Free Press Journal

Rio 2016: The no-alternative plight

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narendra modiWashington: Prime Minister Narendra Modi meeting Indian community people on his arrival at Joint Base Andrews (JBA), in Washington D.C., USA on Monday. PTI Photo by Kamal Kishore(PTI6_7_2016_000004B)

Independence days come and go but can there be any change for the better in our present plight?

Festivals are supposed to bring some joy to a nation racked by national tragedies. A ‘kumbh mela’ is often marred by huge landslides killing hundreds and more. Human pyramids collapse during celebration of Janmashtami festival. In Saudi Arabia, one of the richest oil producing nations in the world, large numbers of pilgrims are killed in various kinds of accidents. No kumbh mela is free of its own quota of mishaps often leading to a high death toll.

Independence Day in India has no religious tinge. Every Indian is expected to join the celebration but of late the dark shadow of terrorism has cut back the joy of celebrating the occasion. In fact, Independence Day ought to be the most joyous day of the year, it celebrates the nation emerging out of 200 years of dark slavery under the British which nurtured hopes of emerging as a strong and powerful nation, playing a major role as a world power, but it did not happen.


LET us admit the bitter fact that despite its big power posture and frequent ‘show off foreign trips’ made by our Prime Minister, India is nowhere near being a world power. Look how a nation of billions of people finished at the Rio Olympics. Yet our pretensions of being a world power are pathetic. Independent thinking is frowned upon. Our big issues are cow slaughter and mutton cutlets.

Independence Day should spread universal joy and a sense of pride and at the same time make every Indian think on what we have achieved in the limited years after being free. But the joy factor should be supreme and envelope the neighbouring nations. Freedom is often achieved after years of turmoil, tension, bloodshed and a huge task of bringing together millions of people belonging to different religions. On August 15, 1947, India was not a united nation in terms of religion and castes. In the euphoria of independence, we paid less attention to the facts which threatened our unity. Our great national leaders made the expected noise but the spirit of unity much needed for this difficult task was lacking. More important, the deep divide over religion continued and the frequent communal riots which threatened the unity of the nation could not be tackled effectively.

Being a big and thickly populated nation, it would have been easy for India to pose as the bully of the region. Barring the Hindu right wingers, no political faction posed as one though their hostility against Islam remained unchanged. Hindu-Muslim disunity and enhanced hostility were two of the tragedies of the sub continent. Call this a hangover from the past, it continues to this day. It led to two wars, the upheaval over the birth of a new nation, Bangladesh and never ending communal riots. Despite posing as a secular nation, India would not steer away from its ‘glorious past’ and clung rigidly to issues from the distant past i.e. the existence and rebuilding of the Ram temple which was often used to stir up communal feelings.

Nations like Greece with a rich history are justifiably proud of their heritage but their switchover from the past to the modern age was comparatively smooth. They still read Homeric texts, the tragedies of Sophocles, enact them on stage and are thrilled at the international appreciation. I had been to Greece but there was less enthusiasm for the temples of Aeschylus and Sophocles than their literary achievements. Greece, if I remember rightly, packed off its share of broken statues of their Gods and Goddesses to museums and did not celebrate the ‘great’ event when their foreign minister addressed the United Nations in Greek. It is wonderful to love our country but is dangerous to believe that such overflowing patriotism can affect the lives of the neighbouring nations. I have spent a couple of July 4ths in the US and participated in the joyous celebrations of their national day. The super patriotism of the American zealots made it a laughing stock before the world while confronting tiny Cuba. Some of the nations compare this with the India-Kashmir dispute and the more recent confrontation with Sri Lanka. A big nation needs to believe it was big but not show off its military might in front of its small neighbours.

Let us admit the bitter fact that despite its big power posture and frequent ‘show off foreign trips’ made by our Prime Minister, India is nowhere near being a world power. Look how a nation of billions of people finished at the Rio Olympics. Yet our pretensions of being a world power are pathetic. Independent thinking is frowned upon. Our big issues are cow slaughter and mutton cutlets. The tragedy is that there appears to be no solutions to these problems with the opposition thinking alike the government on many issues. The Prime Minister might have a 56-inch chest but that hardly matters.