As we celebrate Indian Independence Day on August 15, one question comes to my mind: How do we interpret what does Independence Day mean? Is it important to create a sense of hatred towards another country to sustain what Independence Day means?
It is interesting to see how political establishments and/or political thinkers of a nation project what Independence Day means to each country. From this thought, stems how the nation is lead and what emotions strike a chord with the nation’s folks.
I, like many Indians, take pride in the fact that our freedom was a hard fought one with sacrifice from multitude of people – some still remembered and celebrated, while most are unknown and unsung for the sacrifices they made for the freedom of their motherland. As I was watching some of the programs aired on Television, one of them was showing the evening retreat at Wagah border. To me, it looked like nothing more than a display of aggravated self-aggrandizement on both Indian and Pakistani sides. 🙂
As I watched the program, one question crossed my mind: How do Pakistanis interpret their Independence Day? After all, both nations were created a day apart in the same year; both had shared roots (at least that is what I was taught during school days) in terms of social and economic background. So, do Pakistanis too interpret Independence Day the same way as we do? Or, is it different?
So out of curiosity, I surveyed any popular literature available on the Web on what Independence Day means to a Pakistani; it was surprising, at least to me, to hardly see any mention of British – a common subject in any Indian Independence Day discussions!!! Instead, I found the common theme of Pakistani’s Independence Day was its founding fathers envisioned a country where Muslims of the sub-continent could live in a country led by their own people on the ideology of Islam. In other words, going by the available literature it looks like that the philosophy engrained in a common Pakistani is the country was established on an ideological ground with hardly any significance given to economic or social or geographical considerations in creation of the Pakistan state. Independence Day is a day when a Pakistani got freedom to profess and practice Islam!!!
On the other hand, as an Indian, I have always learnt and believed Independence Day as a day when we as a nation become politically free to pursue our economic and social dreams!!! It was a freedom that was hard won from the British, with religion hardly finding any mention as a motive for creation of the Indian state.
As one of the philosopher said, religion is the opium of the masses; so, a nation whose very creation is tied so closely to religion, it is not very difficult to envision the strong emotions that Independence Day can potentially evoke in Pakistan. With such an ethos in the society, it is not difficult to sustain and nurture the importance of a Day.
In think, off late, the Indian establishment and political thinkers are finding it not easy to evoke a strong sense of emotion from the general public, in general, but on an Independence Day, in particular. Why do I think so? For one, most schools prefer to just give a holiday rather than conduct any celebration like when I was in school 😦 After all, it is in school that we develop and cultivate our believe systems; it is kind of getting broken. Second, in public domain there is lot of debate on what patriotism means; a point in case is Swamy’s tirade on Rajan!
Binding India as a political entity rather than a religious state (as Pakistan has tried to do) is not as simple as it sounds; for from it stems the ideology of what India means and what patriotism means – the first step is to try and answer what Independence Day means to us as Indians.