Another Independence Day has come and gone. The Tricolour was hoisted in schools and government offices, we sang the National Anthem with ear-splitting fervour and intensity and debated whether Akshay Kumar’s latest offering of cloying nationalistic sentiment was worth the price of admission.
Some of us even made a game effort to sit through Bear Grylls’ great survival saga featuring Prime Minister Narendra Modi pitting his wits and will against the ferocity of Mother Nature, which subjected the viewer to a lot of bull but little else, without cringing. The entire month has now become vaguely depressing.
Even the PM’s speech, where he acquitted himself better than his sojourn among the tigers who clearly took their reputation for being ‘camouflage ninjas’ seriously, did little to boost the spirits. Of course, he made all the right noises.
Regarding the revoking of special status to Jammu and Kashmir and the state’s reorganisation into two Union Territories, he explained that his government believes in One Nation, One Constitution.
It would be heartening if one were inclined to give the ruling government the benefit of doubt and construe their actions as a decisive move but one can’t help but be appalled at the swift removal of personal and civil rights the Kashmiris have been subjected to.
During times like this, one wonders if freedom is an illusion we cling to because the harsh truth is that the democratic liberties we take for granted may be taken away with a snap of the finger if Big Brother were to wake up one day feeling a little less benevolent and more inclined to be a bully and a brute.
A scary thought that makes it impossible to enjoy leftovers made from Tarla Dalal’s healthy Independence Day recipes.
The Head of the Nation also talked about the Triple Talaq Bill, insisting that his Muslim sisters were also deserving of justice and this evil had to be eradicated.
Theoretically this is a beautiful sentiment, but it is hard to get euphoric over this blow dealt on behalf of women simply because the law has also criminalised societal ills such as child marriage, rape, dowry harassment but in practice, many continue to be victimised and are considered foolish if they look to legal enforcers for justice.
Again, this is the sort of sobering thought that makes you want to flee the motherland for stranger shores where the law is actually implemented.
Finally, our PM spoke about our patriotic duty as Indians to help with his Swachh Bharat, Jal Jeevan missions and refrain from open defecation, careless waste disposal and the indiscriminate usage of water sources.
He also made a heartfelt appeal to help achieve his goal of freeing India from single-use plastic while entreating the citizens to have a care for population explosion. All fine points, but not a day goes by without a public-pooper sighting, stepping into a sea of plastic, and the news that another baby has been delivered. Jai Hind!
This column was originally published in The New Indian Express.
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