15th August 2011 is a different day for me and for the Indians all over the world. It was on this day sixty four years ago that we, the people of India, gained Independence from the then British masters. On the 15th August 1947 the national Tricolours fluttered from all over the place, the high flag staff and the vantage high grounds. Alas! There was no Tricolour fluttering in the breeze on the high Lahore gate of the Red Fort, Delhi. The captain and the commoner were equally busy celebrating the dawn of the Independence Day in the national capital, New Delhi. The King’s Way, now rechristened as Raj Path, stole the show as the India Gate was located there and that became the centre point of hoisting the Tricolour for the first time.
WHO HOISTED THE FLAG
No one knows for sure. The milling crowds of joyous Indians were all over the King’s Way and surrounding feeder roads. The Independence brought euphoria and that caused bending some rules of discipline and bending of others. The Prussian discipline of the Empire was relaxed to let the people of free India enjoy Freedom, both political and cultural. On the First Independence Day, there were many times more people than the Police to enjoy the freedom from political, economic and intellectual slavery of the Queen of England. The men and women, not forgetting children, flocked to the quadrangle at the India Gate to have a taste of Independence from the British people after their rule of 190 years. It was the victory of Robert Clive commanding the troops of the East India Company over Siraj-ud-Daula, Nawab of Bengal that made the Englishmen a force to reckon with. They did not have to look back.
It was the People’s Mass Movement, non-violent and armless, that drove the most might rulers away and ushered in Independence two years after the Second World War was over. The masses, therefore, had found it a natural urge individually and collectively to usher in self rule in the national capital. The Delhi Police could not afford to be high handed in dealing with the free people of a free India. The large crowd, may be described as a multitude that defied counting of heads.
It was well nigh impossible for the Viceroy’s buggy to even inch forward to the pre-determined place for flag hoisting. Punctuality was an asset that Lord Louis Mountbatten, Earl of Burma, did not wish to forsake. Standing in the rear of the Buggy the Viceroy ordered his ADC, present near the flag staff, to pull the cord and lo and behold! The first ever flag hoisting was done. Ceremonial function was gone through so unceremonial way.
The point worth noting is the presence of the People of India in overwhelming numbers undeterred by the presence of the Viceroy and a phalanx of British officers of the three services. Anyway, they were on their way out as they did not wish to serve the new Indian masters now. Fair enough.
Life ambled along. The first few years after the Independence went off smoothly and India made some gains too. However, in the dying years of the last century, it was scene that the local people in some North-Eastern States of the Republic of India made it a point to secede from the Union of India. They even refused to celebrate the Indian Independence Day on 15th August 2006.
SIXTY FIFTH INDEPENDENCE DAY
Time ambled along and boys became bearded men, girls were now full-fledged women handling kitchen and other works of art too. Since the education had made them understand their rights and duties under the Constitution of India and the Vedas, our ancient Indian scriptures. Times were hard and inflation back breaking. The Government of India was creaking under the unmanageable load of two centres of power. One was that of the Congress party president and the other was that of the puppet prime minister of India. It was rumoured that the latter was beholden to the former for the post just given to him. It was an exercise in the art of practising political convenience.
15th August 2011, came the Independence Day of India. No fanfare, no beating of drums. The morale of the government ministers was down in the dumps. The Government of India had been unable to arrest terrorists who perpetrated carnage in the commercial capital, Mumbai. It had been unable to hang the terrorists sentenced to death by the Supreme Court of India. Laws were passed for education of all children but they continued to serve as domestic help or errand boys in grocery shops. The police was busy realising money from traders in the form of hafta and paid little attention to doing their primary duties of policing and catching thieves and other criminals. Since the politicians in power misused the state police, even an ordinary constable was emboldened to break the law rather than enforce it.
The cabinet was a house divided against itself. Some listened to the prime minister out of deference to his age, others flocked to the alternate centre of authority and took orders from there. The situation was going from bad to worse. The boss man himself found little joy in running the show that was not.
The armed forces of India were languishing for want of modern weapon system, the latest fighter-bombers, stealth frigates or aircraft carriers and thus the capacity to ward off an enemy attack was reduced considerably. The nuclear warheads were not being made anew, the existing stockpile was not being augmented. A hostile neighbour was going full steam ahead in stockpiling nuclear warheads just to intimidate India. The Defence Minister of India knew what was happening across the border but for some inexplicable reasons kept mum when it was time he protested.
The Independence Day dawned like any other day. Did all roads lead to the Red Fort, the venue of celebrations? No, not exactly. Those who ventured out to proceed to the public enclosures opposite the ramparts near the Lahore Gate to hear the Prime Minister had to turn tails soon. The people-unfriendly Delhi Police hurled too many uncomfortable questions about their antecedents that fell on them like tons of bricks, they returned to the starting point. They made a vow not to venture out on that road again. The number of people turned back by the Police was much more than those who could make it to the Red Fort. Thus the number of policemen on the lawns below ramparts was much more than the number of citizens of India. More Police than the People to hear the Prime Minister address the nation. Indeed that meant a poor audience response to the Prime Minister’s speech and that in turn reflected on the quality of delivery. A viscous circle indeed!
The Prime Minister spoke. He addressed the nation from the ramparts of the Red Fort eighth time and patted his back on making a record of sorts. Ah! He spoke to the policemen present there who understood little. He spoke to the bored housewives who saw and heard him on the TV. They expressed their pent up emotions and anger on the rising prices by just hurling uncomplimentary epithets against the speaker. In other words the speech of the prime minister of India was not received well. Many votes were lost and it was bad news before the elections in some important states of India. The old man sensed it and cut short his speech to just about 35 minutes or so. Such a short speech to the nation was delivered first time ever.
A friend asked me to say something about the body language of the prime minister. Well, no change since his last delivery , as lack lustre as ever. Towards the end, the larynx gave up. Perhaps it was the age factor. I thought that being brutally frank may hurt some kind soul. So I added a word or two to comfort the listeners and said that future is bright. Never mind sitting on the opposition benches in the next Lok Sabha.
On returning home, when on my rickety couch I lay like Wordsworth of the Lake District in a vacant but not pensive mood, in place of daffodils, I saw Khaki and Khaki of the policemen. I counted all sheep and went to sleep physically tired and mentally exhausted after listening to the prime minister’s address from ramparts of the Red Fort.
By Brigadier Chitranjan Sawant,VSM
UPVAN 609, Sector 29, Noida -201303. INDIA.
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