This is a great day for India, if we think not in terms of days and months and years but in terms of centuries and civilisations. It is a day as great as when the mind flowered in the Indo-Gangetic Valley or when Asoka laid the foundation of his moral empire. Nothing less than an epoch is dying and nothing less than a civilisation is being reborn. It is not merely the liberation in the flesh of four hundred millions that we celebrate; it is the liberation of the mind. A conquering civilisation abdicates, unable to conquer. The humanism of what is known as the Renaissance and the Protestantism of what is known as Reformation in Europe are being repeated in this country in another context. Alien rule, alien thought, alien speech and alien manners, the tyranny of mind over mind go, leaving our minds to be free as they were once free. Two great civilisations go once more their way, to unite or to remain separate, no longer accessories but empires in their own right.
We shall no longer think others’ thoughts; we shall no longer stutter but speak. No longer shall we lead sheltered lives. We are once more in communion with the world as when travellers like Fa-Hien and Hieun-Tsang, Magasthenes and Marco Polo and Al-beruni came here in search of light. We are breaking frontiers in every sense. Compared with this, our disappointments seem to be light. It has been a test of endurance and it is a miracle that we have endured.
Alien rule, alien thought, alien speech and alien manners, the tyranny of mind over mind go, leaving our minds to be free as they were once free. Two great civilisations go once more their way, to unite or to remain separate, no longer accessories but empires in their own right. We shall no longer think others’ thoughts; we shall no longer stutter but speak.
August 15, 1947 and its promise of fulfilment have flowed from August 9, 1942 and the terrific struggles that went before. And behind those struggles and the outward groping behind those struggles lay the masterful, directing genius of a man great even in the calendar of the greatest men, Mahatma Gandhi. To him, and to his unconquerable mind, millions pay their tribute. No nation has let down its leader more grievously and so repeatedly. Yet he has guided us all through, with uncompromising vision and without losing his faith and guided us to the day’s success. He claims no homage but, hurt by the violence of events, is retreating to the innermost sanctuaries of hope. If we have the courage to meet the challenge of our fate, it is because we know he is with us, his incandescence illuminating the uttermost darkness. Let us not fail him for we shall not have another like him.
With him we think of others who led in the liberation of the mind, Raja Ram Mohan Roy, progressive beyond his age, Vivekananda, who gave a new meaning to religion, Rabindranath the poet laureate of our freedom, the long roll of Fathers of the Congress, men of all religions and Gokhale, Tilak, Lajpat Rai and Chittaranjan Das, who made himself daridranarayan for the sake of his people.
We pay our homage to the martyrs who gave away their lives so that we and the future generations may be free. They sought nothing for themselves. Challenging fate and pursuing their ideal, they fell in the cause of the free. Their means may not have been the means we use now but their hearts were bold and their minds were clean. In Lawrence Binyon’s words:
“They shall grow not old, as
we that are left grow old,
Age shall not weary them, nor
the years condemn;
At the going down of the sun
and in the morning
We will remember them.”
We will remember them whenever we need faith and courage.
On this day we also remember friends of freedom everywhere through the long years who kept a vigil over their liberties and our liberties and helped us in their own way – Hume and Wedderburn and Annie Besant, scholars like Colebrooke and Sir Willam Jones, humanists like Andrews, and in our day Einstein and Pearl Buck and Lin Yutang. We remember soldiers who died in 1857-58 and those who faced uncertain perils under the leadership of Netaji Bose.
We remember the Unknown Volunteer, the backbone of the Congress, whose spirit dominated every struggle and who will add to the strength we shall need.
“Let us be bright and be merry on this occasion, let us laugh heartily for a while, let us feel free, for we bid good bye to the sorrow of the past and we have to face the challenge of the future.”
Freedom’s battle is not really finished when freedom seems to have been won. The Congress was in the forefront of all this long arduous struggle but it worked for the freedom of every man and woman in this country, not of any class or section. We are free to go our way but we are not free from evil. Great challenges confront us, limitless ignorance, limitless poverty, scarcity, disease, faint-heartedness, despair, corruption in every class of society and in every walk of life. These have to be fought and conquered so that freedom’s content may be rich. But today in the hour of triumph, we do not want to dwell on obstacles or place limits on our hope. We shall leave the responsibility, onerous and heart-breaking, on the shoulders of our leaders and the administrators in whom they have put their trust.
To Mrs. Sarojini Naidu, India’s first woman governor. We offer a hearty welcome and wish her all success in her queenly reign. She has been for years the queen of Indian hearts, one of our foremost soldiers and content always to be a soldier. President of the Cawnpore session of the Congress, member of the Working Committee, known in many continents as a gifted poet and speaker, she has always maintained her freedom of thought and speech. One of the freest spirits in our freedom fights, warbling her way ‘through clouds and through sunshine’. It is a rare honour for a woman to govern but she has accepted it not as an honour but as a call to surrender to the new spirit. Besides her many brilliant gifts, she has one rare gift, the gift of great laughter and she will bring laughter and cheer to a generation jaded by disappointment and unable to grasp hope, and will govern with a smile on her lips and a song in her heart. Let us be bright and be merry on this occasion, let us laugh heartily for a while, let us feel free, for we bid good bye to the sorrow of the past and we have to face the challenge of the future.