The Memory Of Independence Day

August 15, 2016 OPINION/NEWS

Nicholas Vreeland



Ananya S Guha

Considering America has a history of about 240 years and Great Britain of course almost since primordial times, an independence of 69 years, perhaps is still a situation which is nascent. But with every August 15th there are murmurs as to how the nation has ‘progressed’, whether the Indian experiment as some would call it, is still continuing or not.

Economic progress is largely seen in numbers, in statistical terms, growth rate and scales of economies. That the country contributes, to say the least, 80% of the world’s poverty is looked at with askance. The Below Poverty Line (BPL to be precise) are card holders, at least so they say, of access to free rations. In antithesis we have the pontificating IPL card holders whose vocation is more for the celluloid.

The cleavage between the corruptible wealthy and the abysmally poor does not figure in our scale of economies, or how stagnant the economy has become, in putrefaction. There is no talk of development, health, sanitation or even for that matter education. That, education and literacy as adjuncts are one or two of the founts of education is a misplaced thought. There is very rightly talk of skills and vocational education but school boards must give a uniformity to this, by redistributing the concept in all schools and putting precept into practice. In this manner the hiatus in the unorganised sector can be attenuated. This needs working out a detailed and cohesive blueprint to be implemented in every state, with the help of the ITIs which are mostly languishing in a condition of gross inertia.

Secondly. Independence Day only means recall- memory and ouster of foreign yoke. That is indeed true, but mere recall and extolling past virtues has become a myth of sorts. Squarely facing the present, especially in internal matters, and especially the fact that the common man is impervious to Indian-US relations, and cares little for it, but is concerned for safety, health, and a decent living, is the crux of the matter. More than being eulogistic of the past we must be alive to our insouciant present. The myth of Independence Day has become an archetypal symbol of our escapism. That shackles have not yet been broken in terms of slums, poverty, education for children, caste exploitation and dominance, are things which are not only a point of worry, but are reversing time and the classic clock of History. On the one hand we pride in Information And Communication Technology, on the other we have vigilante groups of people who stalk cow herders. There are many such anachronisms in such perverse historical and social goof ups.

Memory and myth are allied to dreams. What dreams do we have of a futuristic India, in terms of cleanliness, total eradication of poverty, clean houses in villages and the dismantling of slums to pave way for clean habitats is perhaps a moot question. The smart cities must have compatibility with decent living for all sections of society. Uprisings such as those of the Naxalites is a result of poverty and economic fallacies, in terms of wealth and distribution. The Singur and Nandigram protests, the ongoing protest in Meghalaya regarding urananium mining in West Khasi Hills are pointers to landholding, and dispossessed of it leads to being uprooted from the soil and emasculation of wealth. This is a point that our intellectuals, sociologists and even politicians are in abject refusal to meet the truth eye to eye. Similarly the ethnic clashes in the Bodo areas of Assam are all due to the fracas for land, which is not only economy but a deeply felt cultural genesis. It is history, geography, culture, politics all coalescing into cultural and historical dynamics.

The ritual of Independence Day every year sadly has been reduced to a myth of memory, a repetition of vilifying foreign rule, held as reason for even the present malaise. Every Independence Day is a tribute to the poor who are eking out a day to day existence in the worst conditions, the stone cutter working in relentless heat, the street child rushing across the insane traffic of cities to sell newspapers. It is a tribute to those also who are working for them in shelter homes and are caring for such people and even trying to educate them.

True the Indian experiment is still on, we are all an integral part of it, mute witness to its transient nature, mute witness to parts of the country which feel they do not belong to this great nation. But the making of this Nation has also been commingled with a history that is antediluvian memory, ancient India, the emergence of Muslim power, the Portuguese, the Dutch, the French and finally the British. All this, before Independence Day.

But will this memory be wiped out in the making of a nation, which we still see as experimental? The myth of this day has outcast all past realities. If we go overboard on the primal existence of the Indus Valley Civilisation, part of it which was in what is now Pakistan, we should remember we were not independent then, nor when Ashoka went through a St. Paul metamorphosis.

Independence and history of the country has largely been sequestered and that is the tragedy of it- myths, memories, dreams collide, clash with one another, and are not in co existence. The vulnerability lies in religion and the multiverse of India’s ethnicity. The ‘country’ prior to Independence Day is a larger than life attribute to many, sans of course the freedom struggle.









Ananya S Guha

Ananya S Guha was born and brought up in Shillong, North East India. He has seven collections of poetry and his poems have been published worldwide. They have also been featured in several anthologies. He is also a columnist, critic and editor. He now is a Regional Director at the Indira Gandhi National Open University and holds a doctoral degree on the novels of William Golding.


No Comments Yet!

You can be first to comment this post!

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.