“India is the cradle of the human race, the birthplace of human speech, the mother of history, the grandmother of legend, and the great grandmother of tradition. Our most valuable and most instructive materials in the history of man are treasured up in India only!” – Mark Twain
70 years ago, on 15th August, 1947, as the clock ticked 12 a.m., India attained Independence from British rule. It was almost a dream come true for the people of India. The Indian Independence Act was passed by Britain’s Parliament in July 1947 and it ordained that the dominions of India and Pakistan be demarcated by midnight of August 14–15, 1947. That night, a colourful ceremony marked the birth of our nation and an iconic speech was delivered by Pt. Jawaharlal Nehru, the first Prime Minister of independent India wherein he said
“Long years ago we made a tryst with destiny, and now the time comes when we shall redeem our pledge, not wholly or in full measure, but very substantially. 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. It is fitting that at this solemn moment we take the pledge of dedication to the service of India and her people and to the still larger cause of humanity”
As we celebrate the 71st Independence Day, we need to ask ourselves if we are really independent? Does Independence merely mean absence of foreign rule? The answer to both these questions is a flat NO. True independence can only be achieved when we are able to liberate India from the clutches of poverty, illiteracy, malnutrition and unemployment. It is only after overcoming these challenges that we can really call ourselves independent and make this nation the kind of nation that our freedom fighters wanted, the one for which they sacrificed their lives. And probably the kind of nation each of us would also want. It is only then that we can give Article 21 of our Constitution, which according to Bhagwati, J., “embodies a constitutional value of supreme importance in a democratic society” its true meaning.
On this auspicious day, let us vow to build a great nation. Let us start it by doing our duties honestly and diligently. We need to be the change that we wish to see. I end this post by quoting Pt. Jawaharlal Nehru’s iconic speech again “the future beckons to us. Whither do we go and what shall be our endeavour? To bring freedom and opportunity to the common man, to the peasants and workers of India; to fight and end poverty and ignorance and disease; to build up a prosperous, democratic and progressive nation, and to create social, economic and political institutions which will ensure justice and fullness of life to every man and woman. We have hard work ahead. There is no resting for any one of us till we redeem our pledge in full, till we make all the people of India what destiny intended them to be. We are citizens of a great country on the verge of bold advance, and we have to live up to that high standard. All of us, to whatever religion we may belong, are equally the children of India with equal rights, privileges and obligations. We cannot encourage communalism or narrow-mindedness, for no nation can be great whose people are narrow in thought or in action.”