What's your take on Freedom?

DEBATE

Don’t take freedom for granted

What better way to relive the euphoria than celebrating national festivals at schools with the active participation of all children? Declaring the day a holiday kills the very purpose.

An honest introspection on the part of parents and teachers will reveal the cause of our children becoming less patriotic.

The celebration should only be a culmination of a series of children's activities pertaining to a national cause/s carried out during the whole week or two. Mere touching the historical aspect through excursions, films, dramas, essays, etc. is not enough.

It is essential to link that to the present day points of concern – education, poverty, disparity, diversity, child labour, terrorism, corruption – the list is endless. It is essential that under the able guidance of teachers and parents, children are sensitised to the causes of national importance. After all, a school is a microcosm of society. Excluding the youngest group from the celebrations is ironic. The early formative years are the best time to sow the seeds of patriotism.

All this needs a lot of effort on the teacher-parental front but is it asking for too much compared to what our freedom fighters did – lay down their lives for the independence we are enjoying today? Let us not take our freedom for granted but make ourselves worthy of it. Only then will our children be proud Indians and express their patriotism by working towards maintaining unity in diversity with dignity!
Vandana Mansur

What is patriotism?
Recently, I accompanied my daughter who went to Ahmedabad for a two-month training, after her graduation. I was very keen that we visit the Gandhi Ashram on the banks of the Sabarmati.

Entering the ashram of the Father of our Nation with a myriad feelings, I could visualise his life at every place – his residence, the room with the charka, the open-air stage for prayer. At the same time, I was wondering what was going through my daughter’s mind, as she walked through the passages of the new building looking at the illustrations, reading every caption and following the life history of the great man.

On one wall, there was a board which listed the events of the freedom struggle initiated by Gandhi, leading to our independence. Many of them began with fasts undertaken by Gandhi and other followers. She said, “Amma, isn’t this funny? He began fasting for every issue. Was he able to achieve what he wanted?” I replied to her that Gandhi was known the world over for his peaceful, non-violent protest.

This set me thinking. I studied History 35 years ago and every Indian has been reading the same history – chronicling the invasions and rule of various foreigners including the Mughals and the British. Does the present generation share the same sense of respect and gratitude that we have?

Does it suffice to hoist the tricolor flag and parade young children dressed up as Gandhi, Nehru and others? What is the need to declare October 2, Gandhi Jayanthi, as a holiday? I am sure Gandhiji would not have approved of it if he were alive today.

My suggestion would be to work on those days. Our objective should be to sensitise the present generation about the freedom struggle and the significance of the roles played by our leaders. One way of doing that would be to stage plays, conduct debates and seminars, selecting the events from the lives of the leaders, their lifestyles and their selfless dedication in the struggle for freedom.     
Vani Lakshman

Appreciate the freedom you enjoy
As a citizen who has lived in India for most of my life and travelled outside the country, I think the lens with which I see my motherland is different now and I could be more objective.

After only sixty four years of Independence, I can see the lack of appreciation for the freedom we enjoy. Freedom, which was once snatched away from us. Freedom, for which our forefathers laid down their lives fighting selflessly. Freedom, which is under-rated and taken for granted.

We must never forget the sacrifices made by people so we could breathe in a free nation. This legacy has to be passed on to our children, with not just the memories and stories but also the emotion. Patriotism, like religion, can be nurtured. And this is where national festivals have a role to play.

The purpose of these very important anniversaries are to remind ourselves of how lucky we are, a chance to express our gratitude and an opportunity to educate our children about what happened. We need to use these days creatively to make an impression on our children of the importance of the bigger issue – the nation.
Dr Uday Shivaji
Leeds, UK

There is little to be proud of
Patriotism is something that is above just celebration of national festivals. It does not come once or twice a year. It is a feeling of a sense of pride in your country. Unfortunately, the kind of India we are giving to our children has few things to be really proud of.

How can you be proud of a country where corruption is rampant at every level; where you cannot even respect soldiers who have laid down their lives for our sake, in the name of good relations with neighbours?

Today’s generation is very patriotic. Only, they need good leaders. Today, Anna Hazare has given that leadership and we can see the flood of support coming from the youth of our country.

There were times when we defied the superpowers. We fasted once a week to make India self sufficient in food grains. When the USSR backed out of the cryogenic and the super computer deals, we went ahead and made them ourselves. Give to your children a country they can be proud of and you will see how patriotic they can be!
Ritu Jain

Observe the day, absorb the spirit
In the 50s and 60s the young heard from their parents and peers accounts of personal experiences and/or participation in the Independence struggle and that first Independence Day — August 15, 1947. The thrill and pride soon became part of us and we felt the emotions deep in us.

In today's fast moving world, with so much distraction and diversion plus chronic shortage of time for the young, the aged and the in-between, the focus is so vague. The leaders of the Freedom Movement are mere names for our young. Generating values of love and understanding for the motherland and patriotism among the young is the duty of every parent and elder.

Teachers today have a serious role in this mission. Every student, KG to PG, must be made to feel a sense of national pride. August must be filled with special events of awareness and enlightenment about the motherland. Instead of superficial cultural competitions, audio-visual-based classroom study of the history of the Freedom Movement and the leaders’ lives must be studied in a graded manner.

Independence Day need not be a holiday. It should be a day dedicated to observing and absorbing the spirit of the freedom struggle. There must be at least one session where parents and elders join the young to celebrate our independence.
I J Saldanha-Shet,
Mangalore

We are to blame
When my daughter, studying in Class II, told me that she did not have to go to school on Independence Day, I felt happy that I could wake up late, without having to worry about getting her ready for school.  Where was my patriotism? I did  not think about the importance of that day; Neither did I try to make my daughter understand its significance.

Then why blame children of being less patriotic? The present generation is just a mirror of the past. If we feel that they do not understand the importance of Independence, it is we who have to be blamed. 

Schools must celebrate national festivals and must have activities for children. Children should be made aware about how we got independence. They should also be educated on how to become responsible citizens.
Reshma A Shetty
Belgaum

Schools must celebrate the day
A school being a primary education centre plays a pivotal role in influencing the thoughts of a child. This does not depend upon the generation or the century in which a child is living. For instance, Manikarnika who was a commoner's child, became the great Rani Lakshmibai who had the mighty British on their knees, only by the teachings of her father, Moropant Tambe and her guru, Tantya Tope.

If she were not given such principles, India would not have seen such a great queen and freedom fighter. In the same way, rather than commenting on our children, it is our prime duty to make them realise the importance of the Independence Day in the history of their country and their responsibility towards their nation.

The way a person thinks depends on the environment in which he lives. Today, many schools in rural areas get an appreciably good attendence on national festivals when compared to major schools in big cities.  Is it because our children are less patriotic or because the parents and school management do not think national festivals are important? It is the well-educated, responsible citizens of India who are not aware of the importance of the freedom struggle. Hence the compulsion of celebrating national festivals at schools with the active participation of children has become an absolute necessity.
Pooja R Raikar,
Shivamogga

A holiday is not the answer
Six decades may not be a long period in the history of a country, but significantly a long one for the citizens comprising it. Leave alone children, even most of today’s parents have been born and brought up in the post-independence era.

It is unrealistic to expect them to share the euphoria of freedom to the same extent as that experienced by the people immediately after its aftermath. Time is a ruthless machine that robs the enormity and sheen of any event as it traverses, even if it is an epoch making one, and Independence Day cannot be an exception to it.

It may not be correct to say that children today are less patriotic than those of the earlier generation. The jingoistic ‘My country, right or wrong’ kind of patriotism may be passé, but one cannot rule out the undercurrent of patriotism running subterranean ready to be tapped.

How can we recapture the glory of the Independence Day? How can we rekindle the spirit of freedom? Certainly not by declaring the day as a holiday. Holidays, particularly national ones, rarely serve the purpose for which they are intended. However, on that day children may be spared from routine lessons. The day should be marked by, besides the traditional flag hoisting, speeches, debates, quizzes, elocution contests on the subjects relating to freedom and present day challenges confronting the country.

Children may also be administered pledges to fight social evils like corruption, untouchability, dowry and the like. Of course, these should be followed by sweet distribution in the end (a bit liberally, not miserly) for what is a festival without sweets!
Gururaj H Naik

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