Long walk to freedom

Senior activist Arvind Murti
[Listen to the CNS audio recording/ podcast of Arvind Murti's speech here]
India may be independent for more than past 63 years but a significant number of its citizens would not yet testify that they have had a chance to enjoy the fruits of freedom. "Although India got its political independence on 15 August 1947, the real ownership to its citizenry had come later on 26 January 1950 when its citizens should have taken ownership mantle, but that hasn't happened so far" said Arvind Murti, senior political and social activist of National Alliance of People's Movements (NAPM) who is a core team member of Asha Parivar, and Editor of Sachchi Muchchi (Hindi monthly).

"The common citizens are still deprived of that feeling of ownership in a broader sense beyond personal and immediate interests. The people centric politics that should have taken place in India after independence never could become the mainstream politics. The issues affecting the lives of majority of people, could never get to the centre of politics in India. Post-independence politics should have made its citizens conscious of their rights and responsibilities, by virtue of India becoming independent, and tenets of democracy that our constitution was upholding" said Arvind Murti, who was speaking at the Republic Day flag hoisting ceremony in Lucknow.

It was a sad plight that a free India had a very weak opposition party in the parliament. "After independence, the communist leaders had said then only that 'ye azaadi jhoothi hai, desh kii janta bhookhi hai' (how can this independence be true when people are hungry) and struggles like Telengana took place in this country. Socialist leaders like Jai Prakash Narain, Narendra Dev, and others, who were looked up to and people had huge expectations were from them, faced a crushing defeat in 1952 general elections probably due to the pro-Congress wave in those times as independence struggle was perceived to be led by Congress" said Arvind Murti, while lamenting the fact of a very weak opposition in an independent India.

Just before the Republic Day on 26 January 2011, the Hindu-right wing fundamentalist party - Bhartiya Janta Party (BJP) - was in the news due its yet another attempt to hoist the flag in Srinagar's Lal Chowk area. Arvind Murti recollected that in 1994, he was in Jammu and Kashmir staying with his relatives when BJP leader Murli Manohar Joshi took a march to Kashmir. "What struck me hard was the fact that although BJP had stoked passion in the name of going to Kashmir and hoisting the flag in the most-sensitive area of Srinagar Lal Chowk, by the time march reached Jammu, they were reluctant to go ahead without proper security from Indian armed forces. This is the reality of our politicians."  

In times when the basic tenets of democracy were getting thwarted with rampant corruption and anti-people malpractices, BJP was stoking a distorted feeling of patriotism, said Arvind Murti.

Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) member Swami Aseemanand alias Jatin Chatterjee, who confessed his involvement in the Mecca Masjid, Samjhauta, Ajmer and Malegaon blasts, also said before his confession that it was a Muslim boy named Abdul Kaleem, who inspired him to make this confession before the magistrate. "This has disrobed the Hindu fundamentalists and exposed their nefarious designs" said Arvind Murti.

Majority of the people of India are denied the fruits of development that modern India is boasting itself of. India is estimated to have a third of the world's poor. 42% of India falls below the international poverty line of USD 1.25 a day, having reduced from 60% in 1981 as per World Bank, 2005 estimate. According to the criterion used by the Planning Commission of India 27.5% of the population was living below the poverty line in 2004–2005, down from 51.3% in 1977–1978, and 36% in 1993-1994. In the name of development schemes of the government of India, rampant corruption and criminalization has gnawed into the fundamentals of democracy depriving the common citizen with most basic amenities and enjoyment of fundamental rights guaranteed under our constitution. Just a week ago, noted social activist and Magsaysay Awardee 2002 Dr Sandeep Pandey had returned the National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (NREGA) Award to the Indian government due to its failure to provide justice to the poor people of Hardoi who were beaten by baton sticks when they demanded their due wages from Gram Pradhan. Instead the government machinery was shielding the accused, said Dr Sandeep Pandey. The walk to free India where a just social order becomes a norm for all its citizens, is indeed a long one.

Bobby Ramakant - CNS

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