Independent is defined in dictionary as ‘not subject to another’s authority’ and Independence is defined as being Independent.
India celebrated its 69th Independence Day recently with much fanfare. As usual, it triggered multitude of questions especially when seen in context of the above definition of Independence. On 15th August 1947 India freed itself from ‘another’s authority’. The general belief was that, this ‘another’s authority’ was detrimental to the population; it was believed that this authority was self-serving and was causing loss of dignity, impoverishment and backwardness of the masses.
What happened on the night of 15th August 1947? As I see it ‘another’s authority’ was replaced with ‘our authority’ i.e. an authority that we could call our own. Subsequent years were spent in legitimizing this new authority through democracy, through writing of the constitution and through offering of universal suffrage to the masses. Again the general belief was that ‘our authority’ would be more altruistic and assist in restoring the lost dignity, bring sufficiency and empower the masses.
What did we get? While in the following 69 years ‘our authority’ elevated the living standards of many it still has a long way to go to make it better for many more. With a very high degree of corrupt practices, nepotism and opaqueness ‘our authority’, unfortunately, has also become somewhat self-serving. Especially with the license raj the authority of ‘our authority’ was absolute. Even with the dilution of the license raj the authorities continue to have significant control over matters of over lives. Hence the standard of living of the people in the authority or associates of the authority seem to change drastically while of those not, only changes marginally.
There are still large sections of people who are struggling for self-determination and dignity. There are still large sections of people who are struggling to earn enough to afford two square meals a day. There are still large sections of people who are struggling for equality and empowerment. How different then is ‘another’s authority’ from ‘our authority’? Can we call this true Independence?
Interestingly between ‘another’s authority’ and ‘our authority’ the common denominator is Authority. It is a given that we have to subdue to one or the other form of authority. The accident of birth decides which authority we would have to accept. What gives legitimacy to such an ‘authority’? I had explored this question on an earlier occasion. What should be the nature of this authority for us to get true Independence? I think only when this authority is altruistic, impartial, non-imposing and accessible even to the lowest common denominator of a society, can we really say we have won true Independence. Till then ours would remain a system where we still continue to suffer under ‘another’s authority’ even after the British left 69 years ago.