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Independence Day!

Editor,

August 15th 1947 commemorates our nation’s freedom from years of rule by the British Government. It took years of fighting, mass violence, displacement of so many people and partition of a large nation to get us to this day. There are many stories we have been hearing since our childhood and of people who have sacrificed for the freedom of our country. It is the day when we remember the people who have contributed to our freedom.

However, the thing that particularly makes me happy is the fact that Independence Day celebration in Shillong is no longer a concern. I remember during my school days, we always celebrated Independence Day a day prior, on August 14. We called it pre- Independence Day celebration! We missed out the fun of celebrating Independence Day as it had become a usual practice where people would prefer to spend their time indoors. People feared to come out of their homes and children either spent time flying kites or stayed indoors watching parades on television. That was because for over a decade we could not celebrate Independence Day or Republic Day since on both days the armed outfits would call a bandh and people were so intimidated that they chose not to defy such bandhs

Shillong has a variety of cultures living peacefully for several decades. Though a Christian state, we still celebrated festivals like Diwali, Holi, Eid, Muharram, Durga Puja with same intensity. Despite the peaceful environment there was an underlying climate of fear and uncertainty that disturbed the peace every year for several years. I feel contented to see some schools especially opening to celebrate Independence Day and children who get to experience the true sense of Independence. A step like this is such an inspiration for the people, families and children to step out and celebrate a day which is of great significance to our country.

Shillong has had its fair share of problems but it is remarkable to witness such a positive change. A very happy Independence Day Shillong and to everyone!

Yours etc.,

Ankita Joshi,

Via email

 

The thought phobia

Editor,

India’s Independence Day coincides with Sri Aurobindo’s birthday. In his message on the day of India’s Independence, Sri Aurobindo said, “August 15 is my own birthday and it is naturally gratifying to me that it should have assumed this vast significance. I take this coincidence, not as a fortuitous accident, but as a sanction and seal of the Divine Force that guides my steps on the work I began life with, the beginning of its full fruition.”

It is indeed significant that the 15th August is the birthday of Aurobindo Ghosh (1872) and Free India (1947). While the former went on to become Sri Aurobindo (1910), the latter the Republic India (1950). Unfortunately, after 71 years of our independence, India is still facing hunger, malnutrition, children with stunted growth, child labour, slavery, unemployment, illiteracy, lack of human development, female foeticide/infanticide, untouchability, honour killings, atrocities against Dalits and rising inequality among Indians in an alarming rate.

What is the cause of such maladies? Why do we still remain prisoners of prejudices, superstitions and colossal wastage of human potential? Almost a century ago, in 1920, Sri Aurobindo diagnosed India’s disease as thoughtphobia. In his letter to his younger brother Barin, he wrote, “My idea is that the chief cause of the weakness of India is not subjection nor poverty, nor the lack of spirituality or dharma (ethics) but the decline of thought-power, the growth of ignorance in the motherland of Knowledge. Everywhere I see inability or unwillingness to think, thought-incapacity or thought-phobia.”

Sri Aurobindo reminded us that unlike the middle ages, the modern world would evaluate such unwillingness to think as an abominable sign of weakness. He said, “Whatever may have been in the middle ages, this state of things is now the sign of a terrible degeneration. The middle age was the night, the time of victory from ignorance. The modern world is the age of the victory of Knowledge. Whoever thinks most, seeks most, labours most, can fathom and learn the truth of the world, and gets so much more Shakti. If you look at Europe, you will see two things : a vast sea of thought and the play of a huge and fast-moving and yet disciplined force. The whole Shakti of Europe is in that.”

In 1920 even when Europe was in turmoil after the first world war, Sri Aurobindo had the insight to write, “People say Europe is running into the jaws of destruction. I do not think so. All these revolutions and upsets are the preconditions of a new creation. Then look at India. Except for some solitary giants, everywhere there is your “simple man” , that is, the average man who does not want to think and cannot think, who has not the least Shakti but only a temporary excitement.”

What Sri Aurobindo said then has, unfortunately, remained as relevant today as it was almost hundred years ago, “Our civilization has become an achalayatana (prison), our religion a bigotry of externals, our spirituality a faint glimmer of light or a momentary wave of religious intoxication. And so long as this sort of thing continues, any permanent resurgence of India is improbable.”

Indeed, we will get the society as well as the government we deserve. We have no other way but to do our Fundamental Duty as enshrined in Article 51A (h) of the Constitution of India ~ “to develop the scientific temper, humanism and the spirit of inquiry and reform” in ourselves to make our country awake.

Yours etc.,

Sujit De,

Kolkata

 

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