A few days back, while I was in the midst of the chaos at a traffic light signal inside a car with a friend, a small, tattered girl approached us. She had a number of miniature Indian flags in her tiny hands and she exhorted us to purchase at least one of those. I looked at her and asked-‘Are you hungry?’ She just replied-‘Didi, please buy one.’ I gave her some money, took the flag from her and she left. I bought that flag not because I needed or yearned for one, but merely because I wanted the little girl to earn some money. I am not big-headed about this act because it slightly disappointed me when I realized that I was no more the ‘patriotic girl’ that I once was, especially as a child. Tomorrow is the Indian Independence Day and 95% of the Indian population is keyed up and joyful only because it’s a holiday or some cultural event awaits them. I count myself in too. I guess it is because we have all taken ‘independence’ for granted or a vast majority of us are so engrossed in our mundane issues or so tied down by the country’s malfunctions and inhibitions that we never got the opportunity to take freedom earnestly. That flag did incite me to write about India and specifically about its freedom movement as well as its division.
India got its independence from the British rule on 15th August 1947. However, a hefty populace of the country had tears in their eyes and terror in their spirit because of the Partition of the realm based on religious conflicts. The spiritual divide created by the British to oppress India based on the ‘Divide and Rule’ policy severed the nation and its unity. The animosity, revulsion and sadism between India and Pakistan still prevail despite huge efforts of sustaining harmony in both the nations. Under the Partition Plan, Kashmir was free to accede to either India or Pakistan. The Maharaja (King) of Kashmir took a long time to put forth his decision of complying with India despite the state’s vast Muslim populace which had already considered Kashmir to be a part of them. As a result, Pakistan and India split the territory unevenly at the Line of Control (LOC).
The strained ties between two elements of the same motherland became visible again recently when five Indian soldiers were apparently murdered by the Pakistani combatants. In protest of this killing, the Pakistan Embassy was confronted by an infuriated mob. Additionally, the Indian army instigated firing at the LOC which resulted in grave injuries to two Pakistani soldiers. This Partition has precisely led to the loss of lives of millions of people over the course of the last sixty-six years. On this very day in 1947, more than a million people suffered because of the religion they belonged to. There was wretched bloodshed, brutal violence, screeches and screams, soreness and trauma, enmity and trepidation; anguish and division. There have been three major wars and consistent conflicts between the two countries after the separation particularly pertaining to Kashmir. Notwithstanding the several peace treaties and initiatives that came about in all these years, the unfriendliness still remains. What rips thousands of hearts apart is the fact that a substantial number of families are still estranged by the border.
This might have not had a personal impact on most of us, yet, when I think of the several people I know whose brothers and sisters dwell on the other side of the border, I churn up my imagination to sense how they must feel. India and Pakistan are not only divided by the LOC, but they have been partitioned somewhere deep down their hearts. We have an identical history; we have harmonizing cultures and still we emphasize on differences, as trivial as an artificial concept called ‘Religion’. We must grow beyond that and acknowledge each other with the warmth and reverence that we justify. Inherently, we are the same country, just a little mishandled by time and circumstances.
In his Independence Day speech, the first Prime Minister of India, Jawaharlal Nehru said:
At the stroke of the midnight hour, when the world sleeps, India will awake to life and freedom. A moment comes, which comes but rarely in history, when we step out from the old to the new, when an age ends, and when the soul of a nation, long suppressed, finds utterance.
On 15th August 1947, we did get our independence, life and freedom but we also lost a colossal component of who we were and are. This independence day I urge you to embrace this part and have faith in the ‘togetherness’ that subsists between the two nations so that we can decisively step out from the old to the new and rise higher than our fortitude.
Happy Independence Day!