Are We Really ‘Free’ In Today’s Independent India ?

“At the stroke of the midnight hour, when the whole world sleeps, India will awake to life and freedom.” These words of our first Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru have been engraved in our glorious history. It’s been 71 long years when the then PM hoisted the Indian tricolour at the Red Fort and declared India to be free and independent. But a question arises to me that after 71 years of independence, are we really living in a free India?

A Karnataka based cartoonist Satish Acharya’s cartoon on “the growing influence of China around Indian interests” was dropped by a tabloid over political reasons recently, also previously his cartoons over PM Modi were asked to be replaced with any general BJP character.

Punya Prasoon Bajpai and a couple of other senior journalists’ exit from ABP News recently created a lot of noise over ”Freedom of speech”. Bajpai made stunning revelations on how the Modi government muzzled the channel. In a piece, he wrote that there are 200 people who monitor news channels and send reports to I&B ministry, which forwards it to PM office and then the decision of curtailing and censorship happens. It’s hay-day if you are pro-government or else no brands will knock your doors.

Staying on topic with journalism. Journalist Shujaat Bukhari and Gauri Lankesh were shot dead for “expressing themselves”. These are not the only journalists who are killed, 47 journalists have been killed in the last 16 years in India. India ranks 138th in the World Press Freedom Index which just tells how terrible is situation of “freedom of expression” in our country.

Indian Cricket Team had ‘beef’ in the lunch menu at Lords. Twitter started to buzz as how could ‘Indians’ have beef. In our country, people aren’t allowed to eat what they want. ‘Cow’ is a holy animal for some, for some it is a source of income, for some it is mere food. People are mercilessly killed for transporting cows, let alone eat beef. The ruling BJP who has banned beef in some states sides with these cow vigiliantes and gardlands them. However, beef is allowed in the BJP ruled Goa and Northeastern states. Hypocrisy, ain’t it ?

Movies, books, paintings have always come under the ire. Sometimes vigilante groups protest against the film (Padmaavat), most often CBFC creates trouble (Udta Punjab), no one cares about “Freedom of Expression”. Lately, Netflix’s Sacred Games was caught in a row over controversial remarks on our former PM Rajiv Gandhi. However, sense prevailed. Rahul Gandhi said freedom is a fundamental democratic right and the views of a character on a fictional web series doesn’t matter.

Our country also doesn’t give some of us the right to love the person of their choice. The archaic Section 377 that considers homosexuality a criminal offence and is liable for a jail term which could extend upto 10 years hasn’t been abolished uptil now. Martial rape is yet not a crime in our country. Honour killings are rampant and crimes on women won’t cease.

In the last 71 years, the Hindu-Muslim debate haven’t come to a standstill, infact these days it’s exploded. The Preamble of our country emphasises on ‘secularism’ but are we secular? Today, even a blind person can also see ‘saffron’ and understand the agenda of the government which is to turn the once ‘secular country’ into a ‘Hindurashtra‘.

Today, as we sing ‘Jana Gana Mana’¬†when the flag unfurls, when we listen to the Prime Minister’s speech along with some Deshbhakti songs on television, when we change our DP’s and put up stories, when we get free time from freedom sale offers, let us ponder on these points that would help make a better India.

Happy Independence Day. Jai Hind !