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Saturday, June 22, 2024

Self Reflection is Due at the Cusp of India’s 77th Independence Day

IndiaSelf Reflection is Due at the Cusp of India's 77th Independence Day

The spirit of Independence Day is stirring in the air with hefty preparations with the song Har Ghar Tiranga lilting everywhere, but here is a day for self-reflection.

While Indians celebrate our 77th freedom from the British Rule in 1947 which is a crucial celebration each year reminding us we are finally free from foreign colonization, a lot of self-reflection is due this Independence Day.  The British first visited Indian shores on August 24, 1608.  The British started to capture India under their rule from 1757 to 1947. Now, India has become free for something greater and not lesser.

The heart of freedom is to liberate every soul from the bonds of tyranny and oppression. While we are wrapped up in rituals, flags, songs, and salutes, unless Indians learn to sing and flow in the magic of the Universal flute with the ideology, live and let live, nothing we do will be fruitful.  Someone said, “A person without freedom is like a plant without sunshine. It has no way to grow.”  India got the freedom to release all Indians to grow like plants and produce fruits in season.

India’s great poet, Rabindranath Tagaore wrote:

Where the mind is without fear and the head is held high;
Where knowledge is free;
Where the world has not been broken up into fragments by narrow domestic walls;
Where words come out from the depth of truth;
Where tireless striving stretches its arms towards perfection;
Where the clear stream of reason has not lost its way into the dreary desert sand of dead habit;

Are we there today in terms of freedom?

Freedom lets you be yourself without fear, where your heart finds its wings to fly in bright skies clear.

The recent attacks in Nuh that killed seven people led over 3,000 poor Muslims to flee from a business hub outside New Delhi in August 2023, back to their villages in India, terrified for their lives after Hindu-Muslim clashes and sporadic attacks targeting them.

It was reported that shops and shacks owned or run by Muslims and their houses in two large slum areas were padlocked when Reuters visited them more than a week after the seven people were killed in clashes in Nuh and Gurugram districts in Haryana state, adjoining the Indian capital.

The horrific barbaric pogrom in Manipur left hundreds of mostly Kukis dead, with families being burnt alive not sparing children, women being raped, and murdered, some paraded naked, and over 200 churches burnt to cinders, and an innocent Kuki man was barbarically beheaded.  Kukis had taken shelter in relief camps and many managed to flee to other states in India.  These people carry pain in their hearts that their own government was not there to protect them or stop the Meitei mobs from attacking them during those dark hours.  There are 60,000 Manipuri people who have become refugees in their own state, in their own country, India.

At the same time, Indians are busy running the Har Ghar Tiranga Campaign with not so much of a voice for them, not a whisper for Manipur today.  Where is our freedom to speak for others? When George Floyd was killed by a cop, Americans rose in thousands to speak for him with that viral hashtagged cry of his “I can’t breathe!” that drew nations over the globe to remember George Floyd.  That is the power of freedom and democracy.  George Floyd’s family was vindicated, the cop was given a life sentence and his family was given $27 Million.

Freedom to be yourself is now running in the ranks today with most afraid to even express themselves openly.  Your identity today, whether Dalit, Christian, Muslim, or another tribe should not become a mark for another targeted attack.

Freedom whispers you have the right to choose

The right to eat what you want, choose your religion, or be married to the partner of your choice is coming under bombardment. If a Hindu dares to marry a Muslim, vice versa, or even a Dalit marries a higher caste, it comes under the spectrum of lambasts, turning to even a matter of life and death.

Last year, for the first time in the history of India’s prestigious Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU), some students were beaten up severely because they ate meat during a major Hindu festival, Ram Navami. Many students were injured at the campus.  Jawaharlal Nehru University used to have a rich culture of healthy debates while upholding the flag of unity in diversity which started to get sour over the last number of years. Ideologies clashed to the point of violence for the first time in the elite JNU.

Last year, Rameshwar Sharma, a BJP legislator in Madhya Pradesh, called for a “Chadar Mukt, Father Mukt Bharat” (an India free of veil-wearing Muslims and Christian priests) while speaking to a crowd.  This would obviously hamper the freedom of different communities.

With over 300 attacks on Christians, the freedom to choose the religion of your desire is being suppressed.  Mohan Bhagwat, head of the far-right Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), warned Hindus about religious conversions during his last year’s annual speech on October 14 to mark the Hindu festival of Dussehra. His speech stirred violent attacks on Christians and churches in different parts of India, with enraged mobs making open calls to “behead” them and stop alleged conversions of Hindus.  If one studies the history of the people who converted to Christianity, it was purely their own wish or choice, with no forcing anyone. With  2% of Christians in India, attacking them for forced conversion does not hold water.  Most of the English-speaking people in India studied in Christian missionary schools with thousands of missionary schools scattered over India! No one forced them to believe in Christ.

In the 2000s, Christian missions ran 16,500 schools and 6,500 hospitals in India. L. K. Advani ji, the late Arun Jaitley, and many others studied in missionary schools. It is terrible to learn that in modern India, when Christians gather on Sunday mornings to worship God, their church doors are rammed open, pastors and even congregation in the church are beaten, at times so violently that they break their legs, churches are smashed while at the backdrop, India is declared as a secular democratic republic by our constitution.  “Is not the law protecting Christians anymore? Today, hundreds of churches have been stopped and shut down in certain parts of India.

Today, pastors are taken to prison, or the lockup for claims of conversion. The violates are never punished for beating and even for killing Christians because most of their reports are not taken by the cops. Recently, a neighbor asked a Christian for Bible, and they gave it, and the neighbor called the cops on them for conversion. It was a setup! This is happening today!

Freedom is never tied in chains or dragged by a noose

Someone shared recently that in Kashmir, people are being paid Rs. 1500 to be in the Independence Day Rally and hold the national flag.  Such a gesture should come naturally from hearts.  Perhaps by paying them, it builds up the image of the government that Kashmiris are participating.

It was a clever move of the government not to use brute force but reward.  At the same time, there is an inner resentment many cannot voice.  For example, no Kashmiri is in a prominent government position.  All decisions are taken by the Center, as of course, Kashmir is now a Union Territory, so their self-autonomy is lost.    During the eve of Independence Day, there is a lot of police checking and curbing of locals, much to their angst. The Kashmiris are still not free, unable to run their own government as they choose with still a very heavy military presence and the fear any one of them could be arrested on any flimsy charges. There are around 118 civilians killed since August 2019 in Jammu and Kashmir; 21 of them Hindus according to a 2022 report.

Indians do have some sort of freedom in that we can voice our views to a large degree, and that is not denied, but there are many activists and journalists who are still in chains for the very same thing, just reporting news or being a voice for the people.  Perhaps they have been kept in prison to instill fear in others.

Embracing colors of diversity to become whole

The recent shootout in a train reveals how poison is seeping into society and the RPF cop, Chetan Singh, was certainly not a madman but rather consistently fed with poison to shoot hatred towards another community.  Perhaps the false propaganda of Ghazwa-e-Hind is directing certain groups of people to react with paranoia.  Most Indians are not embracing colors of unity, rather, dividing society into Hindu-Muslim-Christians very vociferously where minorities are losing jobs or even not taken in as tenants.

Chetan Singh killed his senior officer, and three Muslim passengers, Abdul Qadirbhai Mohammed Hussain Bhanpurwala, Akhtar Abbas Ali, and Sadar Mohammed Hussain, on that fateful Mumbai-Jaipur journey.  Before killing three innocent Muslim passengers, he said, ‘They operate from Pakistan, this is what the media of the country is showing, they have found out, they know everything, their leaders are there… If you want to vote, if you want to live in India, then I say, Modi and Yogi, these are the two, and your Thackeray’Train to Face Communal Discord Charges.”  Chetan Singh’s words are a mirror of the reflection of minds of present radicalized Indians, going insane by toxic fake teachings, probably seeping into their WhatsApps.

In another shocking incident in Gurgaon, a young 19-year-old deputy imam named Maulana Hafiz Saad, actively seeking Hindu-Muslim harmony, was killed.  The mosque he was in, in the Millennium City suburb was deliberately set on fire and the tragedy occurred just an hour’s drive away from the Prime Minister’s residence in the capital.

In a video shared by a family member, Maulana Saad was seen reciting a prayer that emphasized unity between Hindus and Muslims, praying for a harmonious India. Originally from Sitamarhi in Bihar, Maulana Saad had joined the mosque only six months prior to the tragic event, according to the police.

The attack on the mosque occurred following communal violence in Haryana’s Nuh district, where four people, including two home guards, were killed, and several others injured during clashes triggered by a procession organized by the Bajrang Dal and the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP).

Around 45 to 50 miscreants attacked the Anjuman Jama Masjid, resulting in the death of Maulana Saad. Prior to the violent incidents, hate-filled and provocative videos targeting Muslims circulated in the area, adding fuel to the fire and leading to communal disturbances.

The former Jammu and Kashmir governor Satyapal Malik said the violence that began in Haryana’s Nuh and spread to different parts of the state was not spontaneous. According to him, the attacks in seven to eight different places were well-coordinated with the aim of creating a communal divide.

The whole country will burn like Manipur if these people are not contained,” he said. “Jats by culture or tradition believe in the Arya Samaj way of life and are not very religious in the traditional sense of the term. Neither are the Muslims of this area very traditional in their outlook. Therefore one has never heard of the two communities clashing in this manner ever since Independence. And these attacks will only increase in the run-up to 2024 as is evident in Manipur,” he said addressing a packed hall at the Constitution Club.

Indians Celebrating Freedom

While India is definitely celebrating Independence Day all over, we have to introspect what we want from India.  Do we want a society with hatred and eruptions while feeding on fake political propaganda that has tarnished the minds of millions or do we want hope, harmony, health, life, and prosperity?  Did India get free from the British Raj to get destroyed by unleashing Indians fighting Indians?  Do we want to see our beloved country charred by smoke and fire burning down to ashes?

Freedom is a gift from the Universe.  It is a pure journey that starts in the depths of a soul, its flames blaze eternally day and night.  it opens the door to happiness, liberty, and independence.  Freedom respects people from all colors, religions, castes, tribes, and sects equally.  This is the rich fiber of freedom.  However, with fear resounding in their hearts, people become more divided and violent.  Fear spurs people to destroy and kill.  Dead habits of mindless thinking are now clogging the natural thinking process of people who are not free to even feel compassion for their neighbors.  In our freedom independence walk, we need to progress and not regress in our thinking.  Every Indian must have the freedom to live without fear, and if not, we are in prison towers chained to our past and we have not learned to fly high in uninhibited skies.

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