On this day 70 years ago, India as a nation became independent of all foreign rule. In addition to paying respect to the flag and enjoying the national holiday on Independence Day, CE talks to some eminent personalities in the city to find out their opinions on freedom and independence, and also how the definition has evolved and changed in the city over the years
Freedom can be looked at in two ways — as independence of the nation, or that of an individual citizen. If a person, irrespective of gender, can express themselves freely, only then can a nation be independent. The true power of freedom can be experienced by an individual who can have his/her self-imposed invisible boundaries and still achieve great things, like Gandhi. If there is freedom of speech, you can hear us...transgenders, who have been born in this same nation but shunned by family and society, always being harassed for our gender identity. The new India I wish for is one where, the future generation, with its infinite resources, will be India’s strength.
Dr Aishwarya Rao
Disability rights activist
Over the years, my perception of freedom has changed. It is a subjective matter. After working closely with persons with disabilities, I understood that freedom is all about accessibility. Because of the weak infrastructure in our country, the disabled cannot access freedom. The most crucial of all is the freedom to access education, health and employment and that is not happening here. I think freedom is more restrictive now than it was 10 years ago. Freedom exists in this country but it is not accessible to all.
Happiness curator and author, Fall Like A Rose Petal
Freedom at an individual level is the opportunity to be yourself. In a national context, it is an empowerment. It is an opportunity for responsible citizenship. But, I don’t think it has changed or evolved over the years…not at all. At least for me the idea has always been the same. Constitutionally, our empowerment is clearly defined and articulated.
This empowerment is reviewed and refined periodically by parliament. So the Constitution remains sacred. But if we are unwilling to express ourselves freely or be responsible citizens because we fear activists and/or mafia in certain contexts then we are not exercising our freedom at all. I don’t think we need any more freedom than what is defined, understood and taken. What we need is more responsible citizenship.
We have so much freedom in our country. To the extent that we are always seeing so much chaos and irresponsible behaviour all around. But we don’t have anarchy here. The answer to reform our Indian way of thinking and living does not lie in imposing fresh restrictions that tell us what we must do and what we must not. We don’t necessarily need any more definition or direction. The way forward is for each Indian to behave more responsibly. That’s the only way we can transform India — one Indian at a time — and trly be free!
Activist, Nirangal NGO
The independence we have now is a state of freedom but with ‘conditions apply’. So for me freedom as a transwoman is very limited. Though there are a few good things that have happened over the years — like the freedom to reveal our gender identity, it can be seen as freedom only when people let us be and stop questioning us on the basis of our gender, sexuality and appearance. Freedom is not something one gives another…it’s what every individual has. Until others assume that they are doing a favour by ‘giving them freedom’, we haven’t achieved true freedom yet.
Professor, Institute of Mathematical Sciences & author, Measure and Probability
Freedom is the ability to make choices, provided that doing so does not infringe on anybody else’s fundamental rights. We need to respect other people’s choices even if they disagree from our own. In India, the keys to cities have been given to the private automobile; what about the freedom of an aged pedestrian or a wheelchair user like me? How do I go to my workplace when there is no accessible public transport? Where is the independence here? Worse still is the plight of a disabled child — with no school being accessible or very few teachers equipped with specialised skills.
Former Madras High Court judge and author, Of Vineyard Equality
Freedom to me…is a woman’s voice being equal to any voice and not weak than the rest. We deserve to be equal in a ‘free India’, if that is not there or even if one person feels unequal, then we aren’t free! But that said, freedom has definitely evolved over the years. But has enough happened? Bharathiyar said –‘Muppadhu kodi mugamudayaal, uyir meipuravondrudayaal... ival seppu mozhi padhinettudayaal enil sindhanai ondrudayaal’, emphasising unity in diversity. So, we should celebrate the difference…not in conflict, but in harmony! We have to understand our duties and responsibilities right for a free India — after all, we are all small pieces that make this country.