Today, India celebrated its 72nd year as a constitutional republic. 72 years ago, the constitution that would safeguard the rights of the citizens of this resilient nation came into being, securing the democratic foundation of post-Independence India. And what a magnificent 72 years it has been (I havn’t personally witnessed any of them, so I could be wrong). Starting off as a socialist economy, stressing on the importance of self-reliance, India introduced neo-liberal economic reforms in the ’90s and became the hip-happening nation we know today. While the makers of Family Guy might show India as a nation of call centres and arranged marriage, the truth is…well, that, and also a lot of other stuff.
What does India not have in this day and age? Democracy? Tick. Civil liberties? Tick (on paper). Big city life? Tick. Countryside life? Tick. Top notch education facilities? Tick. Top notch infrastructure? Tick. India is home to the Taj Mahal, literary geniuses like Rabindranath Tagore, birthplace of Aryabhatta who gave the world the number 0, home to some of the greatest scientists the world has ever known, producer of legends like AR Rahman, diverse entertainment from Bollywood to YouTube series, amazing food that won’t always give your diarrhea, and an extensive and rich history ranging from the Mauryas to the Mughals (both periods gave us excellent movies, by the way)- the list is never-ending.
And yet, on this day, India’s 72nd Republic Day, I felt shame in looking at the Indian leaders on the news as they watched the Annual Republic Day parade. I have never been particularly proud of my Indian heritage- because I’ve never related to it, or any one culture for that matter. I am proud of my Punjabi background but that mostly happened when I heard a song by the Punjabi singer Gurdas Maan where he urged the youth to take pride in one’s heritage. It was almost like, yes, Gurdas Maan, I hear you because your voice is magical. I never related to any one culture because we are exposed to a rich tapestry of so many cultures, that you become an amalgamation of everything you see. I believe the world is one big international community (no matter how savage the members of the community are), but the fact remains that I am Indian. If things were to go downhill one day with global peace and I had to flee, I would have no choice but to escape to India. Probably on an Air India plane (yikes). Unless I follow the herd and get my Canadian citizenship sorted out straight away.
The point is- while I was mostly neutral about my Indian heritage, this morning made me feel ashamed of it for two reasons- a) as the leaders watched the parade, the local police was getting into attack mode on protesting farmers with tear gas and batons, and b) this piece of news was shown as a tiny footnote on the screen. If I were distracted by the colourful parade and the commentary, I would have completely missed the footnote.
Social media was no different- all those who had gone out and posted about #blacklivesmatter on their social media, shared a photo of a black screen on a Tuesday for #blackouttuesday, shared tweets about police brutality in the aftermath of the events in America, were nowhere to be seen. There has been a surprising silence on my social media about police brutality today. I won’t go so far as to say #alllivesmatter- we all know supremacy exists- but I will say this- why is support for the farmers so non-existent? Why do farmers’ lives not matter? So many farmers commit suicide every year in India- why would anybody think that these new reforms would make life easier for anyone but the already wealthy? How much wealthier do the wealthy want to get? Are they expecting to be buried with their money? Are they struggling for something that their current wealth won’t buy? Is humanity dead?
The international community has turned a blind eye to the plight of the farmers- but why must we expect anything from the international community when the local government has decided that violence against the hands that feed the nation is the best course of action?
Farmers’ plight aside, there is so much about the existing policies that is just plain wrong. Those who are running the country are, in plain words, Indian Nazis. The media never questions anything- except for the role of narcotics in Bollywood and how it led to the suicide of a beloved actor. Yes, it is sad that he died. And yes, narcotics are bad. But how is the average Indian Joe enriching his life by finding out that an Indian stand-up comic used to consume cocaine and is now in holding. Sure, the public have a right to know, but have you ever seen an Indian news channel? Everything is a telenovela, complete with sound-effects and scintillating headlines. Why was this narcotics business more news worthy than anything else happening in the country? Like COVID-19? Remember that disease that put India in the global top 5 of number of infections? The disease that caused India to go into negative GDP? So many jobs lost? No? Back to the narcotics investigation? But that doesn’t enrich the average citizen’s life. Still no? I don’t live in India so I should just shut up? Harsh.
An actual citizenship amendment bill was passed for the protection of non-Muslims- Hindu nationalism at its finest. The constitution that put forth values of secularism and ahimsa is shredding itself at the idea of these ridiculous motions that are a #throwback into 1945 India when separatist sentiment was at a high.
I suppose it’s not all gloomy though- maybe there will be someone who can stage a democratic uprising in the opposition party and pave the way for a more inclusive, more secular, and more peaceful India. I don’t plan on moving to India anytime soon so it’ll have to be someone else (charot). Plus, I’m an NRI so they’ll probably do to me what they did to Sonia Gandhi. Also, do you think Indian women would have felt just as uplifted if Sonia Gandhi had been appointed Prime Minister, as they do now when Kamala Harris has become VP?
I would like to end this article with this- there is an actual man called M. K. Stalin, leader of the DMK Party in the Indian state of Tamil Nadu. He was named after Joseph Stalin. I didn’t know this. I thought maybe he was related to Stalin through a crazy whirlwind romance between a woman from Tamil Nadu and a man from Soviet Russia but turns out, his father was addressing a condolence meeting when Stalin died, four days after the birth of his child, so he was named after Stalin. Imagine living with a name like that.