‘Azaadi ka Amrit Mahotsav’ is an initiative to celebrate and commemorate 75 years of independence and the glorious history of its people, culture, and achievements.
Mumbai: The idea of nationalism, patriotism, and celebrating historic milestones of Independence day has been in discussion and debate for a while. However, reclaiming history with a difference is setting a whole new trend. Our political history is filled with instances of reclaiming and politics of appropriation both in regional and national politics. One can argue that it is not a new trend and something that has been in practice since time immemorial. The larger observation though will be that the approach of this very politics of appropriation and reclaiming history has significantly evolved. One can easily observe that when there is a change in power the obvious change also is seen in the vision, mission, and outlook of the government towards policy initiation. We usually see that ruling dispensation across the world takes the harness of patriotism, nationalism, and rejoicing in the legacy of a rich historical past when in crisis or when those in power are faced with tough questions. Answers to such questions are usually addressed with jingoism of self-pride or euphoria of patriotism. We saw a recent example in our very neighbourhood of how trumpets of nationalism and patriotism were blown when things started falling apart. At one glance it might resonate with the quality of a Machiavellian prince.
India will celebrate its 75th year of Independence on the 15th of August 2022 and our government has launched an initiative ‘Azaadi ka Amrit Mahotsav’. This initiative is to celebrate and commemorate 75 years of independence and the glorious history of its people, culture and achievements. This Mahotsav is dedicated to the people of India who have not only been instrumental in bringing India thus far in its evolutionary journey but also hold within them the power and potential to enable Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s vision of activating India 2.0, fueled by the spirit of Aatmanirbhar Bharat. The official journey of Azadi Ka Amrit Mahotsav commenced on 12th March 2021 which started a 75-week countdown to our 75th anniversary of Independence which will end on 15th August 2023. The government recently kicked off the ‘Har Ghar Tiranga’ campaign as part of Azadi ka Amrit Mahotsav. The intent behind the campaign is to encourage and nurture a feeling of patriotism among citizens.
One can easily observe that for the past few years there has been a very subtle attempt to reclaim history or rather create one’s own place of presence in history for them to be remembered for the generation to come. Unfortunately such brilliant initiatives like ‘Azadi ka Amrit Mahotsav’ or the campaign ‘Har Ghar Tiranga,’ which otherwise have a great capacity to create the idea of unity in diversity in both in letter and spirit, end up becoming another PR exercise or what is also called the practice of tokenism.
The value of Independence and understanding of its true meaning can be attained when we look at our present from the lens of the past. Our struggle for Independence and rich value systems that were upheld by our freedom fighters and framers of the constitution. Our National flag is closely linked with our Constitution. It was the Constituent Assembly (CA) which set up a 12-member ad-hoc committee in June 1947 to decide on the national flag. Named the “Flag Committee”, it was headed by Rajendra Prasad, President, and its members were Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar, Maulana Abul Kalam Azad, Sarojini Naidu, C Rajagopalachari, K. M. Munshi, K. M. Pannikar, Frank Anthony, Pattabhi Sitaramayya, Hiralal Shastry, Baldev Singh, Satyanarayan Sinha and S. N. Gupta. It was a given that the members of this committee would propose the adoption of the tricolour as the national flag though with an important modification of replacing the charkha with the Ashoka Chakra.
Even though the tricolour was first adopted by the Congress party in its resolution of 1931, in practice, it went beyond the Congress party and became the main banner held by Indians in their battle for freedom. In discussions at the CA, members repeatedly referred to the flag as a symbol of sacrifice for a free India; H. K. Khandekar said, “How many sacrificed their lives, got their children trampled were killed and destroyed. The British Empire used all their power to destroy this Flag, but we the inhabitants of this country always cherished and protected it.” It is also crucial to note that the colours of our flag did not represent any particular religious community, it was a secular flag. Jawaharlal Nehru in introducing the resolution for the national flag stated, “Some people, having misunderstood its significance, have thought of it in communal terms and believe that some part of it represents this community or that. But I may say that when this Flag was devised there was no communal significance attached to it.” Another member Shiban Lal Saxena said, “We declared it in clear words that the three colours had no communal significance…those who have been maddened by communalism today should not take this flag to be a communal flag.”
In the ensuing discussion, there were many creative interpretations of the meaning of the colours in the flag, from renunciation, sacrifice represented by saffron to closeness to nature represented by the green colour, and peace and non-violence by the white – but all members were agreed that the flag was not communal. Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan in his interpretation put it this way: “This Flag tells us ‘Be ever alert, be ever on the move, go forward, work for a free, flexible compassionate, decent, democratic society in which Christians, Sikhs, Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists will all find a safe shelter.” On the eve of Azadi ka Amrit Mahotsav one must also introspect how close have we come to attaining the ideals of ‘Azadi’ in a true sense of practice as advocated by Bhagat Singh, Sardar Patel, B.R Ambedkar and Mahatma Gandhi.
The Author is an Assistant Professor of Political Science at Shoolini University, Solan, Himachal Pradesh.
(Views expressed are personal)
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