What does Independence Day mean to us?

Thus on this Independence Day let us all Indians pledge to get independence from noise pollution;poverty; general environmental degradation and from hatred based on caste, creed, and religion

Anil K. Rajvanshi Aug 15, 2022

On 15th August 2022 India celebrates the 75th year of independence.  All over India and the world where Indians live, we will be celebrating the Azadi Ka Amrit Mahotsav.

But what does Independence Day mean to all of us; a day of holiday for picnic, seeing movie, social get together, etc. or to think deeply on where we have brought our country to?

On this day I always remember my father Jagdish Prasad Rajvanshi who at the age of 24 went to jail with Gandhi ji during the 1942 Quit India movement.  He was interned for 2.5 years and was released from Lucknow jail in 1946.  He was doing his Ph.D. in Hindi literature from Allahabad University and left a very lucrative career as a would-be professor to plunge into the freedom struggle.

There were lakhs of people like him who sacrificed their lives and careers to fight for our independence.  It is these unsung heroes who should be remembered on this day.

We should also remember that it was Mahatma Gandhi who led the Independence movement ably aided by remarkable leaders like Jawaharlal Nehru, Rajendra PrasadAbdul Kalam AzadVallabh Bhai Patel, Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose, among many others. 

It was the combined efforts of all these people who gave us our independence and we should not forget their stellar role in it.

However, it is very unfortunate that we are writing a revisionist history by which the important role of our independence movement leaders is either diminished or made to be forgotten. 

In fact in some circles even the role of Mahatma Gandhi, the Father of Nation (title given by Subhash Chandra Bose) is being diminished.  As somebody said forgetting or rewriting the history is at our own peril!

A couple of years ago I was invited by local school in Phaltan to talk about what Independence Day means to us.  These were class 7-10 children, and I was very pained to hear how some children thought about Gandhi, how he divided the country, pampered to Muslims and did not care about Dalits or Scheduled Castes.

It took me some efforts to convince and educate these students about the actual events and the role of Gandhi in the Independence movement and then told them that instead of depending upon the fake news of social media like WhatsApp or Facebook they should read the authentic history books of our independence movement.

I also told them that we should not forget the glorious history of our independence movement where Gandhi not only gave us independence, but his example set in motion the independence movement in about two dozen countries in Asia and Africa which got their independence from the colonial rule after ours.

Even today the great ideas of Gandhi on non-violence; sustainable living and development; inclusive growth and tolerance of all communities is as relevant as it was during the 1930s and 40s.  These were higher thought messages and goals worth striving for.

There are so many ills in our society, but these can only be taken care by us and how to do it should start by educating our children from young age.

Thus on this Independence Day let us all Indians pledge to get independence from noise pollution; poverty; general environmental degradation and from hatred based on caste, creed, and religion.

Our children should therefore be taught tolerance in school, taught about the great history of our independence movement and lives of our great leaders who fought against the British rule.                  

Too often we tell our children that things are not great in this country and that they should study hard so that they can get into good colleges and possibly go abroad.  I think we need to educate our children and youngsters on how to improve our environment so that it becomes livable, and we feel proud to belong to it.

Once we improve our environment then it will be genuine nation building and on this coming Independence Day let us all pledge to make this country great so that all of us can live here an emotionally happy life.

I also feel that a new mantra of India’s development should be Spirituality + Technology = Happiness, where the combination of ancient Indian philosophical thought with modern technology should be the guiding principle for India’s progress.

(The writer, an IIT and US-educated Indian engineer,  a 2022 Padma Shri award winner, is Director, Nimbkar Agricultural Research Institute, Phaltan, Maharashtra. Views are personal. He can be reached at anilrajvanshi@gmail.com)

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