In a recent notice by the DCW sent to all the Universities in Delhi, information has been sought on the rules and regulations for all the hostels under them. This comes in the backdrop of the Hindu College hostel protests where female students protested against the rules and regulations. With in-times in women’s hostels at times like 7:30 PM and various other hurdles which would be mere paper formalities for their counterparts in the men’s hostels, the women students of Delhi University have gone through a harrowing time for many, many years.
In another news story, a Dalit farmer dug a well in 40 days after his wife suffered insults when she went to draw water from the community well because of her caste. Hailing it as a bold example of grim determination in the light of adversity and drought, social media came to life in sharing and spreading the news.
A more recent story talks about how five people died in a well which they were trying to clean to help make water available for their water scarce village. With ages ranging from 18 to 36 belonging to the Dhanak caste of the SC community, the cause of death is believed to be toxic fumes from the unused well.
“Freedom is not free” is a popular expression in the United States to express gratitude to the military. Freedom, an idea for which countless have died for in the subcontinent, takes on a different meaning here in the sub-continent.
A few months ago, we had Kanhaiya Kumar shooting to fame for his alleged seditious chants of wanting “Azadi”. Many have argued for and against the sentiment expressed by the student, and while there are many a sympathetic ear amongst the intelligentsia but, to little effect.
In a nation which calls in special conferences for cow shed owners while people are dying due to drought, freedom is not free. In a nation where new born infants die in hospitals while the Chief Minister of the state is busy announcing research centres for cows, freedom is not free.
In a nation with such diversity that every statement is another risk at hurting more sentiments, freedom is not free. In the daily rat race where farmers would rather commit suicide because of years of bad harvest and government neglect while Members of Parliament leave the country rather than honour loan agreements to the tunes of thousands of crores, freedom is not free.
It is not free in a nation which, nearly 69 years after independence, is starting to recognise the discrimination rampant on the basis of caste, gender and religion – where the ground reality is an unspoken truth; subservient to the official version which exists only on paper. All this, so that we may keep our blinkers on and continue to chant slogans for one political ideology or another while people die for the want of drinking water or edible food.
We have leaders who would rather give count of the number of alcohol bottles found in a university than talk about the progress he has achieved for his constituency. Proxy lawmakers are put on seats of power to keep the rule in one’s own family, as seen in the case of Bindi Yadav and Manorama Devi. Some might even blame the death of the 19-year-old Aditya Sachdeva for being able to drive his car better than the son of the MLC from Bihar on that same seat of power.
Indeed, freedom is not free in a country where we continue to elect our leaders on the basis of their last names than their last terms. It cannot be free when protesting students are called seditious students and arrested for difference in opinion. It will not be free when leader of youth wings claim women from some universities cannot be molested because they kiss men openly and have a sex life.
Amidst all the cries for freedom, it seems only fair to remind our leaders of something an old black man once said –
“When a man is denied the right to live the life he believes in, he has no choice but to become an outlaw.”
― Nelson Mandela
Ranveer Raj Bhatnagar