I am very nervous and uncomfortable as we approach yet another Republic Day. There’s no Republic in sight and every sense of this term is being reduced to a joke – gradually, but hardly subtly.
Increasingly, over the last few years – seven, to be precise – the anxiety of having to face the spectacle has increased. I feel put off by the ever-increasing tokenism and display of nauseating jingoism. I cringe at the thought of people wishing each other a ‘Happy Republic Day’ when they’ve watched their own citizenship erode while contributing to the hollowness that engulfs these otherwise historic days. When there are no ‘citizens’ left, whose Republic is it anyway?
I dread the thought of having to listen to old melodies and new cacophonies alike. Old melodies of patriotic songs put on loop have lost all meaning in today’s context; we have lost the right to gleefully sing along. Now, having to hear such songs at deafening decibels hurts my heart and ears alike.
From big cities to small towns, there’s a set pattern of what people do to mark these dates. People usually gather in housing societies at a park or at any number of nukkads in their towns, hoist the national flag and sing the national anthem. Some end up giving verbose and cliché speeches, followed by refreshments. And then the old melodies and new cacophonies are played on loudspeakers all through the afternoon.
Does everyone fully understand what this celebration is about? Of course the day when India’s constitution came into effect in 1950 and turned India into a newly-formed Republic warrants remembrance and celebration. But over the past few years, when we have borne witness to people of this Republic being mercilessly beaten, bullied, tortured and lynched in the name of every symbol of this Republic, how can one continue to follow the ritualistic pattern of celebration as though the status quo has not changed?
When we choose to be less of its citizens every day and choose not to question those who have usurped power from our Republic into their hands, what is the celebration about? Do people remember the ‘citizen’ within them?
It seems like a tough ask to remember, refresh, self reflect on what it means to be a ‘citizen’.
Remember those days of physical and mental violence in the name of national anthem, when we heard and read about innumerable shameful and shocking instances from all across the country where a new breed of jingoists (drawing their legitimacy from the elected government) forced people across India in movie theatres to stand up for the anthem – including a person with disabilities in a wheelchair – or to repeat slogans? The consequences of refusal were physical and verbal violence in full public view, with those around conveniently becoming mute spectators.
Let’s not forget our initial and continuous silences – out of sheer lack of concern or out of inherent cowardice and selfishness. This silence only served to allow the perpetrators to function with greater impunity.
Some citizens were bullied into giving proof that they belong to our Republic. Yet others were beaten to an inch of death, if not to death itself. We, the mute spectators, continued to watch these repeated instances. We did not intervene, nor did we question the failure of justice in case after case.
The waters had been tested, and out rolled the hate machine while the mute spectators remained unmoved.
Has this Republic forgotten how five men were mercilessly beaten up in broad daylight by policemen as they ordered them to sing the national anthem? One of them, 22-year-old Faizan, succumbed to his injuries and died two days later.
Until those criminals are brought to justice, how is it that every time the national anthem is sung or the tune is played, anybody who has any love for this Republic doesn’t remember the faces of those five men lying on the ground after being bullied and beaten by the police in the name of the national anthem?
There have been countless lynchings over the last few years carried out under the garb of protecting cows. Junaid, a young boy of 15, was stabbed to death in a train full of people on the suspicion that he was carrying beef. Multiple hate crimes have mushroomed in the name of nationalism, beef, slogans like ‘Bharat Mata ki Jai‘ and Jai Shri Ram’ – all of which we citizens conveniently brushed off as fringe.
It has all culminated to this point where there are open calls being made for a Muslim genocide. And not just once. More so, instead of facing the law of the land for inciting such violence, the very same people continue to provoke violence against minorities and oppressed groups.
Over the last few years, the spectacle of the parade in New Delhi has been reduced to a distasteful display of claims and advertisements – a distorted reality of our times. What will be on display this year? China’s inroads into India’s territory or the government’s failure to protect India’s sovereignty?
Do you want to celebrate the systematic yet extremely brutal ripping apart of the very soul of this Republic? Do you even care enough to pause, reflect and suspend the rote meaningless celebrations?
Ironies die a million deaths in India every day. The loud cries of ‘Bharat Mata Ki Jai’ have been used as a license to physically, mentally, socially and financially torture and harass people with brazen impunity. On one side, the Republic is hailed as ‘Mother India’. On the other, many women who choose to be vocal are made targets of online hate crimes. From ‘auctioning’ Muslim women to using sophisticated apps to target women online, it’s all this is very telling of the respect the same sloganeers hold for women in our country.
I wonder how many of us share the anguish of having to witness a hypocritical spectacle of celebrations to mark Republic Day on the occasion of the 75th year of India’s Independence. It has now become more important than ever for us to stand for the true principles of our Republic, reaffirm our faith in the constitution and to reassert our fundamental rights. It is time to re-emphasise our resolve to fight for the very soul of this Republic.
So, if the national anthem must be sung, try remembering the faces of Faizan, Rafiq, Kausar Ali, Mohammad Farhan and Wasim.
Still, a soulless Republic does not care about the genuineness of your emotions, which is why it is more important to not forget their faces until the perpetrators of the heinous crime against these five men are brought to justice. It has been two years since that incident and the police have failed to investigate their own with due diligence.
As for me, I am still very nervous and I will be until this Republic Day passes by. Because I know how my ears will bleed when they play the song, “Kar Chale Hum Fida Jano Tan Sathiyo”.
@FalanaDhiikana_* is an angry woman and a lawyer, somewhere between Bombay and Maikal jungles of Madhya Pradesh.
Featured image: Pariplab Chakraborty