True Independence

In the early years of freedom, we continued to try the unique path evolved by our national genius the harmonious blending of Mahatma Gandhi’s unswerving allegiance to ethical and spiritual values, Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru’s soaring idealism, Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel’s down-to earth pragmatism, Dr. Rajendra Prasad’s rock-like moral strength, Maulana Abdul Kalam Azad’s unshakeable faith in Indian secularism, Nightingale Sarojini Naidu’s grace and Shri C. Rajagopalachari’s far- sighted vision and razor-sharp intellect supported by the best brains and minds of all India. We attained independence after the great and long struggle by the people of India. Indian National Congress Party, under the leadership of Mahatma Gandhi, Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, Sardar Patel, Rajendra Prasad, Maulana Abul Kalam Azad, C. Rajagopalachari, B.R. Ambedkar and many others, played a vital role during freedom struggle. All were selfless leaders and gave primacy to ethics in thought and action and in private and public life. They empowered people. In democracy, people are supreme. True independence means providing a space for participation of all. Participation will not be possible without social and economic emancipation. Dialogue and dissent are prerequisites for democracy. Unfortunately, in present era, people are at the receiving end.Their voices are suppressed. The quest of humanity for social justice and sustainability will remain a dream until and unless political parties resolve to uplift the poor and down-trodden. Congress party always worked for the upliftment of poor and down-trodden. True independence means empowerment of each citizen. Congress Party whether in power or in opposition always worked for poor and down-trodden. Its policies are poor-centric and welfare-oriented. The former President of Congress Party, Shri Rahul Gandhi has been raising the issues of unemployment, poverty, selling of PSUs and farmers’ problem, destroying of institutions and suppressing of voice of dissent.

It can be said that such politics is untrue which ignores and disregards moral values and empowering poor. In the July 22, 1946 issue of ‘Harijan’, Gandhi Ji stated that ‘Independence must begin at the bottom.’ Prior to this, he wrote in Young India, March 26, 1931, that “The swaraj of my dreams is the poor man’s swaraj. The necessaries of life should be enjoyed by you in common with those enjoyed by the princes and the moneyed men. But that does not mean that you should have palaces like theirs. They are not necessary for happiness. You or I would be lost in them. But you ought to get all the ordinary amenities of life that a rich man enjoys. I have not the slightest doubt that swaraj is not Poorna Swaraj until these amenities are guaranteed to you under it.”

India achieved independence on August 15, 1947. Indians became citizens from subjects. The objective of the governance in India was set by Pandit Jawahar Lal Nehru in his soul-stirring speech at the midnight of August 14-15, 1947. It was “Ending of poverty and ignorance and disease and inequality of opportunity”. Mahatma Gandhi also prescribed a set of stiff yardsticks for judging the efficacy of public policies in a system of good governance. He said, “Will it restore to him (the poorest and the weakest man) control over his own life and destiny? In other words, will it lead to Swaraj for the hungry and spiritually starving millions?” To achieve these objectives, the Directive Principles of State Policy were provided in the Constitution, which are not justiciable but nonetheless are fundamental to the governance of the country. But the Present government has without a doubt failed in its responsibilities towards its citizens; particularly towards poor and downtrodden. It has forgotten the basic premise of Gandhian model of Constitution which is based on three universal values. First, fearlessness; second objectivity; and third, unselfishness. Soon after independence, the First Prime Minister of India did what Indians and India needed. He laid the foundation of new, vibrant, scientific and strong India. Today whatever we are, the credit goes to Pandit Nehru and his vision and dedication to Mother India.

Within a few months after independence, Mahatma Gandhi was assassinated by Anti-National forces and a fanatic on January30, 1948. Sarojini Naidu in her tribute said: “May the soul of my master, my leader, my father, rest not in peace. Not in peace my father do not rest. Keep us to our pledge. Give us strength to fulfill our promises to our heirs, your descendants, guardians of your dreams, fulfillers of India’s destiny.” The force of her words reminds us that we should not rest till we are able to internalize in ourselves the twin principles of Truth, Non-violence and love in our thought, words and deeds. The Congress party, under the leadership of Smt. Sonia Gandhi and Shri Rahul Gandhi along with dedicated congress workers, is working tirelessly to make a truly democratic, secular and strong India, new India, vibrant India.

The real democracy should hold meaning not for a few but for all, including the poorest and even for the maimed, the blind, and the deaf. A genuine democracy calls for a higher degree of seriousness of purpose and a sense of urgency. People should be awakened and their minimum expectations should be satisfied, otherwise they will explode. This explosion can then take many unpleasant and ugly forms.

We must have moral courage to take action based on our individual and collective conscience. Peace, stability, and unity cannot be bought. They have to be nurtured by promoting a sensitivity to human needs and respect for the rights and opinions of others. And when attitudes have been allowed to harden to the point that otherness becomes a sufficient reason for nullifying person to be treated as a fellow human being, the tapering of modern civilization crumbles with a frightening speed. In present century, it has become obvious that material yardsticks alone cannot serve as an adequate index of human well-being.

India’s success will be measured not by homogenizing a heterogeneous situation, but by the success with which diverse societies can be harmonized and co-exist and become mutually reinforcing and supportive; where traditions and modernity are appropriately blended, and where human-made capital does not become destructive of the natural capital. Both models have their specific constituencies in India.

The Gandhian ideals were fortunately well reflected in the deliberations of the Constituent Assembly on August14-15, 1947. Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, the First Prime Minister of India had said: “Unless and until each and every Indian breathes the air of freedom and his miseries are banished and his hard lot is improved, our task remains unfinished.” Supporting the Objective Resolution, moved by Nehru, Dr. S. Radhakrishnan said, “A Free India will be judged by the way in which it will serve the interests of the common man in the matter of food, clothing and shelter and the social services. Unless we destroy corruption in high places, root out every trace of nepotism, love of power, profiteering and black marketing which have spoiled the good names of this great country in recent times, we will not be able to raise the standard of efficiency in administration as well as in the production and distribution of the necessary goods of life.”

Dr. Rajendra Prasad the Chairman of the Constituent Assembly exhorted, “The Constitution would remain apiece of paper unless people who operate upon it were men of high character.” In contemporary India, there is a need of right men at right places. We have to break the boundary of caste, class, sex, religion and regions. We must go back to the sprit and ideals of those halcyon days when we practised the philosophy of nation first and foremost; when we spoke the language of the heart; when we breathed the air of idealism; when we walked hand-in-hand on the path of selfless service and sacrifice; when all sons and daughters of the motherland prided themselves in being “Indians first, Indians last and Indians always.”The Congress Party is doing yeoman service by raising the voice of voiceless and powerless people inside the Parliament and on the street as a protest of wrong policies and programmes of present government.

The writer is a renowned Gandhian scholar and the author of “Reading Gandhi”.