Wednesday, August 6, 2008

What does freedom mean to the youth today?

Well, what does freedom mean? This term freedom is not preceded by the article the …I go into the grammar cause I want to know which freedom’s understanding of today’s youth shall I state. Ah. If the topic had said the freedom, then in an Indian context it would imply the freedom secured by India in 1947. Hmm. But it’s not “the freedom”. So then it could also imply the dictionary meaning of freedom. According to OED, freedom is personal liberality, magnanimity; the state of being able to act unimpeded, unrestrained, unhampered. Or does the topic refer to freedom as described by the Indian constitution. The constitution declares India to be a sovereign socialist secular democratic republic and I quote from the Preamble, “to secure to all its citizens:
JUSTICE, social, economic and political;
LIBERTY of thought, expression, belief, faith and worship;
EQUALITY of status and of opportunity; and to promote among them all FRATERNITY assuring the dignity of the individual…”

So these are the different freedoms the topic could refer to. But if this question was posed to any random youth he or she would say “1 holiday” and would be referring to the freedom of 1947.

(Sigh) 1 HOLIDAY!

Well this 1947 freedom, which now means 1 holiday, meant to the youth in 1947 a very different thing. They associated it with pain (I refer to the partition), joy, excitement, agony, hope. Amongst all these mixed emotions HOPE was the all pervading emotion. Almost every individual, even the ones who had lost everything had had HOPE.

HOPE, to set up a new nation, a country. Our leaders like Jawaharlal Nehru were overpowered by the fervour of nation building. “At the stroke of midnight hour, when the world sleeps, India will awake to life and FREEDOM”. A ‘noble mansion of freedom’, he wanted to build a wounded India into it. HOPE is what kept them all going in the most tumultuous of times. Today, in this age, the 1947 freedom is but just 1 HOLIDAY. And it is so because in these times of comfort, the HOPE that they had, has been replaced by DISILLUSTIONMENT. I am disillusioned; the youth of India is disillusioned. “Join us with faith and confidence”, appealed Nehru to the people of India. They have ceased to do so today. They are unable to do so today. No youth can show no confidence in no leader. We have lost faith. And to the disillusioned youth, the 1947 freedom can mean nothing more than 1 HOLIDAY, songs early in the morning, a few crap speeches and dumb competitions (disturbances to sweet sleep)

Wait don’t criticize us. How are we to be blamed? Why are we disillusioned? Because the 1947 freedom doesn’t coincide with either the dictionary meaning of freedom, nor with the constitution’s description of freedom. It is just some historical event of the past, when some India got some freedom from some Britishers and got enslaved by some other Indians. The freedom just performed cut-copy-paste; wherein the British monarch was replaced by the Indian democrat and a farce of freedom, justice liberty, equality, sovereignty was created. Huxley said in Themes and Variations, “to talk about the rights of man and the four Freedoms in connection… with India is merely a cruel joke.” Ha! Outraged am I to hear him say so.

Well, but we didn’t begin this way. We had a good start. Unlike other countries, who gained independence we were able to maintain stability. Our leaders sought to and strived hard to make India stand on its feet. They were not callous or selfish. They didn’t amass wealth for themselves. They were nation builders. They had foresight. The early independence years witnessed progress. There were projects for water management, IITs were set up, nuclear programmes were undertaken, and heavy industries were set up. This provided India with a base. Today we reap the fruits of those efforts; India today is world power.

But … it failed to maintain or sustain its cherished ideals of freedom. A stark contrast to the Nehruvian era was provided by the Emergency of 1976, when all rights and freedoms were curtailed, courts were subverted, press was censored, elections to Lok Sabha were postponed, Sanjay enforced vasectomy. But Indian democracy survived this blow. Democracy was restored once again. But hence forth India witnessed only politicians, who played political, power games, and no leaders. No leaders who were interested in her betterment; only politicians interested in some how retaining and maintaining power.

“Freedom and power bring responsibility. That responsibility rests upon this assembly” said Nehru, addressing the Constituent Assembly. But responsibility was completely forgotten. It feels like opening a Pepsi bottle- lot of froth and energy, and then all fizzled down.

Do we have freedom? Yes, politically we are independent of any foreign control. We the public do count to some extent. The Jessica Lal case, you may say; one, that’s one in a million. And, and, it’s not enough to give me HOPE. I have lost HOPE. I am disillusioned. Forget politics at higher levels, even basic things can’t be done freely, because corruption has got a very, very firm hold over the nation. I, I as a free citizen of free India can’t get my work done without bribe, flattery, influence. I lose my freedom, my dignity (as promised me by the Preamble) to gain my own rights.

The most explicit example of curtailment on my activity is this this parallel economy in India. If I want to buy a house, I can’t if I am a regular tax payer for I need black money for it. So it’s an unsaid rule, go the crooked way to live here. In the ‘noble mansion of freedom’ (as Nehru called it) I have none. Whenever I step to do something, anything I am confronted by some official as a hindrance.

So why will I have hope. Its money that talks or else nothing gets done. Is this freedom? And if this is freedom then why shouldn’t I just overlook it as yet another bank holiday.

“Nickels and dimes, nickels and dimes, war and peace, its nickels and dimes”, said Arthur Miller in All My Sons

“Rupees and paise, rupees and paise, freedom and justice, its rupees and paise”, I could say.

The youth then dreamt of freedom, the youth today yearns for it.

“Where the mind is without fear
And the head is held high
Into that heaven of freedom
My father let my country awake” (Tagore)

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