We won independence in 1947.
Freedom. Not yet.
No this is not going to be one of those “How can we be free as long as there is poverty and exploitation” rant. The cynic in me knows that want and disease and violence and injustice and Salman Khan movies that make 500 crores are what define the human condition. The order of the world is one giant step-ladder of exploitation, that just as we get exploited by our masters above, we too must exploit, be it the earth we claim we want to leave for our children or indentured laborers making Apple components in sweatshops. Freedom in that sense is an unattainable ideal, or to put it in the words of Robin Williams, “Only in their dreams can men be truly free. ‘Twas always thus, and always thus will be.”
What I am talking about is individual liberty, not as an ideal, but a very low economy class version of it.
The ability to send cartoons of politicians without being hauled to jail. The right for two consenting adults to have sex in a hotel room without being arrested and publicly shamed for “public indecency”. The right to do it in the bum without being considered a criminal. The right to not have a badge enter my house and drag me away without a warrant.
As I said. Basic stuff. Other countries have it. It’s not a big deal.
One reason we dont is 1947. We got rid of the Tom Alters but we kept its institutions. Why? Because it suited our new rulers. The British had an enormously well-thought out system for oppression and when the DVD is available, why not just “Indianize” the scenes and pass it of as our own. So we kept the structure of a police force that was designed to rule an antagonistic population. We kept the structure of laws that were built on the assumption that “white Europeans” needed to teach us natives “civilization”. and Victorian morality. We defined free speech in a way that disallowed any speech that could be considered uncomfortable to those in power.
And we just didn’t define them. We kept and we built on them. For all these years. It’s truly been one of the most marvelous achievements of our Indian polity, and in that every party should get equal credit, that they have managed to convince us that this is for our own protection. Freedom of speech, we are told, won’t work here in India as it does in Western countries, because we are, somehow, different, quick to hurt with fragile “sentiments”. Indian culture is under threat, the terrorists will shoot your brains out, and the bogeyman will come for you if you don’t drink your milk.
The fun part is we actually believe this shit. Or rather, we selectively believe them. We go along with, no make that enthusiastically endorse state intrusion into our fundamental rights as long as it aligns with our political and social beliefs. If you think your son is watching porn, you want the government to ban it. If you think your daughter is out doing bad things, you want the government to stop it. If you think item numbers are sexist, you want them to be censored. If you are a xenophobe with a distrust of “foreigners”, particularly those that are leading promiscuous lives while you can’t, you want Bharti-man in his AAPmobile to do something about it.
You want the government to be your concerned uncle, you want the government to be Superman, you want the government to fish out its nipple and pacify your hurt sentiments.
Guess what, they are only too happy to pretend to care. It enables them to keep up the lie that this fundamentally oppressive, heavy-handed system is what stands between you and the barbarians at the gate.
And again, this is not a fight for a vaguely identified ideal. This is a fight for small things. This is a fight for strong laws that protect “offensive” speech in the way the First Amendment does in the US. This is a fight for de-decriminalization of homosexuality. This is a fight for the right to have consensual sex behind closed doors. This is a fight to eat what you want, a fight to watch the films you want, and the fight to shag off to, in the privacy of your own home, to anything that involves consenting adults.
This is a fight for freedom.