Bol Ke Lab Azaad Hain Tere

Dilemmas for an Independence Day

Joydeep Hazarika for BeyondHeadlines

As another Independence Day approaches us, I try to make out what it means to feel independent under the shadow fear and death.

When you hail from a conflict zone area, there is very little chance that you get to experience the finer things in life that the people from the rest of the country experience. And here I must say, we feel left out while trying to experience the true feeling of freedom and fearlessness.

Ever since violence engulfed Assam more than twenty years ago, life became pretty drastic for my generation who were born in the middle of that era. Curfews by the army, calls for strikes by the militants and other such groups were the order of the day. Not that the activities of the mainstream Indian public was much of a concern for us before that, but atleast we did not have to remain holed up in our houses for fear of being hit by an army bullet or be blown apart by the bomb of a militant.

Independence Day, even today, is a day to stay indoors. Though the fear of a militant threat looms large, the fear has subsided largely in the last ten years as the situation has improved greatly. My earliest memories of Independence Day was hoisting the national flag early in the morning on the day and saluting it with pride as a child in the lawn of our house. Then came the diktat of the militants forbidding such activities and so since then the flag has remained tucked inside an almirah in the house ever since.

On every Independence Day we used to watch the Prime Minister on the TV giving his speech from the Red Fort. Why is there such a boring speech every year? Can’t we have a colourful parade instead? Doesn’t he get tired of making the same empty promises every year? Why doesn’t he ever ask the people of the nation to rise up against diktats that forbid them from celebrating their own Independence Day?

Such questions have often clouded my mind during childhood. And they still do even today. As a child I could never really connect with the feeling of being an independent citizen. And all this, while people continued to die, either from the bombs of the militants or the bullets of the army.

My first taste of a real Independence Day celebration happened when I moved to Delhi for my graduation. I will never forget the first moment when I saw the innumerable kites flying in the sky. I had never seen anything like this. For the first time I realized what we had been missing so far. For the first time I realized that we were leading such miserable lives back home that we remained holed up in our houses while the rest of the India rejoices.

Today the situation is much calmer in Assam. The security presence is less. There is a lesser threat from militants due to the factionalism that has crept up in the militant groups. The city of Guwahati seems much more developed then what it was ten years ago. I have more reasons to feel happy for my people today. Though we may not be in a position to hold a colourful parade on the streets for this day as the danger of death is totally not out. But we can definitely roam out and not be questioned by every other army man if we are terrorists.

There is still a lot to be done. The central government kept its back turned on us for most years after independence. Today the situation is definitely not like that. We have strong reasons to remain with India and contribute immensely for the development of the overall Indian fabric. Today the rest of the India is experiencing the same situation which had been facing for the last many years. Security is a big concern today. But I believe that there is no threat that we as a people cannot overcome. And we the Assamese people can always lend a helping hand in this regard.

All I want on this day is that nobody should be scared to celebrate the Independence Day of their own nation. If you feel for it, you must go for it. And with this I boot off the stupid diktats of the militants and hereby look forward to waving the national flag on this Independence Day.

Happy Independence Day to all of you. Vande Mataram!

(Joydeep is a media professional from Assam, working in New Delhi. Currently he is at home on vacation. Views expressed are that of the author)

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