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Swaraj@75: What to celebrate?

Prafulla Ketkar

Prafulla KetkarSep 01, 2021, 03:04 PM IST

Swaraj@75: What to celebrate?


"August 15th, 1947 is the birthday of free India. It marks for her the end of an old era, the beginning of a new age. But we can also make it by our life and acts as a free nation an important date in a new age opening for the whole world, for the political, social, cultural and spiritual future of humanity”.
– The August 15, 1947 Message by Sri Aurobindo, [Sri Aurobindo wrote this message at the request of All India Radio, Tiruchirapalli, India, for broadcast on the eve of India’s independence)


 A period of seventy-five years is not supposed to be a significant one for a civilisational Rashtra like Bharat with thousands of years of history. Still, we are going to celebrate seventy-five years of Independence as a festival. What to celebrate and why to celebrate this year-long event are the natural questions that would crop in the minds, especially millennials.  

The Independence of Bharat was a momentous occasion in many ways. On the one hand, it was a long struggle of colonial onslaught and resurrection of the Old Civilisation in a new form after a struggle for centuries. The nature of colonial aggressions changed over the period from Greeks to Huns to Islamic to European powers. Greeks were defeated, but some damage was done. Huns were accommodated in the Bharatiya milieu. Islamic aggression was violent, brutal and more ‘religious’ in nature and ultimately led to the partitions of Bharat on religious lines. It was challenging for Bharatiya society to understand the nature of this threat, and persecution on the way of worship was alien to us. Still, we eventually tried to address it through both military and spiritual means.

The European colonisation was comparatively subtle and more damaging. In the name of the trade, they not just executed the political subjugation but also systematically carried out cultural and intellectual colonisation. Right from the Portuguese time agenda of spreading Christianity was clear; the British played it very shrewdly. As the weapons of colonisation changed, whether military, intellectual, political, legal or economic etc., our response also became multidimensional. But the crux of this historical struggle was reestablishing ‘Swa’ (selfhood) while renegotiating with the colonial and imposed modernity. Swa-Dharma, Swa-deshi, Swa-Bhasha and Swa-Raj were different expressions of the same urge. The struggle was not certainly for just political Independence but much more than that.   While celebrating the Amrit Mahotsav of Independence, this is the opportune time to revisit the content of ‘Swa’ and evaluate how far that selfhood has been realised in the last seventy-five years.  

The colonial rule, structures and processes are entrenched, and our intellectual colonisation still persists. There are many myths perpetuated about the nature of our freedom struggle and most of them were created by the colonisers. As Acharya Dharmapala tried to understand Bharatiya social institutions in the late eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, we should research what sustained us for centuries of the onslaught.  Unfortunately, we have eventually lost those institutional structures. What can be done to revive the spirit behind those structures is another challenge that we should take up. It is not about going backwards but learning from the past that enabled us to be the longest surviving civilisation.  

The tragedy of partition divided the great ancient land and people based on religion. Though we had different systems of Governance, the geo-cultural entity was one for all. People were never divided because of who ruled the state or the religion of the ruler. What went wrong with this age-old Rashtra and what can be done to undo those mistakes is also a critical question.

After seventy-five, Bharat is again trying to regain its position on the world stage. The whole world is also turning towards this spiritual land to solve the imminent contemporary challenges to humanity. To realise that deserved stature, the sons and daughters of Bharat would have to take a pledge of ‘Nothing Is Dearer than Her Service’, as Sri Aurobindo expected. Many sages, satyagrahis, revolutionaries, literary figures, educationists, lawyers, scientists etc. did the same through different means during the freedom struggle. Celebration of the Amrit Mahotsav of Independence is to resolve to fulfil their dreams. Revisiting their contributions and recontextualising their vision for the present circumstances can be the best tribute on the occasion of the seventy-five years  of Independence. 



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