India has changed a great deal since it attained independence. It was a British colony for more than a century before it fought for its rights and became independent. Its leaders adopted a democratic setup for the country. A lot of people had doubts whether India will be able to work in a democratic system with its diverse cultures, languages, religions, beliefs but I am proud that it has, contrary to the common belief.
Since then, India has been through a lot. A lot of good and a lot of bad too. While writing this article, I realized how little I know about my own country, about how it pulled itself together after gaining independence and started on the way of uplifting the country, about the major social events that took place in the country. Like me, I am sure there are a lot of other people who are unaware of the things that the country (which they claim to be proud of) has been through. And therefore, I would like to discuss some such issues and events. The first major happening as I came across during my search was division of the country into different linguistic provinces. The first attempt in this direction was made in the year 1918. This was, however, not accepted by the imperial legislative. After gaining independence in 1947, Gandhi brought it up again but with other people, Mr. Nehru, India’s first prime minister did not find the idea quite appealing. He thought (rightly so in my opinion) that at a time when India had been divided on the religious grounds, dividing it further on linguistic bases would not do any good for the nation. And due to the turbulence in the air because of the communal riots courtesy the partition – the idea was dropped.
Later, in 1953, a movement led to the formation of the first linguistic state, Andhra Pradesh. This lead to further such agitations, Tamil speakers wanted to unite the states of Madras, Mysore and Hyderabad, Malayalam speaking folk wanted a province of their own and there was a Mahagujarati movement too. Among many, the most significant one was that of Maharashtra. The most tinkling question was whether Bombay would go to Maharashtra, since it had a lot Marathi speaking people, or would it go to Gujarat since the state had enormously contributed to the city’s progress. The next event was the general emergency of 1975-77, a 21 month period when president, Fakhruddin Ali Ahmed, upon the advice of Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, declared a State of Emergency in India under Article 352 of the Constitution. He effectively bestowed on Ms. Gandhi the power to rule by decree, suspending elections and civil liberties. It was one of the most controversial periods in the history of independent India. During the Emergency, many opposition leaders were jailed, freedom of press was suspended and powers of the judiciary were curtailed. The laborers had a miserable time. The industrialists were free to dismiss their employees while the labor class was denied the basic right to strike. She also announced a twenty point program that claimed to be for the benefit of the poor. But all that was promised to the common man remained a distant dream. The unemployed remained so, the farmers didn’t have enough money, not even the minimum wages promised to them – as a result of which they had to revert to the practice of taking loans (and not being able to pay them back). The country was in a state of unrest.
The Kargil conflict, the third event which captured my interest, took place between the month of May and June in the year 1999 in the Kargil district of Kashmir. The main cause of the conflict that lead to the war was the infiltration of the Pakistani insurgents into the Indian side of the LOC. When involvement of Pakistani paramilitary force was discovered, Indian army supported by the air force attacked Pakistani position and forced their withdrawal from the line of control. This was a war that occurred in my lifetime, when I was old enough to understand it. There are a lot of other things that we decide to not to know about the country. The farmer suicides are one of them. 123 agreement, the nuclear deal, the inflation rates the industrialization stage, formation of new states of Uttranchal, Jharkhand and Ranchi, and plenty more to be read about. Only when we know what and how things have been will we be able to acknowledge all that we see around us today. We owe a lot to this country and to its people who have contributed in every little way to make it the way it is today.