The Painful Pleasure in the Birth of India

We are all celebrating the 65th Independence Day of India today. Well, not all of us… some are celebrating this pleasant mid-week holiday from hectic weeks by sleeping late, lazing around all day and partying. And some others are working; tired while working on Independence Day, I realize how important this day is for us Indians to get a well-deserved and secure break.

So I analyse the circumstances in which India got independence, and no particularly victorious image of a battle won comes to the mind. India became independent on a date decided by the British; the transfer of power was according to the British’s proposal after no consensus could be agreed upon by the several contenders for the handover. All methods had been tried and tested when finally the bubble of British Raj in India burst, amidst chaos and total disorder.

In school, we had always been taught the policy that the British adopted in India- divide and rule. Never were we informed, through books, the intensity of the problem; the deep penetration its clutches had in our society once the seeds were laid, and the gruesome shape it took in partition of the nation.

The Indian movement for independence was different because of its heterogeneous character, just like the people of the nation.

Several methods were adopted to achieve a common end. There were the Moderates, who saw the British rule in India as a path to modernisation and a way of rooting out the different social evils that deeply grasped the Indian society; the extremists who staunchly promoted Indian economy and lifestyle; they wanted to eradicate anything firang, foreign, from the economy, the “terrorists” or radical extremists who wanted to scare the British out of the country and the Muslim league, which was formed to protect the interests of the minority Muslims in the country.Later, even the Indian National Army led by the brave and brilliant Subash Chandra Bose and many units of the royal Indian navy protested.

But all this was overshadowed when the star of the show came and gained the popularity and trust of the masses, something no one had done before. Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi’s unconventional methods of ahimsa or non-violence and Satyagraha or the insistence on truth to achieve a common end, appealed to the masses as no other formula had before. It enabled the active participation of the common man in the movement, unlike the ways of the radical Bhagat Singh or the elite, educated moderates; most importantly, it caught the attention of the British government, which was the purpose.

But, despite his immense popularity, he failed to throw the British out of the country. The transfer of power to the Indians was so long and protracted a process that there was no consensus amongst anyone; not the British, the Congress, the Muslim league or Ambedkar. All these power hungry people were so determined to get a bigger share of the cake that the actual will of the masses took a backseat in the discussions.

What resulted were the bloodiest riots ever in the country, where all other identities ceased to matter except religious identity. And this permanent stab in the hearts of the people, this enmity bursting between neighbours and peaceful co-habitants was just the side-effect of the fight for power between the big players.

It is universally accepted that Indian National Movement was democratic in nature, (not that the leaders were actually elected by majority of the adult populace, though they were immensely popular); but did steps like this reflect the will of the people?

Most of the people did not know about partition until the last minute. They were given just the amount of time needed to carry the most basic essentials, leaving all their immovable assets and majority of the movable property behind.

It is the tendency of the Indian people to glorify certain people to be divinely pious, and others to be unnaturally and wholly evil.

If Jinnah had insisted for the partition of the country, it was partly because the Congress was unwilling to compromise a power-arrangement with the Muslim league; it was ambitious for absolute power. More importantly, “Pakistan” was not the brain-child of Jinnah; rather, it was a Cambridge student, Chaudhary Ramanat Ali, who coined the term and the concept.

Similarly, even though Gandhi is said to have pushed for the cause of Hindu- Muslim unity, it was after Gandhi unilaterally called off his first mass movement, the Non- Cooperation Movement, without achieving the desired ends, for which he also joined hands with the Ali brothers and the Khilafat movement, that the tensions between the Hindus and Muslims increased phenomenally, and the occurrence of communal riots across India were proof of this fact. There had been 112 communal riots between the years 1923-28.

Even to meet common ends, myriad methods were adopted. While both Gandhi and Ambedkar worked for the upliftment of Dalits, Ambedkar wanted separate electorates for the historically oppressed Dalits; Gandhi was against this fearing that they would thus never truly be included in mainstream society.

India as an independent nation was born in the backdrop of these several ambiguities. However, what we should hail is that we have remained an integrated nation since, and continue to be a democracy for more than 60 years, despite experiencing so many ups and downs.

Abhiruchi Chatterjee

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