Has freedom served its purpose?

GUWAHATI, Jan 26 As the clock strikes seven in the morning of January 26, Kamakhya Das would celebrate Republic Day, and recall ‘Swadhinata Diwas’ at the same time. The freedom fighter, aged 91, had after all observed it as Independence Day, before India achieved her sovereignty in 1947. Speaking to The Assam Tribune today at his residence, Das revealed that from the time of the Lahore Congress in 1929, those involved in the freedom struggle had strengthened their resolve every year on January 26. It was only after India became independent on August 15 and adopted the Constitution that January 26 became designated as Republic Day.

The freedom fighter who had met Mahatma Gandhi on several occasions, however, is enveloped in sadness when he ponders over the gains of freedom. On the eve of Republic Day, he thinks aloud: “Does the present situation in the state justify the great sacrifice scores of people made for a greater destiny?”

Still, Republic Day is a special occasion for him, as it provides an opportunity to relive a fantastic slice of history. A time to think of brave people and their selfless deeds.

In his view, present circumstances in Assam and in some other parts of the country are a far cry from what their generation had aspired for. “It is certainly a deviation from Gandhiji’s dreams.”

Mahatma Gandhi had strived for emancipation of Indians in a unique way; he wanted gram swaraj, empowerment of women, non-violence, and morality in politics, among others. Have any one of those been achieved?

Instead, violence, corruption and intolerance have become synonymous with India. Noble ideals have gradually been sidelined.

In the case of Assam, there was a time when the gap between the rich and the poor was not that marked. Today, it is just the opposite. The self-sufficiency of the Assamese village is merely a distant memory.

Yet, the president of All India Freedom Fighters’ Association remains a believer in change and progress. And he believes that change must come from the youth. “I have great faith in young men and women that they would overcome fear and hatred, and strive to set society free from the evils which confront us today,” he mentioned.

He hoped that peace would return to the land that was known for harmony and tolerance till only a few decades ago. “I am sure that in the not too distant future Gandhiji’s ideals would find favour in our region, a place that he loved and held in high regard...”