Updated: Sep 5
I sat down with my dadu, all ears. Waiting to hear something motivational. Waiting to know was there even a common man? Or was everyone a freedom fighter. I had questions. And he had answers and much more than that.
"I was eleven then. The fight for independence was finally showing colors. That time people used to go out in rallies and the most used slogan was ‘Go back Britishers’. But Isha they were put in jail just because they recited this. That time was different. Today you see people on the streets screaming and protesting almost every other day but because our ancestors were arrested then, these people are not arrested now. This is freedom.
I remember vaguely, the town I hail from Barwani. It was small and underdeveloped, with a span of a kilometer there were forests. Adivasis used to live in these forests. You know when the partition was announced, the Adivasis were the soft targets of the on-ground politicians. The politicians heavily influenced these people and brainwashed them so as they would go against the Muslims of the town. The Adivasis gathered in the main square of the town in the night and they divided themselves into groups of young men. Each group had at least one weapon."
“What weapon? Guns?” I exclaimed.
He took petty on my foolishness and continued,
“Not guns, they had axes. They also had fire torches to set fire. These men only wanted to take advantage of the situation. All they wanted was to loot the houses of Muslims. I have seen the houses of my friends burn down in front of my eyes.
As most of the Muslims were aware that this was meant to happen they displaced along with their families just to reside at a safer place for some time. As much as I recall some families from our town moved to this city called Chalisgaon in Maharashtra. But you know there was a doctor in our town, Ahmed khan*. He was a generous old man. His family decided that they will leave the town but he was reluctant. He said I was born here and I will die here. He was an empathetic man. Never did he differentiate between poor or rich. But his family left, leaving him behind. And because of this, the looters decided to raid his house. But we, me some of my friends and some elders of the town we stood before his house and asked the agitators to kill us first before they harm the doctor.”
“And then, what happened? Did you all save him?”
“Yes! As we were Hindus the agitators didn’t do anything against us. These people used to recite slogans like “Hinduo tum mat daro! (Hindus, don’t be scared)”
At this point, all I could think was how the narrative changed so quickly. From reciting “Britishers go back" TOGETHER! people were divided they came down to “Hinduo tum mat daro!”
He continued, “The agitators left as they didn’t want to harm us and we saved Dr. Successfully. Although we could not save his legacy.
Anyway, as the situation was so unstable in Barwani the military was called. They came the very next day from Mhow. They imposed a three-day curfew just to normalize the situation. That was the first time I had seen a curfew. We were asked to keep our doors closed. This was something new for us.”
“So how did you used to celebrate Independence Day?”
“Yes! That was some celebration! We all used to go to school early in the morning. No student would be absent especially on the independence day. You know it was not some mere holiday. But the day to celebrate our struggle, struggle that our forefathers did. We would get ready in our clean new clothes. All excited we would go parade all around the town. It was called Prabhat pheri. We would recite slogans.”
And as he concluded this I got answers to my questions, but many new questions and thoughts blocked my mind. But this time I had to find answers myself.
Throughout this, all I could think of how privileged I am. I firmly believe that no one should feel bad just because they see someone else struggling and when they compare their life with this person they feel gloomy thinking about their privilege and not making the most of it. Because everyone has a different story. I do not believe in guilt ripping.
But all I could think at this point was that people have died so that I have the freedom to write this, people bled so you had the freedom to read this, and they were sent to jail for raising their voices So that our voice can be heard today.
And are we making the most of it? Every Independence day I ask myself are we really independent? I guess we are independent of the colonial rule but are we free from their policy? No! They successfully coined divide and rule and unfortunately, our politicians, media houses, radicals, extremists are still ruling over our minds with this ideology. We don’t realize but they are sowing seeds of division every day. We are United on papers but in thoughts are we? Who is getting benefitted? Even in a democracy, we are being ruled. We are called bhakts or anti-national, right-wingers or left-wingers, communist, leftist, and whatnot. Why? Yes, our thought process’ differs but that doesn’t mean we are different in everything. I am proud of the sacred red thread that I tie on my wrist, doesn’t make me a bhakt! Just like she is proud of the burqa that she wears, doesn’t make her an antinationalist. Do you see the similarity? We belong to the same motherland. We hail from India. Each one of us. Our culture is the same.
Our ancestors didn’t fight for this society where everyone is ready to ridicule one another. They fought for our motherland. Before reciting slogans they didn’t ask is your name Pranab or Kalam. Their identity? Indian. So before being a leftwinger or a rightwinger, or anything We are Indians!
I hope that someday we regain the freedom of our minds and the peace of our nation.