This is our land: Waiting for compassion
Who does this country belong to? Does it truly belong to all the citizens of India, in accordance with the letter and spirit of the Constitution?
We seldom recognise the value of space, though difference of a single ‘space’ can sometime alter the meaning of a word. Missing a space while writing, thankfully, is a minor ‘typo’. But beyond written texts ‘space’ plays a major role and often cause turmoil.
Is there any space in our freedom to allow dissent? Is there enough space on our land to allow illegal migrants to continue living here? And is there enough space to build enough detention centers and prisons if the answer to the previous two questions is a loud, resounding no?
Independence Day should ideally be a day of jubilation, remembrance, and goodwill. It should not be a day to ask these existential questions. But when the very foundations of our freedom are threatened, we cannot delude ourselves into a false sense of security.
And so, one of the first things we must ask ourselves this Independence Day is who does this country belong to. Does it truly belong to all the citizens of India, in accordance with the letter and spirit of the Constitution?
Does it belong to the Muslim citizens of India who can be lynched on the mere suspicion of possessing beef ? Does it belong to the Dalit citizens of India whose merit and access to education and employment is questioned at every step? Does it really belong to the migrant labourers who lost their livelihoods, and in some cases, their lives because of the ill-planned lockdown imposed in light of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic?
As far as the history of this land goes, the answer is an unequivocal yes. Soaked in equal measures by blood, milk, and water, there is little that India cannot absorb within her bosom. Despite a bloody Partition that claimed over two million lives, despite bitter riots that have ripped its core time and again, life in India has always found a way to limp back to normalcy, normalcy of shared sewaiyan on Eid-ul-Fitr and the shared grief of losing 20 Indian soldiers in the India-China Galwan Valley clash.
It is impossible to conclusively say who India’s freedom belongs to, because let’s face it, millions of Indians continue to be bound by shackles of poverty, caste, gender, and religion. But this Independence Day can belong to the normalcy that we are all waiting for, when there will be the space to ask difficult questions and the space to be safe regardless of the answers.
While we wait, we remember our fallen. And we will say the names of Rohith Vemula, Payal Tadvi, Mohammed Akhlaq and the many migrant labourers who started their long walk home but never completed it.
The space we occupy will someday be filled with kindness and compassion that we are missing today