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50 Years of Independence

The People’s Tryst with Destiny

August 15 this year marked the culmination of a golden jubilee without glitters. Even Mr. Vajpayee the renowned orator failed to enthuse anybody with his lacklustre speech, which sounded more like the farewell address of a Prime Minister awaiting an ignominous exit. Visibly tired and frustrated, he appeared more concerned about the fate of his government than with the future of the country. It was left to the President to revive the old theme of Nehruvian dream and talk of the need to counter "communal mobilisation". By airing his views through an interview with a journalist of his choice in place of the customary independence day speech and by describing himself as a "working president", as distinct from a "rubber-stamp president", Mr. Narayanan seemed to provoke yet another clash of institutions in our battered parliamentary set-up.

Such signs of strain in the political system, along with the worsening economic woes, only epitomise our country’s downhill journey over the last fifty years. It’s the story of a nation-state betrayed by its own founders and their successors. All the grand slogans of yesteryears have by now turned into their opposites: secularism into Hindi rastravad, ‘socialism’ into communal fascism, self-reliance into saffron swadeshi which connotes wooing the NRIs and MNCs, ‘panchsheel’ into nuclear jingoism. And regarding the "Nehruvian dream" of "ending poverty, ignorance and inequality"—as refereed by Mr. President in his interview — the less said the better. According to the latest (1993-94) official estimates, 36 per cent of the population live below the poverty line. In absolute terms this measures up to 32.03 crore people and earns us the distinction of being the world-leader in this field. In a word, our dreams at the dawn of independence have all turned soar. The nation has been put back to a long, deep hybernation induced by all kinds of opiates ranging from religious fundamentalism to social-democratic class collaborationism.

If the smile of Buddha failed to awaken the nation from this sickly slumber, invocation of the myth of a golden Hindu era or appeals to the Nehruvian vision won’t succeed either. India’s rejuvenation is possible only on the basis of a revolutionary democratic upsurge in the realms of ideas as well as socio-political life. For the liberal opportunist Left, this is highly impractical, since, we are told, ‘the Left is weak’. This was the pet pretext of the CPI leadership in British India, used to justify its lack of political will to try and snatch command of the freedom movement from Congress hands. And now on the basis of this bad old argument the official Left is all set to clinch a long-term strategic deal with the Congress. But the revolutionary Left must continue to uphold the independent banner, for this alone can unleash the revolutionary energy of the masses and lead them to liberation in all senses of the term. The last fifty years have also educated the toiling people to a great extent and in the coming century they will definitely take the destiny of the nation in their own hands. Then — and only then — will begin the people’s celebration of their freedom.

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