(Dilip Chitre is a poet, fiction-writer, playwright, painter and filmmaker. His honors, awards and prizes include the Sahitya Akademi Award. He is Fellow of The Indira Gandhi National Centre for the Arts, New Delhi; Writer-in-Residence at the Villa Waldberta, Feldafing, Munich National Emeritus; Fellow of the Union Ministry of Human Resource Development, New Delhi; Writer-in-Residence and German Academic Exchange Fellow at the South Asia Institute of the University of Heidelberg, Germany, naming only a few. He is currently Honorary Editor of the quarterly journal 'New Quest'(Mumbai/Pune, India). This article was written by the author for India’s 59th Independence Day and was published on Aug 15th 2005, in Indian Express.

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For me the history of the world that I live in begins with the first ever World War in human history: WW-1. That war began in 1914 and ended in 1918, not before shifting the very foundations of the old world order and bringing down power-superstructures such as the monarchies in Europe and shaking parts of the world colonised by Europe since four centuries earlier.

Between 1918 and 1939 the rumblings and tremors continued however till the next seismic shock to the world’ uneasy symmetry resulted in World War Two; and although that World War seemed to have ended in 1945, there still was no peace on the planet.

The greed for power led nations into an arms race that committed the world’s best scientific and technological minds to remain preoccupied with the kind of war machine their national leaders kept running. They found the joy of making money, power, progress, and patriotism all concentrated in the magic of a war cry that spread terror in the minds of billions of human beings. Violence was not invented in the 20th century; but it became the credo of leaders of nations, political bosses, military generals, and arms manufacturers.


I was born just one year before WW 2 started. I was just 4 when Mahatma Gandhi gave the Quit India call. I was 7 when the first nuclear bombs used on civil populations were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. I was just a month away from my 9th birthday on August 15, 1947---India’s Independence Day 1. I was barely 11 when India became a sovereign Republic and unexpectedly made me an individual citizen of the new nation-state whose leaders, not elected yet representing the Indian macrocosm, deliberated the future Constitution of India that they all agreed should be governed by written common law.

The Constitution of India, we children were told then, safeguarded our liberty, our freedom of self-expression, our right to elect our representatives in legislative bodies; and we were also assured that the same Constitution would make each one of us the equal of one or many others of us, and the equal of corporate ‘individuals’ and institutions. We were told that all religions of India were equal before the Law and that no religion of India was above the Law represented by the Constitution of the Republic of India.

By the time I became old enough to vote in an election, all the illusions created by the first Independence Day and by the first Republic Day were shattered.

Independence itself was preceded and followed by communal riots, which took the toll of millions of lives and turned millions into refugees. It was also the beginning of our 50-year old series of hot and cold wars over Kashmir with Pakistan.

In 1948, the only leader who led any nation’s movement for self-liberation through non-violent resistance to political power that the world has yet seen, fell to an assassin’s bullet. He was Mahatma Gandhi.

Dr. Bhimrao Ambedkar, one of the chief architects of our Constitution, had to be the first witness of the cracks it started developing before it was born. He had to resign as the first Law Minister of the Union of India in Jawaharlal Nehru’s cabinet. Sanatani Brahminical forces proved more powerful than Nehru’s persuasion. A frustrated Ambedkar opted out of the religion that he sought to rewrite in terms of basic human rights and soon died a defeated man in 1956.

In 1964, it was Nehru’s turn to die of frustration. The Chinese invasion of Tibet, and the subsequent launch of its war on India at a time when the whole world fearfully watched an eyeball-to-eyeball nuclear confrontation between President Kennedy of the U.S. and Prime Minister Khrushchev of the U.S.S.R. Everybody anticipated the start of WW-3 as Nehru suffered his Himalayan trauma at the hands of the Chinese strategists.

In 1969, the Indian National Congress split. Indira Gandhi and the so-called partisans of the poor led its larger ‘socialist’ fragment; while those labelled champions of the rich ‘capitalist’ were the smaller but still powerful ‘right’.
In 1971 the only Indo-Pak War that was decisively won by India also resulted in a further ‘partition’ of the ‘old’ India. Bangla-speaking East Pakistan wrested autonomy and sovereignty from Urdu-speaking Pakistan.

On June 26, 1975 Indira Gandhi fearing mass revolt against her own and her party’s rule at the Centre and in most states of India, suspended the Constitution and resorted to the colonial weapons of rule that the British left behind. The Emergency regime lasted till 1977 when Indira Gandhi lifted the Emergency and sought a mandate through elections that she overwhelmingly lost.

Ironically, this was what broke the hopes, the faith, and the health of Jayaprakash Narayan, the last super-hero of the freedom struggle. Using him as their Trojan horse, the opportunists that united against Indira Gandhi finally wrested power in the Union Parliament as well as most states. They split soon again; and again---the process is still going on.

Meanwhile, ‘the permit-license Raj’ of the Indira Gandhi Congress that gave politicians and bureaucrats a taste of power-abuse was gradually replaced by ‘economic liberalisation’ to embrace a ‘free market globalisation’ that eyed foreign investment as the nation’s new deity regardless of the military aggression and civilizational hegemony that accompanies the worship of Mammon. India now joins every global race: whether it be applied science and technology, offshore services, information technology, Miss World Contests, cinema, pop music, the guzzling of Pepsi, the gobbling of Pizzas, the munching of burgers, and treating life chiefly as entertainment, sports and athletics included.

These days, Independence Day and Republic Day celebrations make me slightly sick. Perhaps it is the first symptom of a terminal affliction. A nation is only as mortal as the citizens it fails to protect and nurture. I have nothing very special to say as a poet, or an artist, or a filmmaker, or a journalist. These ‘Days’ humiliate me.


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