Theme significance

Independence 75thYear

By Dr S. Saraswathi
(Former Director, ICSSR, New Delhi)

India is starting its 75th year of independencewith a mixture of great expectations and disheartening disappointments amid lot of hopes and despair and still looks forward to building a new prosperous, progressive, and inclusive India. It is an occasion for self-examination of our achievements and failures,our strong points and weak spots, and identify internal and external obstacles.
“Arise! Awake! And Stop Not till Our Goal is Reached”, should bethe lesson to follow. The roadis already tough and is growing tougher with unforeseencatastrophieslike Covid-19 pandemic, climatic changes causing frequent natural disasters, and politicaldisturbances in nearby countries affecting us without our involvement.
What we have built in 74 years of independencemust be protected and what we dream for future must be realised. The responsibility for this rests on the shoulders of the people of Indiaand not just on the government as some are prone to think.
The theme of this Independence Day is “Nation First, Always First”. Why we have to remind people of India to keep nation first after 74 years of freedom and sacrifices of several great men and women in varied fields to achieve that freedom and while working a vibrant democracy echoing people’s voices through different media, and winning several world records and achievements to be proud of is a little perplexing.
Why isthere a doubt that nation is not first in the minds of people and they have to be inculcated? Perhaps doubts rise from people’s expressed aspirations, open utterances, and considered action inconsistent with national interests. There are people occupying seats of power for whom, their State, their language (mother tongue), their religion, and their community are dearer than the nation which comes last.
This Independence Day theme sounds different from that of last two years. Atmanirbhar Bharat” or Self-reliant India that was the theme in 2020 and “Support our Troops, Salute Our Troops” which was the theme in 2019 denote a call for positive action. Significantly,2018 theme “One Country, One People” was a reminder for unity similar to the theme of this year.
In 2015, a specific programme of action, Swachch Bharat was chosen as a serious mission in our country. It was labeled “Towards True Freedom” – freedom from dirt, squalor, and garbage. It specified some other freedoms also — freedom from financial untouchability (Jan Dhan Yojana), Freedom from Illiteracy for Girl child (Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao), Freedom from Archaic Labour Laws (Sharam Dev Jayate), Freedom from being Unfunded (PM Mudra Yojana).
It is interesting to note that the theme adopted in the USA for 2021 Independence Day celebrated on 4th July embraces the importance of patriotism and brings forward to highlight the heroes of the past. It seems that globalisation that brings nations closer and closer economically has given rise to the need to awaken national spirit that every nation, rich and poor, has to cherish for its progress and prosperity.
South Africa also, which celebrated its liberation from colonial rule and the oppressive apartheid system on 27th April chose its theme appropriate to present days as “The Year of Charlotte Mazeke: The Meaning of Freedom under Covid-19”. The Government of South Africa emphasises continuing vaccination programme and the fight against the virus. Despite making remarkable progress after independence, the country is facing massive inequality, poverty, and unemployment that block the way to national unity and social cohesion.
“We dare not forget the terrible past, nor forget the sacrifices made by patriots to ensure our democracy and freedom. Our history aboundswith sacrifices made by patriots who paved the way for a democratic and free South Africa”, stated a government communiqué.It is true of India also.
Charlotte Mazeke was a human rights activist who fought against political and other forms of oppression along with her associates about 150 years ago when such defiance was sternly put down with unrelenting force.The choice of the theme confirms that there is a growing need in many parts of the world today to recall the sacrifices of past heroes particularly those who fought for freedomfor the benefit of present generations and to rekindle patriotic spirits apparently subduedunder material progress.
South Africa, interestingly connects Freedom Day celebration with the message of unity in diversity. It is considered as the day to enforce a change in the attitude of people towards the unique and diverse ethnic, cultural and national background to inspire the people to be innovative and build a better South Africa together and excel in all aspects of life.
This country reminds us to move towards Goal 16 of the Sustainable Development Goals, that is, “Peace, Justice, and Strong Institutions”.
Sri Lanka celebrated 73rd Independence Day on 4th February with a theme “A Wealthy Tomorrow: Prosperous Motherland”. Freedom heroes were also remembered.In Mexico, where freedom anniversary is celebrated on 15th September, the tradition of raising the cry of patriotism is followed with enthusiastic cry of “Viva” (long live) by people.
Freedom Day celebration is an occasion for conveying to the entire nation the message of unity in diversity for all. It is a day to unite despite differences, and to feel the common sense of Indianness. The celebrations aim at inspiring people to be innovative and determined to build a new India that will stand united by thoughts, deeds, and aspirationsand cherish its rich diversities as the wealth of the nation and not as hindrances to its unity.Faith in one’s religion need not make us intolerant of other religions; pride in the richness of one’s language need not deny to ourselves opportunities to learn other languages; State borders need not mean the limit of our concerns.
In India, Prime Minister Narendra Modi also declared that August 14 would be observed as “Partition Horrors Remembrance Day” to acknowledge the pain and losses undergone by Indians due to the 1947 Partition. He said the day would remind Indians of the need to “remove the poison of social divisions”. This declaration, along with Independence Day theme of putting the Nation First aims at strengthening the”spirit of oneness, social harmony, and human empowerment” which have to be the essential characteristics of our nation.
Will August 14 also act as deterrence to internal partitions? Even divisions of States within the country are not always smooth. They arepreceded and followed by series of problems as in the North-East Region or even Andhra Pradesh and Telangana.
This year’s Independence Day theme in India is addressed to formation of our priorities, and to conditioning our thoughts and actions. It is day to celebrate “tricolour with liberty, beauty in diversity, unity in differences, and brotherhood of the largest democracy in the world”.Five specific themes chosen under this are Freedom Struggle and Ideas, Achievements, Actions, and Resolves.
Globalisation is not going to bind the world together emotionally.It is also not intended to strengthen unity within a nation. We have a new task to ensure that globalisationgoes along with patriotic sentiments, national interests and needs. — INFA