Time to revive the spirit of 1942 by Dr Mohammad Manzoor Alam (August 10, 2017)


Dr Mohammad Manzoor Alam

After decades of politics under the British Raj the Indian National Congress decided finally on August 8, 1942 that enough was enough and every mission, commission, petition and submission had become irrelevant. The people, largely led by the Indian National Congress, decided that it was time for the Raj to fold its tents, pack its bags and go where it had come from, Britain (which the empire builders called “Great Britain” in their hubris). The Congress issued the Quit India call and the people responded enthusiastically, reiterating the call to the British to quit, leaving India fully and wholly to Indians.

From that point in time the solemn moment of Pandit Nehru’s declaration of “India’s tryst with destiny” was only five years away. Today we are immensely saddened to hear the President of India’s inaugural speech from which the towering Nehru’s name has been gracelessly dropped. This great freedom fighter who was also a model of the “philosopher king,” an intellectual giant and a sensitive, singularly credited as the builder of modern India and its democratic institutions cannot be ignored by history and Indian people.

Although the Indian presidency does not have the sweeping authority of its American or French counterpart and the President’s speech here is vetted by the ministry of home affairs, still the replacement of Nehru with the BJP ideologue Deen Dayal Upadhyay (who never participated in the independence movement, or the building of modern India) has been noticed worldwide as a betrayal of the leaders of freedom and builders of India.

After three years of BJP rule India has moved away from the spirit of the pledge made 75 years ago and the vision of India presented in Nehru’s “tryst with destiny” speech at midnight of August 15, 1947. Now is the time to celebrate the 75th anniversary of Quit India declaration and within the next few days we will be celebrating the 70th year of our Independence. However, we must remember that slowly and steadily we are moving away from the heritage and ideals of our freedom struggle and its stalwarts.

At this critical moment, when we are once again face-to face with China, instead of uniting the people the Sangh is busy dividing people on the basis of religion, conducting a reckless hate campaign against the religious minorities, creating a civil war-like situation.

It is time to redeem the pledge of our stalwarts instead of indulging in petty intrigues like cutting Nehru to size.

As a nation, there is a lot before us to do. Despite the fact that we are the fastest growing among the large economies, half of the world’s poorest people live in India. We have a higher rate of malnutrition and stunted growth among our children compared to even smaller and poorer countries. We are still far behind even the middle-income countries (with a GDP per capita of $ 1,772 (PPP: $ 7,110).

The democratic legacy of Nehru is in disarray today. The centres of independent thinking and free enquiry, our premier universities like Jawaharlal Nehru University, Hyderabad Central University and Delhi University, among others, are under siege. Youthful enthusiasm of students is being sought to be destroyed by slapping sedition cases against them. The aspirations of Dalit students are crushed by denying them scholarships. A Dalit scholar, Rohit Vemula is forced to commit suicide. Independent thinkers like Dabholkar and Pansare are shot dead under the patronage of the new dispensation. People are lynched by goonda squads in the guise of cow protectors. Where is our democracy? Rule of law?

Opposition is sought to be gagged with income tax and police raids. The media is gagged as honest journalists are sacked under pressure. There are no TV channels that dare to ask questions or report honestly. Exceptions like NDTV are harassed incessantly. Their offices and the premises of their backers are raided by policemen and tax officials. Even a hotel where Congress MLAs are staying is raided. There is no room for opposition and, yet the fact remains that there can be no democracy without an opposition, or without the right to dissent. The handful of print media that dare to tell the truth are denied government advertisement. Where is the freedom of speech?

On this auspicious date we must pledge to restore our democratic and Constitutional values. We must struggle for this. This is the message of the Quit India anniversary.


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