India Awaits its Washington (Part 1)

They Who Rule

We have always been told that India attained its freedom on August 15, 1947. We celebrate it as Independence Day each year. Before that day, the British ruled us. On that day, power was transferred. To…? That is where the story gets complicated. On paper, an Indian government did take over. But, did the rules really change? Did the extractive and exploitative institutions created by the British really end? The reality we live in today…how different is it from living under British Raj?

These are questions most of us would rather not consider. Those fortunate enough to live in cocoons do not have to think, while others do not have the time to think. Memories of the pre-1947 era are mostly from what we read in history books and told to us by our parents or grandparents. The reality of India we experience is the present. We are free to speak what we want. We vote for our leaders. Our leaders don’t report to a King or Queen thousands of miles away. We even have our own Constitution. We don’t have white-skinned Britishers telling us what to do. We have a Parliament where we pass our own laws. We even have a Father of the Nation.

Yes. But probe deeper and unpleasant truths await us, truths we would rather not know because that would cause dissonance and challenge what has been ingrained into us school year after school year. We are free to speak what we want as long as we don’t criticise Them, our Rulers. We choose our representatives from a shortlist They decide. These local leaders report to a Master hundreds of miles away. We have our own Constitution – derived from the Government of India Act written prior to 1947 by a colonial power to enslave the people. We now have (br)own-skinned people telling us what we cannot do. We have a Parliament that rubberstamps what a few of Them decide.

We worship Them. They are our modern day Gods. For some among us, They can do wrong. Even as simple freedoms we took for granted have been chipped away. Ask the farmers for whom it began with the First Amendment and the Ninth Schedule of the Constitution shortly after Independence. (The first Amendment was supposed to guarantee freedom of speech and expression – it did exactly the opposite. The Ninth Schedule is a repository of laws that cannot be challenged in the courts.) Ask the free speechers for whom the threat of a charge of sedition is never far away. Ask those seeking justice through the courts who have to wait through innumerable adjournments. Ask the vulnerable who are entrapped by the police. Ask the young whose dreams are crushed by an education system controlled by Them. Ask the entrepreneurs who flip their companies away from Indian domicile and jurisdictions. Ask the migrants who walked hundreds of kilometres after a lockdown imposed by Them in the peak of the Indian summer. Ask those whom They jail, raid, threaten, extort at will.

They can buy anything – from our land to MLAs and MPs. They make rules as They please. They suppress alternative voices in the media. They tax our income and wealth again and again. They are never jailed for the laws they break or any corruption they do. They can imprison us even for what we tweet – or were planning to. They discriminate among us based on our caste and divide us by our religion – so they can rule over us. They buy or pressurise the media to stream into our headphones. For Them, we are not equals, just serfs who produce so They can take and rule.

They are our Masters – the netas, babus, police, judges, cronies. They were there even before August 15, 1947. They worked in exactly the same manner then. Does their skin colour really matter? I ask you again: what really happened on August 15, 1947? Did anything change? If we were not free before that day, how are we free after?

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Rajesh Jain

An Entrepreneur based in Mumbai, India.

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