What Does ‘Independence’ Mean to us?

Published: 17th September 2014 06:24 AM  |   Last Updated: 17th September 2014 06:24 AM   |  A+A-


Every year we celebrate our Independence Day. The way in which we perceive Independence Day has been changing over the years. I’m sure that a person from the older generation will look at this day differently from a youngster. It doesn’t bother me much when a kid considers Independence Day just a day when he or she needs go to school to witness flag hoisting, listen to a speech, get sweets before returning home to enjoy the holiday. But when grown-ups consider it just a holiday, it is something we need to think about. ‘Independence’ literally means ‘the power or right to act, speak or think as one wants’. When we are ruled by another nation our right to speak and act is curtailed. But the question is, do we have the right to speak and act as we wish in a free country? The answer would be a yes and a no. While we have the right to do things as we want,  our freedom stops when it interferes with other people’s freedom. In other words, our actions should not be a hindrance to others or affect them negatively. Abraham Lincoln said, “Freedom is not the right to do what we want, but what we ought. Let us have faith that right makes might and in that faith let us, to the end, dare to do our duty as we understand it.” Thus it is imperative to know that although freedom gives us the right to do what we want, we need to consider the impact of our actions on the system. If we do what we are supposed to do rather than what we want to do, life will surely be better — for others and for ourselves.

When some of the country’s youth were asked what Independence meant to them, several interesting responses came up. Vishruta Mattu, a student, said something similar to what Lincoln said, “Independence of the nation is not what we feel, but what we make of it. Most importantly, Independence is not about rights but about our duties towards the nation.” How many of us link freedom with the nation? Not many of us think of the sacrifices made by the last generation to get Independence. They are now read only as lessons in history books and even that is forgotten once the exams are done. Rarely do we think or talk about those who have sacrificed so much to get the freedom that we enjoy today. We can also look at this from a different angle. Our nation’s Independence struggle is different from that of others. Ours has not been a bloody struggle. Non-violence is a supreme form of opposition. Not all can perceive and understand the kind of mental strength and conviction that is required for it. Our younger generation should be aware of the importance of freedom and the way it was attained. Ronald Reagan said something analogous, “Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction. We didn’t pass it on to our children in the bloodstream. It must be fought for, protected, and handed on for them to do the same.” I assume that this is where we failed. We did not make our children aware of the struggles and sacrifices.

 The present generation may not know the efforts made for our Independence, but they have a clear idea of what Independence is and what it means to them. A student of filmmaking says, “We’re independent on a scrap of paper, but not independent in the mind. It may be easy to say that we are the world’s greatest democracy and yet not believe in it. We follow western trends and feel proud, making our minds greatly dependent on the thinking of the west and believing that we are modern. If we were independent, why would most of our country’s major decisions be governed or influenced by external factors?  What good is it to be independent as a nation, if the mind is a prisoner?”

It is a valid question. We need to ponder over it and find a way out, friends, for our own good, if you understand what I mean.


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