprise when I find people feeling anxious about their future under a freed India.”
Even as the unfurling of national flag fills our hearts with pride and patriotism, millions of fellow Indians continue to be concerned over their livelihood security. Freedom has a real meaning only when every Indian gets an opportunity to unravel one’s optimal potential.As Rabindranath Tagore dreamed, “Where the mind is without fear and the head is held high, Where knowledge is free, Where the world has not been broken up into fragments,
By narrow domestic walls, Where words come out from the depth of truth, Where tireless striving stretches its arms towards perfection, Where the clear stream of reason has not lost its way Into the dreary desert sand of dead habit, Where the mind is led forward by thee Into ever-widening thought and action, Into that heaven of freedom, my Father, let my country awake.”
Justice Brandeis in his famous judgment in Whitney v. California said, “the greatest menace to freedom is an inert people.” The freedom struggle of India was centred around empowerment. As Jawahar Lal Nehru said, “Failure comes only when we forget our ideals and objectives and principles.” Philosophers have interpreted freedom in many ways, but we need to widen it, deepen it and cherish it. A conscious citizenship is only the guarantee.