Hope, Despair, and the India in Between

Posts Aug 15, 2019

First of all, a very Happy Independence Day to anyone reading this. This morning, I realized that I am embarrassingly ignorant of the rich history of this country I call home, so I thought - why not do some research?

With Article 370 having been revoked, religious sentiments being hurt every day, intolerance on the rise, and the escalating tension with Pakistan, India is in a state of confusion, anger and panic. But as bad as it seems now, things were worse before.

August 15th was not always our Independence Day. That was January 26th. In the 1929 session of the Indian National Congress - also known as the Lahore session - the declaration of Poorna Swaraj was made, and January 26th was chosen as the day of Independence. From 1930 to 1946, that day was celebrated as Independence Day, and marked by taking the Oath of Independence.

The major points of the struggle for independence are known to you already, so I shall not go over them here. After the Second World War, the Labour Government in Britain, faced by a shortage of resources and lack of international support, was forced to grant India the right of full self-governance, latest by June 1948. Britain decided to take full advantage of the communal tensions in India, and granted the All-India Muslim League's demand for a separate nation.

In furtherance of that demand, The Mountbatten Plan, or the June 3 Plan, was announced on June 3rd, 1947. On that day, August 15th - also the date of Japan's surrender in World War II - was declared as the Independence Day of India. Reportedly in hopes that the endeavour of self-governance would fail due to religious divisions, the British brought forward the year of Independence from 1948 to 1947. Thus, India entered August 15th, 1947, as a free nation. The years of hard fighting, deaths and sacrifices had paid off.

But at what cost?

India, the nation our freedom fighters had martyred themselves to create, was now divided in two. The British had succeeded in pitting the Hindus against the Muslims. An entirely new nation, the Dominion of Pakistan - which included the now Islamic Republic of Pakistan and the People's Republic of Bangladesh - had been formed. Confusion reigned supreme as to the invisible line of division, so much so that many people had no idea whether they were in India or Pakistan on August 15th. Violent skirmishes and communal riots took place, the likes of which you and I can only imagine. It is estimated that anywhere between 250,000 and 1,000,000 people lost their lives in the needless violence. While the entire nation celebrated, Mahatma Gandhi stayed back in Calcutta to protest against this violence.

But we pulled through. Under the leadership of B.R. Ambedkar, the Constitution of India was created, and came into force on January 26th, 1949, when India formally became the Republic of India - hence Republic Day. Somehow, out of all the chaos, our then leaders crafted order. They overcame what were deemed as insurmountable odds. And I, for one, am proud to respect that.

Yes, things are bad today, but the masses are not out on the street, painting the earth in red. Chaos and confusion are nowhere near the levels they were at before. Whatever problems India is facing today, we have to keep in mind that we have faced a lot, lot worse, and come out on top. I do not have the answers to all the problems, only hope that cooler heads will prevail in the days and months to come, and everyone will realize that we are all floating in space on a giant rock. We are all in this together. Before being a Hindu or a Muslim or an atheist, we are all people. Human beings, plain and simple. Maybe thinking that is naive of me.

What do you think?

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