Let Us Be Free

“None are so hopelessly enslaved as those who falsely believe they are free”-Goethe Freedom is a priceless commodity. We, as a nation, understand this fact owing to our hard fought quest for independence. But do we really enjoy the kind of freedom that citizens of an independent, sovereign nation should have the benefit of? Does every Indian heart lives a fearless life?

First and foremost, we need to define what ‘being free’ means. Just having the luxury of being born in an independent nation doesn’t make us free. Freedom comes from mindsets. Freedom is the prized asset of a mature nation. True freedom means that every citizen of the country doesn’t have the control of anyone else over his life and thoughts. Influence may be, but not control. Being able to make independent choices is the root on which the freedom grows. By this definition, can we really say that we are free? That India is a free nation? I dare say, not. Let’s consider some of the points to corroborate my view, shall we?

When it comes to religion or caste, we aren’t really free. We are becoming more intolerant by the minute. The current Orissa riots and the Gujarat and Delhi riots in the past prove this point. Why do some people create an environment of fear among religious and caste-based minorities? In the name of representing the whole religion, these people or groups go on a killing spree. These people along with the terrorists who bleed our nation can’t be said to represent any religion. But unfortunately, due to the silence of the liberal majority within these religions, they think that they are correct when they stifle the freedom of a group of people based on their religious credentials.

We are still archaic when it comes to love. And it shows in our utter disregard for something as beautiful as love. Parents put certain premiums on the choice of their sons and daughters in form of caste, religion, region etc. If one falls in love with someone from other caste or religion, he or she has to face obstacles in getting parents’ approval. And we talk about equality of citizens! In worst cases, parents in order to “protect their honour; resort to the killing of their own children. Honour – in the eyes of an archaic society, mind you. And to talk about marriages? We are a free nation but still in large parts of the country, marriages take place without the consent or will of the girl or the boy (mostly girls). And what’s the motivation behind these marriages? High status, riches, old family ties and what not? This, in a country, which practically invented the concept of love. Isn’t democracy supposed to be about free choices? May be it is, if one sticks to his own religion, caste and standing in society.

Young Bengali Muslim boy, Rizwanur, didn’t understand this and fall in love with a rich, Hindu girl. He had to pay the price with his life.

Love isn’t threatened only by the suppression of choices but also by the violent small groups who claim to be the guards of Indian culture. I do not believe in the concept of Valentine Day. In fact, I think of it only as a marketing gimmick or marketing strategy; no more than that. But that doesn’t mean that those celebrating it should be terrorized or humiliated. What crime have they committed? And if we are thinking that only some ultra groups or parties are involved, we have grossly miscalculated. Who can forget the infamous Meerut incident, where police took upon the mantle of upholding our culture and beat up and humiliated young couples in a park? Obscene gestures should definitely not be allowed but every act of love can’t be just that.

Another nail on the coffin of freedom in our country comes in wake of century old laws. Consider this: By invoking a British-era land acquisition law, governments take over private lands for “public use”. That is what happened in Singur as well as at numerous other locations within the country. Isn’t public good supposed to fulfill two major conditions: That every party involved will enjoy equal benefits and no citizen will be left marginalized? An example is national defense. But governments often don’t give a choice to individuals. No wonder, we are facing so much bickering over land acquisitions. There are countless other laws which suppress an individual’s freedom. Did someone mention Article 380 of our constitution which criminalizes homosexuality? What happened to the liberal belief that a person’s sexual preference is no one’s business but his own?

There are thousands of examples which point towards the fact that we, as a society, and sometimes, as a nation, aren’t free in true sense. We are the prisoners of our own mindsets which date back to an era gone by. How can we welcome the next century if we don’t believe in the freedom of individuality? How can we expect ourselves to rise as a global superpower if we are so poor in our minds? When will the crucifixion of liberal and free-minded individuals come to an end? Its high time we face these questions and stop killing freedom in the name of illogic. Its right time that we free ourselves of religions or castes or creeds. Its time to give voice to marginalized groups. And its time to rise above our banal thoughts and tell the forces of prejudice to stop and let us be free. Only then India will truly be a free and democratic country.

In words of Charlie Daniels:

“A brief candle; both ends burning

An endless mile; a bus wheel turning

A friend to share the lonesome times

A handshake and a sip of wine

So say it loud and let it ring

We are all a part of everything

The future, present and the past

Fly on proud bird

You’re free at last. “

Mayank Sharma

[Image source:http://www.flickr.com/photos/vogelium/330566664/]