Happy Independence Day To You, But For Me There’s Still A Long Way To Go- Arunima Gururani

India attained independence from the British on 15th August 1947. We’ve all learned this, we’ve learned about the freedom struggle and have been taught to respect the faces of those that were leaders in this battle for freedom. Idols have been created out of men and women who did their bit to fight for a life that they deserved – a life of freedom. Fast forward to 2018. Many governments have come and gone with their own set of unfulfilled promises. After all, who doesn’t get carried away while making promises? It’s like a lover willing to bring the moon to your feet, but obviously fails. And the people living in India come from a variety of backgrounds, thus we’re not an easy-to-please bunch.

However, something that each person should be entitled to is respect. Now, while in textbooks we all preach about there being unity in diversity. We talk about how proud we are to be so vastly different, yet still being able to stay ‘together’. Not much is seen into how each group of people is treated differently. In the past few years, what we’ve seen recently rise, is a phenomenon. A phenomenon that makes sure there is a clear line that defines who’s who and how much say they can have in their existence. In the past few years especially, people have become more conscious of their identity – some because of the power and privilege that came with it, and some because they were forced to be conscious of it on gun-point.

Somehow it has come to this that if you’ve spoken up against the government that’s working like a panopticon, you’re an anti-national. Anti-national – as if it’s important to believe in the idea of a nation, as if all are supposed to worship a piece of land (but they can obviously not care about the actual lives that live here). Sometimes when you don’t comply, when you criticize the government because this is a democracy, you realize that it’s just a facade.

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What separates my lot from being a Gauri Lankesh, an Umar Khalid, an Akhlaq, a Najib, an Asifa etc is luck. Some are shot, some are lynched and the rest are called names and trolled with rape threats and what not (because women especially are supposed to hold all their honor in their vaginas).

The fact that my friend questions me why I refuse to stand for the national anthem when it’s not mandatory by the Supreme Court, the fact that my parents sometimes fear what might happen to me because of my views is what’s wrong. The fact that a phD scholar’s opinions can scare someone to the extent that someone tried to shoot at him in a government building is scary. But you know what’s scarier? What’s scarier is that nobody did anything, what’s scary is the comments sections on social media that mourned the fact that the shooter did not kill Umar Khalid, just because he doesn’t agree with a popular ideology.

My relatives and the anti-Muslim words that come out of their mouths are scary. In that moment, I wish I could cut all ties with them forever. Because if you’re being ignorant and supportive of this, you’re also the problem and only a little less of a murderer.

I can feel the hate this piece will get as I write. I can feel the words of people that I call my own saying that my thoughts come from that Muslim college I studied in and conveniently they will ignore that my bachelor’s institute was pretty saffron clad in it’s own ways. But of course it is the Jamia, the JNU and the FTII that ‘ruin’ perfect Hindu Brahmin girls like myself.

Happy Independence Day and all, but think about it – while a majority of us enjoy our privilege, people living in this same land belonging to a different religion, a different caste, different region or a different gender or sexuality can’t live the same privileged lives. If you’re not an upper caste Hindu cis-man, chances are you aren’t truly independent and even safe. So who is it celebrating actual Independence Day? Because the rest of us are just a part of the spectacle.

There is no part of me that lacks respect for those who showed courage during the freedom struggle. I indeed have a lot of respect for them because today, not many would go beyond the patriotism of their anonymous computer screens.

I don’t know about you, but I’ll feel the independence vibe better when responsible people learn to take a stand on issues that matter, instead of just barking out words of nationalism and overusing the narrative of that Jawan on the sarhad who may or may not be taken care of well. So Happy Independence Day to you, but for me there is a long, long way to go.

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