Independence Day 2013: Rhetoric versus Reality

August 15, 2013 marked the 66th anniversary of India’s Independence. For the rulers, the Independence Day has always been an occasion to revel in self-congratulatory eloquence seeking to give a sweet coating to the harsh reality experienced by the people at large. While the President traditionally presents a statesman-like view from above in his Independence Day eve address, the Prime Minister uses his speech from the ramparts of the Red Fort to beat his government’s drum. 2013 has been no different except that this year we had the Gujarat CM throwing his hat into the ring hoping that his rhetorical counterpoint would catapult him from his blood-stained provincial throne to the coveted seat of central power.

In his Independence Day eve address this year, President Pranab Mukherjee did touch upon some of the problems ailing the country, but he had no solution to the problems other than the worn-out plea to the people to utilise the forthcoming Lok Sabha elections to elect a stable government. This was a throwback to the old Indira era even as it sounded anachronistic in a situation where the two dominant ruling class coalitions are projected to finish around hundred seats short of the majority mark. Perhaps this was the President’s way of responding to the pre-poll surveys predicting a hung Parliament. Interestingly enough, Narendra Modi seems to believe that the call for a strong and stable government could benefit the BJP rather than the Congress and he was prompt to laud the President’s address while rubbishing the Prime Minister’s speech.

Manmohan Singh’s speech this year dealt more with the history of the legacy of Nehru, Indira and Rajiv Gandhi – a clear pointer to the fact that the government is desperately trying to run away from owning up its responsibility for the current crisis. Perhaps it also reflected his premonition that the days of his government are numbered and hence the attempt to put his government in historical context. Of course he did not shy away from tomtomming his government’s so-called record of ‘growth’ and ‘empowerment’ even as the country reels under an explosive economic crisis and democracy is daily defrauded by an increasingly repressive and intrusive state.

The Indian rupee that stood equal to the American dollar in 1947 has plummeted to an alarming Rs 64 to a dollar, leaving the country clueless as to how it could repay foreign debts or foot the import bill. But the ‘solution’ peddled by our rulers is to subject the country to still greater external dependence, leaving us ‘free’ only to survive at the mercy of foreign capital and its domestic collaborators. The current policy regime of liberalisation, privatisation and globalisation had been launched in 1991 in the name of saving India from economic crisis, but after two decades of blind pursuit of that policy trajectory India now finds herself in the grip of a still more severe economic ruin. It has been a disastrous jump from the frying pan to fire.

If the Congress is busy appeasing the American bosses by mortgaging the economy, Modi believes he can overtake the Congress by flexing muscles against Pakistan. Appeasement of America and war-mongering against Pakistan remain the two cardinal principles of bourgeois nationalism in India and the BJP is once again trying its best to whip up a jingoistic frenzy against Pakistan. In the name of avenging the killing of Indian soldiers on the LoC, the BJP would like to aggravate the incidents of violation of ceasefire on the LoC into yet another full-scale war with our western neighbour. Sixty-six years ago ‘Independence’ had come to the subcontinent soaked in communal bloodbath and bifurcation of the country. It was a disaster that badly affected both India and Pakistan and the two countries have had to pay a heavy price for this tragedy in innumerable ways. Today while the majority of the people in India and Pakistan want to move on as friendly neighbours committed to bilateral peace and partnership, the BJP is desperate to perpetuate the legacy of mutual distrust and war.

The competitive ‘big power’ rhetoric of the ruling classes cannot however suppress the fact that for vast sections of the Indian people everyday reality remains one of unfreedom. And this bitter truth was once again revealed most shockingly on this year’s Independence Day in a Bihar village. In Baddi village of Shivsagar block in Rohtas district an elderly dalit resident Vilas Ram was beaten to death, several injured, two dalit houses torched, a Ravidas temple vandalised and the statue of Ravidas disfigured by an armed mob of upper caste feudal gentry – all in broad daylight while Independence Day celebration programmes were underway across the country.

The armed mob wanted to get rid of the Ravidas temple and usurp the land and they chose the temple complex to hoist the tricolour. Vilas Ram and some other people from the dalit hamlet of Baddi protested against this move and this was ‘instigation’ enough for the armed mob to go berserk. Incidentally the local police outpost is quite nearby and the village comes under high profile Lok Sabha constituency Sasaram that is currently represented by Lok Sabha Speaker Meira Kumar and was the traditional seat of her father and well-known dalit face of the Congress, Babu Jag Jivan Ram.

India cannot be misled by Manmohan Singh’s false assurances or Modi’s fascist rhetoric. The country must wake up to the grim reality of economic and environmental crisis that has been imposed on us by the ruling classes and the lack of freedom that still vitiates the social existence of millions of Indians. The reality of people’s movement for change must prevail over the rulers’ rhetoric of deception.

Box matter

5,000 Gujarat farmers protest against Maruti plant

Even as Modi was making his Independence Day speech, farmers in his own state Gujarat were gathered in thousands to protest the Government’s plans to evict them from land to make way for a special investment region (SIR) for factories like Maruti. Modi has always touted his development model as being farmer- and corporate-friendly: recall how he welcomed Tata’s Nano factory when it was facing a powerful movement by Singur’s farmers in CPI(M)-led West Bengal. Modi had claimed no Singur was possible in Gujarat – the farmers of Gujarat are proving him wrong today, protesting land grab for the Maruti plant much as Singur’s farmers had protested against Tata.

Raising slogans of “Maruti Go Back” and ‘SIR Go Back’, 5,000 farmers and their families observed Independence Day with a massive protest at Dalod village near Hansalpur. The protesting farmers hoisted the national flag and burnt a replica of a Maruti car.

The protest was held the very next day after the Modi Government had been forced to climb down in the face of a sustained farmers’ agitation, and exclude 36 of the total 44 villages from the proposed Mandal-Becharaji special investment region (SIR). The farmers’ 15th August protest was to show that this measure was not enough – nothing short of scrapping the entire SIR would do.

The farmers leading the agitation said that the Government had defrauded the law. The land given to Maruti was shown by the Government as revenue wasteland, but in reality, farmers had been tilling the land right until it was handed over to Maruti. The farmers are demanding that a committee headed by a retired High Court judge told a referendum of the 8 affected villages on whether they wanted the SIR or not.


Liberation Archive