India is celebrating 75 years of independence. An apt time to reconcile its gains and losses and also access where the critics of the current government have gone wrong. On August 15, 2022, India and Indians have travelled a long way on the road to democracy during the last 75 years. We have every reason to be proud of our country and its achievements. The government has planned big events across the country to commemorate the 75th anniversary of Independence as’ Amrit Mahotsav’.
However, the critics of the current government say that India’s democracy is under siege. They point out further that Indian democracy is in serious decline according to major international democracy rankings or that India may no longer be a democracy at all. They allegedly claim that the deterioration in the quality of Indian democracy has only accelerated since the 2019 re-election of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
WHAT THE CRITICS SAY
Critics also allege that due to the social engineering initiated by the BJP, historically oppressed Bahujan (backward) communities who do not conform to the image of a good Hindu are sought to be marginalised as do the religious minorities who find themselves identified as internal enemies. Bemoaning alleges that liberals and leftists, activists who have raised issues of the environment and human rights, and anyone else perceived to be “anti-national” have been included in the list of internal enemies. They turn hoarse, saying dissent is muzzled, increasingly through official edicts. Old controversies like in Mathura and Varanasi over temples and mosques are reignited, and claims that mosques were built upon the demolition of temples have resurfaced.
They allege that the social fabric knitted together by India’s diverse communities is being torn and new religious flashpoints have been created. But here it would be pertinent to note that India shares its democratic degradation with many other countries across the world. This process has been variously described as authoritarian, populist, ethnocratic, exclusionary, and fascist. But to be sure, the dominant groups in ethnocracies value democracy—at least for themselves—and often take pride in their democratic institutions. But a polity based on the structural exclusion of a section of its population cannot reasonably be said to qualify as a democracy.
INDIA UNDER MODI
Indeed, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has gone on to extol India as the mother of all democracies, invoking the country’s heritage of participatory decision-making and checks and balances. However, all these shrill noises of criticism and dissent beg a question. If all these accusations are true, then what has prevented the other political parties in India from preventing this bulldozing by the BJP and adopting the practises and systems which have made the BJP the party that it is today?
Critics say that mobilisation of interest groups and booth management efforts are underway in full swing, as is the momentum. Is there anything that can stop the BJP juggernaut? There is a good reason why the BJP is in power in 18 states out of 28, and has more than 400 members in Parliament and 1,300 legislators in state assemblies. Driving the party is a “here and now” approach. There is no room for political complacency—with an energetic prime minister who communicates with the people directly there is simply no other option for the karyakartas (workers). In contrast to other political parties, the BJP’s careful planning, management of its cadres, and execution resulted in these victories, whereas the Indian National Congress, or the GOP of India, had lost the plot long before the 2014 elections.
The INC it seems had taken the electorate for granted, the young emerging leadership of the party was side-lined by the old satraps, and its party management at the legislative and ground level both had floundered completely. I had witnessed 2 general elections in UP before 2014, where at the booth level the party had no agents or managers to manage the voters. Before that, the Communists too had lost the plot completely. Their route was more or less linked to the booming of the Indian economy after India opened up its economy and the market reforms rolled in. The middle class, which now had access to more consumer goods and could aspire to a more lavish lifestyle, had no place for the politics of demonstrations and agitations.
As far as the minorities of India are concerned, particularly the largest minority, i.e., the Muslims, they themselves are to be blamed for their woes. After independence, the community as a whole seems to have withdrawn into a shell. It was not seen as part of the Indian mainstream. Their self-promoting leaders kowtowed to their political masters by assuring them of the Muslims’ votes for their benefit.
These leaders failed to lead their community to greater learning and become an important part of the country’s growth, as other minorities such as Sikhs and Parsis did. By neglecting this, they neglected their growth also. From the old Westminster style of governance that dominated India’s centrist politics for the better part of the last seven decades, it is a dynamic right-wing push that is dictating the frenetic pace of statecraft now, but there is nothing wrong with this, as the right-wing has come to power using the democratic tools available to every party.
If the political critics of the BJP bemoan the so-called social engineering engineered by the BJP’s use of social media to further its messaging, then who has stopped them from following or using the same tools? In an interview, Badri Narayan, social historian, columnist, and professor at G.B. Pant Social Science Institute, Allahabad, offers an interesting insight into the working style of the BJP. He says that there is no political party like the BJP anywhere, which is working for elections two years in advance as well as governing, both at the same time. It is a mega-political machine in every sense.
Senior academic and researcher at the London School of Economics and Political Science, Manisha Priyam is of the view that the BJP under Narendra Modi is an electoral party, more than an ideological one. It takes every election very seriously, not just the Lok Sabha polls. This makes us ponder who has stopped the other political parties from adopting the same strategy and planning. If they are not up to it then they themselves are to be blamed. No one else! Stop bemoaning! Get your act together.
The author is a political commentator based in New Delhi. He writes on Indian Muslims, educational, international affairs, interfaith and current affairs.
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LANDMARK EVENTS LEADING UP TO INDIA’S INDEPENDENCE
On the path of achieving freedom, there were several hurdles that we as Indians had to cross to achieve independence. Several incidents combined built pressure on Britishers and led to the day we held our heads high as a free and independent country. Every day had been a battle to expel the anarchist Britishers. Here is a list of five landmark events that helped India gain independence on 15 August 1947.
The British Viceroy, Lord Curzon, with the aim of weakening the unity and curbing the Nationalist movement, devised a scheme to separate Bengal and reorganise the territorial distributions dividing the Hindus and the Muslims in 1905. The ‘Boycott’ resolution was adopted at a conference held at the Calcutta Town Hall on 7 August 1905, thus establishing the Swadeshi movement and bringing its previously fragmented leadership under one leadership. A hartal and a day of sorrow were called in Calcutta on 16 October 1905, the day the division came into effect. People observed a fast, and the kitchen hearth was left unlit. Hindus and Muslims tied rakhis to each other to symbolise unity. It was successful, and the partition had to be annulled.
AZAD HIND BHARAT
On 30 December 1943, Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose hoisted the Indian flag at the Gymkhana ground in Port Blair and declared the island to be Independent when the entire nation was clutched under British rule. He further renamed the Andaman and Nicobar Islands as Shaheed and Swaraj to mark the establishment of the Azad Hind government, which also had its own currency and stamps. Upon raising the Azad Hind flag, Bose, the leader of the Azad Hind provisional government, also kept his word that the Indian army would be standing on Indian land by the end of 1943.
The peasants in the Champaran district of Bihar had to endure unimaginable hardships when the Europeans compelled them to plant indigo, a blue dye. First, they weren’t paid enough for the indigo. Secondly, they couldn’t cultivate any other crop, other than indigo. Tired of the agony, the peasants turned to Mahatma Gandhi. As Gandhi’s first Satyagraha movement in India, the Champaran Satyagraha of 1917 is regarded as a pivotal uprising in the history of the Indian Independence movement.
CIVIL DISOBEDIENCE MOVEMENT
Civil disobedience, also known as passive resistance, is the act of refusing to comply with the requests or orders of a government or occupying power without using force or other aggressive forms of resistance. On 6 April 1930, Mahatma Gandhi started the Civil Disobedience movement by breaking the salt law by picking up a handful of salt after the Dandi march from Sabarmati Ashram to Dandi. He helped to mobilise the population in the liberation battle. After this incident, the civil disobedience movement expanded across the nation.
QUIT INDIA MOVEMENT
August Kranti or the August Movement are other names for the Quit India movement. Mahatma Gandhi began the “do or die” Bharat Chhodo Andolan, often known as the Quit India movement, on 8 August 1942. All of the Congress Working Committee members began to be arrested on 9 August soon after the movement began. While being placed under house arrest, Gandhi was brought to Ahmednagar Fort. Approximately 940 persons lost their lives as a result of the British’s brutality during this non-violent campaign. There were also 1630 injuries. More than 60, 000 activists were detained at the same time. However, the movement brought the nation together.
7500+ SQ FT TRICOLOUR CREATED WITH FRESH VEGETABLES
In commemoration of the 75th Independence Day-Azadi ka Amrit Mahotsav, WayCool Foods on Sunday created a first-of-its-kind food flag installation spread over approximately 7632 sq. ft near its distribution centre at Kannamangala, Bangalore. The food flag was symbolic of India’s successful transformation from a food-scarce to a food-surplus nation and a journey to become a food powerhouse for the world. It is also one of the largest producers of fruits and vegetables in the world.
The fruits and vegetables used in the creation of the flag were distributed to the Akshaya Patra Foundation immediately after the event. A refreshing take on the Har Ghar Tiranga Campaign, WayCool recreated the tri-colours of the flag with a fine selection of grown-in-India fresh produce like carrots, radishes, green okra, beans, and capsicum, as well as value-added products such as potato flakes, and more.
Over 20 tonnes of various varieties of fresh produce were used, showcasing India’s incredible versatility and diversity of agricultural output. The saffron was represented by carrots, radishes, and potato flakes forming the white, and the flag was given a magnificent finish of green with capsicum, beans, and ladies finger (green okra).
The company also used its storage and handling technologies to ensure that not a single gram of the produce used in the display was wasted, and the produce was handled with the best hygiene practices. The produce was then donated to the Akshaya Patra Foundation. One of the largest food flags ever created, the company also ensured that it fed the needy with near-to-zero food wastage.
108 ft tall flag installed at J-K’s Baramulla
A 108-foot tall national flag was installed at Hyderbeigh in Jammu and Kashmir’s Baramulla on Sunday, which is a first of its kind in North Kashmir. The move was made as part of the Centre’s Har Ghar Tiranga campaign, which encourages citizens to hoist the tricolour marking the 75th year of the country’s independence. Speaking to the reporters on the occasion, GoC Kilo Force Major General SS Slaria said, “This is the first of its kind installed in North Kashmir. I thank the citizens of this region for taking forward the ‘Har Ghar Tiranga’ campaign.”
Earlier on Sunday, Lieutenant Governor Manoj Sinha led the Tiranga rally organised by the troops of the Border Security Force in Jammu and Kashmir’s Srinagar as a part of the ‘Azadi ka Amrit Mahotsav’. ‘Har Ghar Tiranga’ is a campaign, launched by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, under the aegis of Azadi Ka Amrit Mahotsav to encourage people to bring the Tiranga home and to hoist it to mark the 75th year of India’s independence and the glorious history of India’s people, culture and achievements.
The official journey of Azadi Ka Amrit Mahotsav commenced on 12 March 2021, which started a 75-week countdown to our 75th anniversary of independence.
Earlier, the Jammu and Kashmir Light Infantry Regimental Centre, under the aegis of Chinar Corps, on Saturday organised a live band performance to commemorate Independence Day as part of the ongoing Azadi Ka Amrit Mahotsav celebration to deliver the message of peace in Kashmir.
As the country prepared for Independence Day, the Central Reserve Police Force organised a massive walkathon rally in the Budgam area on Friday.The event was conducted under the aegis of the CRPF 181 battalion.
Indore creates new world record for largest human chain forming India’s map
Indore on Saturday witnessed a new world record for making a geographical map of India through a human chain. The event got registered in the World Book of Records as it observed the largest human chain forming the country’s map to commemorate Azadi Ka Amrit Mahotsav, marking 75 years of Independence of the country.
The event was organised by a social institution ‘Jwala’ at Divya Shaktipeeth and more than 5000 school students, social workers, and other people came together to form the map.
Dr. Divya Gupta, founder of ‘Jwala’ said that through this effort, an attempt will be made to create a new world record by breaking the world record for making human chain in geographical shape.
“We had made a human chain on the map of India, and not only on the border but also inside it. Earlier, a human chain was formed on the boundary line of the country’s map, but we gathered people inside by making tricolour and blue Ashok Chakra in the middle. Total 5,335 people participated in this event,” she further said.
“Shri Shakti was made on the boundary of the map of India to show the importance and strength of the women of the country,” she added.
HISTORY AND SIGNIFICANCE OFTRICOLOUR
As zeal and enthusiasm around Independence Day echo through the streets and nooks of the country, let’s have a look at some interesting facts about the Indian national flag. The first Indian national flag was hoisted on 7 August 1906 at Parsee Bagan Square in Kolkata. The flag had three major colours, namely red, yellow, and green. Pingali Venkayya designed the first variant that was similar to the current Indian tricolour in 1921.It had two major colours- red and green.
In 1931, a landmark resolution was passed, adopting a tricolour flag as our national flag. This flag, the forebear of the present one, was saffron, white, and green, with Mahatma Gandhi’s spinning wheel at the center.
With a few modifications that included the addition of saffron and white colour, Ashoka chakra from lion capital of emperor Ashoka, the Indian Tiranga, was officially adopted on 22 July 1947. It was first hoisted on 15 August 1947.
Tiranga, or Tricolor, has three colors, including saffron on top, signifying the country’s strength and courage. White in the centre embodies peace and truth. The green colour at the bottom shows fertility, growth, and auspiciousness of the land. The Ashoka chakra, also called the Dharma chakra, is placed at the centre and has 24 spokes, signifying that there’s life in movement and death in stagnation.
Earlier, Indian citizens were not allowed to hoist the national flag except on selected occasions. This changed after a decade-long legal battle by industrialist Naveen Jindal that culminated in the landmark Supreme Court judgement of 23 January 2004 that declared that the right to fly the National Flag freely with respect and dignity is a fundamental right of an Indian citizen within the meaning of Article 19(1) (a) of the Constitution of India.
#METOO MOVEMENT TO SHOW HOW FAR WE’VE COME
Touching inappropriately, cracking sexist jokes, and a soft slap on the bum were part of the “casual advertising/media culture” of the 70s, 80s, and 90s. The frame is Mad Men. It was a low-key conflict environment where competition, sexism, and angst were the main occupations. Most youngsters who joined the industry were in awe of the cool ad/media culture. Employees wore distressed denim on weekdays and smoked up while cracking the campaign. Also, one could address the chairman with his or her first name. Till 2018 when the cat was out of the bag, with allegations and sleazy accusations against the top of the rung male bosses of the media and entertainment business.
Men started to rethink for the first time ever. They were worried about the first leak of the #MeToo. The victims were women who had endured the harassment and suddenly were no longer frightened to point fingers. The accused were the elite media and entertainment heads that had gotten away with their sexist attitudes in the past. Hashtag Metoo was on everyone’s lips. Every woman has faced this at some point in her career. She was now no longer intimidated by the movement. Male bosses in India and internationally were all on the altar of judgment. The movement got stronger with women across the world who got together to speak up. Anirban Blah, head honcho of Kwan, the celebrity management firm, tried to commit suicide when women came out like hidden skeletons from closets, accusing him of sexual harassment. Blah did what he did. Sadly for him, he thought it was a shut and closed case. The allegations began pouring in from all across.
In a chance meeting with Blah last year in Bangalore, he said that he was ashamed of his past and was a changed man now. But it leaves one with a lot of doubt about redemption. As values don’t change overnight. Also, what prompts men in power to act on anything they desire leaves one questioning why women, on the other hand, when wronged, remain discreet. Like Blah, many continued what their predecessors had started, and most didn’t see much wrong with that. It was the passing of the guard. The cycle was not broken. Soon, women swarmed the scene with their stories. Every day, a new case was being revealed from every nook and corner of the world. Suddenly, women had the courage to speak up against the violators.
The gossip mills doing the rounds in the office corridors were, “Who next?” More women spoke up, each admitting to having experienced the #MeToo moment. Some had kept quiet, some quit their jobs, and some found the courage to finally break the silence after years. Women of today owe this to Tarana Burke, an American activist from New York who started the hashtag MeToo movement. In 2006, Burke began using MeToo to help other women with similar experiences stand up for themselves. Over a decade later, her work for #MeToo became a viral hashtag when Alyssa Milano and other women began using it to tweet about the Harvey Weinstein sexual abuse cases. The phrase and hashtag quickly developed into broad-based activism and eventually an international feminist movement. The Indian mindset too has changed from before. As senior media journalists like Priya Ramani took on Editor MJ Akbar in the hashtag MeToo case, acclaimed actor Nana Patekar was accused by Tanushree Dutta of harassment. Alok Nath, known for playing the role of the quintessential family man, was accused by Sandhya Mridul and Vinta Nanda. Until now, workplaces had never seen sexual harassment cases come to the forefront unabashedly and in the open. We have seen solidarity before, but never like this. Women have now begun to no longer look at date rape, pay gaps, catcalls, broken relationships, and harassment as individual cases. This is now a shared female experience. We have much to cheer on and many more miles to go.
Mohua Chinappa is an author and a podcaster of a show called The Mohua Show.
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