Freedom, conditions applied

CE interacts with citizens of the country asking their opinion on areas in which India still lacks freedom and how can we truly attain it.
Express Illustration by Sourav Roy
Express Illustration by Sourav Roy

CHENNAI: As we are entering into the 77th year of India’s Independence, the meaning of freedom is undergoing a redefinition. What once appeared as hard-won liberty, collectively gained, now seems to be evolving into a concept for certain categories of people.

When we zoom into the lives of individuals, the reality is often questionable from what is being portrayed. Even though the country strives for progress in a lot of areas and we are on the world map for different achievements, there are still sectors that need development and true liberation.

CE interacts with citizens of the country asking their opinion on areas in which India still lacks freedom and how can we truly attain it.  (Inputs by Archita Raghu, Diya Maria George, Sonu M Kothari, Sreelakshmi S Nair)

Jaya, general manager, Sahodaran & LGBTQIA+ activist 

LGBTQIA+ community is still a marginalised community. Even if there is recognition for the trans community, there is a lot more progress to be made in terms of reservation. Dr BR Ambedkar introduced the reservation system in the Constitution of India for promoting equality. I feel that we will truly get freedom  only when there is reservation and opportunities for all members of the community at the 
national level.

Seetha, social worker

On a daily basis, crimes are happening against minorities, marginalised communities, women, children, gender and non-normative population, scheduled caste, scheduled tribes, and persons with disabilities. For years, we have tried to find some common ground but the state of oppression and oppressors has always been the same. Especially in the last decade, the freedom to express our opinion has become more difficult. In the last couple of months, hearing about communal violence, shootings and riots, I don’t feel safe in my own country. 

Nrithya, dancer, activist

It is blatantly clear that the bodies, voices and representation of the marginalised castes and minorities are more unsafe than ever. While there are voices that speak of the dismal reality of women’s safety, sexual violence, caste discrimination, and intersectionality, they have taken a back seat. People asking crucial questions from marginalised caste locations are often pushed to the margins of activism. Voices with privilege are celebrated. The representations of the marginalised and reparations for their historical oppression and discrimination need to be focussed.

Sanjana Srinivasan, Advocate

In my opinion, after independence, article 19(1)(a) of the Constitution wasn’t even considered in India. Certain aspects of freedom, such as freedom of expression, minority rights, and women's rights, might be constrained due to various social, political, or legal factors, or cultural factors. Let’s remember the slogan coined by freedom fighter Sahodaran Ayyapan — “No religion, No caste, No God for mankind”.

Advaitha Rajagopal, singer, artist, teacher

India is a very beautiful country but do we have the right to say what we want or do what we want? That is questionable. We’ve come a long way in the past few years but how many people actually enjoy independence? It should be uniform, and available for anyone and everyone. It should also be being able to live and not answer to someone, or be imprisoned, held, or controlled by someone. That is something that we should strive for, whether part of a majority or a minority.

Varalakshmi Bharanidharan, Sacred geometry artist, art therapist

While we celebrate the strides that were made this Independence Day, let’s not forget the subtle shadows that linger. The colours of social equality remain unevenly distributed. Discrimination based on caste, religion, and gender still casts a pall of gloom over the vibrant tapestry of our nation. The canvas yearns for strokes that erase these lines, creating a masterpiece of harmony and inclusivity. and gender still casts all over.

Angela Rachel Mathew, teacher 

One of the major constraints is India’s lack of educational freedom. There is a need for a much more diverse curriculum, educational equity and new educational methods that could aid the holistic development of an individual rather than narrowing down their views into a conventional limited spectrum. Inclusivity in the system of education can give space for more voices and create a better tomorrow.

R, poet, mental health educator

The India I would like to see is a distant dream. It refuses to be washed over by a single colour and doesn’t sell its voice to the rich. It fosters a strong community of accountability and safety, where the marginalised are truly heard, uplifted and represented every step of the way. It pays heed to the cries of its citizens and dares to hold a mirror to oppressive forces. The India that I would like to see fiercely protects its biodiversity, fosters radical compassion and builds zero tolerance to violence. And this is not that of India.

Kalyan, founder of Queer Theatre, theatre artiste, aspiring filmmaker

India is slowly moving in terms of LGBTQIA+ rights. According to Article 21 of The Constitution of India, marriage is a basic right. But, same-sex marriages are still illegal in the country. The lack of horizontal reservations for the trans community is another concern. Even though trans people have been included in the OBC category in 2017, it doesn’t provide equal reservations. I feel that a victory in these two cases will provide a very big future and freedom for the LGBTQIA+ community. 

Jaisingh Nageswaran, photographer 

As an artiste, and a person from a subaltern community, I see a lot of villages still being isolated. Though we know that rural areas are part of our geography, the lives there are often invisible. We say everybody owns a smartphone or a computer these days, living in the age of Digital India, but the gadgets are directed against subalterns and minorities. Recently, Viduthalai Sigappi, a poet, had written a poem on manual scavenging. He expressed his point of view, for which he was arrested. Melpathi Dalits are protesting to enter a village temple, the temple is closed now. Such things keep happening every day. This makes us question the independence we attained all those years back. 

Shemrin Nizam, counselling psychologist

Though we have the right to express our feelings and talk about them, talking about one’s mental health concerns is still seen as an issue, and seeking therapy is seen as taboo in our country. We are labelled with terms that are triggering. It is high time that we acknowledge the freedom to truly express ourselves. 

SK Arun, media student 

We can’t deny the fact that the women in our country do not have ultimate freedom in living their life. Women are not made for the kitchen, rather they are made to rule and conquer the world. Mahatma Gandhi once said, “India will be free when the women feel safe walking in the streets of India at midnight.” 

Varsha Jayalakshmi, founder of The Sangeet Tales

Every human being has the right to love anybody and marry them. But, inter-caste and inter-religious marriages are still taboo. Though there is progress in some parts of the country, it is not widespread throughout the country. With the transformation that Gen Z is coming up with, I really hope that inter-faith marriages are not taboo.

M Kamsuanmung, 
Zomi Youth Association (ZYA), Chennai Region President

Freedom is not of people alone but also of the mind and heart. With the current happenings in Manipur, a lot of people, including me, feel that there is no freedom of speech. Even before the violence began, people were caught by the police due to their remarks made on Facebook about the chief minister of Manipur. Rather than freedom in their hearts, people are feeling insecure. A lot of news broadcasted from Manipur is untrue and biased and we can’t do anything. We have no source to complain about. We are happy about the fact that people came to know the truth through national media. 

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