So India turns 65. One knows what to expect from this birthday. Our honest Prime Minister will deliver a riveting speech from the Red Fort while his esteemed, inspiring colleagues look on from the sides. The nation will be on “high alert” against possible terror strikes. Newspapers will bring out ad-driven supplements paying gushing tributes to our glorious past. News channels will have discussions and chat shows with the same dial-a-quote-panelists on burning current issues. Entertainment channels will have a rerun of ‘Lagaan’ and ‘Rang De Basanti’ for the thousandth time. And office-goers and school kids will enjoy their well-deserved holiday.
Of course, there is absolutely nothing wrong with any or all of the above. Except that it draws a small sense of déjà vu.
It’s not as if I am unpatriotic. I know that one must ask what one can do for the country and not the other way round. However, once in a while, it wouldn’t be too wrong to ask for a few favours from your motherland, would it?
So this Independence Day, as one of the millions of ‘aam aurat’ (common woman) that the government never fails to fake sympathy for, I have come up with a wish-list of Rights. The Indian Constitution guarantees seven wonderful Fundamental Freedoms and Rights for its citizens that sound fabulous on paper but my humble list doesn’t boast of any of those improbable-to-execute lofty ideals.
Rather, they are just a few wishes – seven of them – which, if granted by the architects supposedly leading our nation to super-powerdom, will give me some reasons to be a proud Indian…
1. The right to wear jeans (and other outfits of choice)
Assaults on women happen everywhere. But our part of the world – which incidentally is the fourth most dangerous place in the world for a woman - is unique. Here, it’s always the girl’s fault. And somehow it has all come to rest on her choice of fabric. Over the last few years, culture terrorists have zeroed in on jeans and other nasty pieces of western clothing as the main culprit responsible for the increasing crime rate against women. From an obscure group in Jharkand who threatened to drown girls in acid if they wore jeans, to colleges in Tamil Nadu that banned denim, to panchayats that forbade girls from wearing the blue fabric and using cell phones, 2012 has seen a litany of such well-meaning suggestions!
That’s the reason a Right like this is of utmost importance. So that the next time a girl is groped on our city’s streets, she would not be blamed for wearing the wrong outfit.
2. The right to be a victim
You were walking on the streets alone? You are asking to be raped. You love partying? You deserve to be thrown behind bars by the moral police. You fell in love against society’s wishes? You deserve to be ostracized.
In India somehow, your identity as a victim is very important for it determines the justice you get from the courts and sympathy you get from society. Take any high-profile murder or criminal assault case that made headlines in the recent past – for every genuinely outraged person there would be another who would question the motive, caste, identity and intention of the victim, more so if she is a woman. Therefore it is imperative that we get the freedom to be a victim without feeling guilty about it.
3. The right to be in a minority
This is one word that evokes the most passionate and radical response among people. Mention the word ‘minority’ and immediately it’s bound to raise hackles on all sides of the fence. While minorities are generally defined by religion or sexuality, the term actually expands to include attitudes too. The point being – in India 2012 everyone is a minority in some way or the other and hence suffers from a deep sense of real and perceived victimhood bringing with it, its own set of repercussions. Just ask a Muslim in a Hindu dominated state or locality, a Hindu in a Muslim-dominated locality, a Dalit in UP or Bihar, a north-eastern in Delhi, a disabled in the world of able-bodied, a singleton in the crowd of families, a woman anywhere in the country – and you know how tough it is to swim against the tide!
Hopefully once we are granted this Right, a lot of people can lead the lives they want to without feeling ashamed of who they are!
4. The right to say Yes
India is a country of ‘no’. Can you get a small thing done without bribes? No. Can you lead an alternate lifestyle without inviting sniggers? No. Can you live-in? No. Can you follow a different career path easily? No.
Can you stay united and celebrate differences instead of bickering? No. It’s high time we learnt to say Yes.
5. The right to hold contrarian views
Don’t like a movie? Ban it. Don’t like women going out on the streets? Ban them. Find something offensive in a book? Ban it. Don’t like an author? Banish him.
Over the last few years, India has become a nation of ‘ban-ners’ of all shapes, sizes and political and cultural affiliations. Basically, if you hold an opinion contrary to the prevailing thoughts, you are silenced. In our new found confidence and aggression, anyone having a milder but contrarian voice is drowned in the cacophony, and branded. So if you were against the Anna movement, you are anti-national, if you don’t like cricket, you are being anti-sport, if you don’t believe in marriage, something is wrong with you, if you are against one political ideology you are the mouthpiece for another… so on and so forth.
We seriously need a law that guarantees the right to look at the world differently.
6. The right to fall in love
Falling in love is still a tough task for millions of our youngsters. Urbanites may pride on giving their children the freedom to choose their spouses but if their kids select a person from the wrong religion or social status you can see the age-old prejudices jump to the fore.
As for the hinterland, let’s not forget young lovers are hanged to death even today for defying community diktats.
Yes, the right to fall in love is needed now more than ever before!
7. The right to be immoral
Finally, we definitely need a law that allows a human being to be immoral. Even in a liberal city like Mumbai you have cops who hound youngsters whose crime is that they indulge in ‘immoral activities’ such as dancing in a pub, smooching their lover, wearing ‘indecent clothes’ etc. In other states, youngsters out to have a nice time are thrashed by purveyors of culture. All in the name of morality.
Please, how we’d love a law that allows us to be immoral and live freely than be puritanical by somebody’s definition and die a thousand deaths!
Perhaps then Independence Day would have more meaning than just a holiday!