Freedom through those frightened eyes

Indefinable emotions

The entire nation gears up to celebrate 69 years of India’s independence, and so is Delhi. The city never lags behind in keeping up with the celebratory mood. Right from the multi-storied malls to the traffic-constricted roads, the Tricolour flies high with pride. Ahead of this day, the now grey, now blue summer sky of the city gets tinted by colourful kites. People even dress up in the colours of Tricolour to match their patriotic frame of mind.

Like Delhi, the celebration is almost similar throughout the country except disturbed areas in the Northeast and Jammu and Kashmir. Recently, possibilities of militants disturbing the Independence Day celebrations in these states, made headlines.

This is not an unusual phenomenon and happens almost every year with unceasing regularity. On one hand, where the whole country gets into a celebratory mood, a part of India remains under the spectre of terror. There have been many incidents in the past that prompted people to refrain from stepping out of the safety of their homes and spend the day like any other day, either listening to the radio programmes that belt out patriotic songs or watching the parade on TV.

Sapan Gupta, who hails from Guwahati, Assam, is an IT professional residing in Delhi. Recalling memories from his childhood days, he tells Metrolife, “Independence Day was just an ULFAi diya Asom Bondho (Bandh called by ULFA) for me and every other child in town. For us, it just meant a day on which we couldn’t step out of our houses. Not only fear of the bombs or militants, but even the dressed gunmen who were entrusted to keep the militants at bay were a reason for the fear of our parents. Our school never celebrated this day and if sometimes it did, no one attended it.”

“The day was spent either listening toi Desh Bhakti songs on TV or watching patriotic movies; and in the evening batori (news) related to the bandh, grenade or bomb blasts and shoot-outs continued. I remember how our parents got engaged discussing the news and why Independence Day holds no meaning for the Northeastern region, etc. Now that I’m in Delhi, the solemnity, grandeur and festivities marking Independence Day make me nostalgic, even though I do not possess any such memory of the day that I can cherish,” he adds, regret seeping through his voice.

Comparable is the situation in the Garo-Khasi range in Meghalaya. Subir Dey, a 28-year-old businessman from West Garo Hills carves up his experience of Independence Day in the hills.

“We never used to attend schools on that particular day. As the place is quite disturbed, our parents restricted us in home. We never got to know how our schools celebrated this day. Apart from the TV screens, I personally haven’t seen someone unfurling the flag in reality.”

Moving towards the North, Kashmir is another such place where celebrations take a back seat when an occasion like Independence Day comes. There is a dialogue from Vishal Bharadwaj’s movie Haider which goes something like this Poora Kashmir qaid khana hai mere dost.

Mohammad Moussa, who owns a travel agency in Kashmir, shares similar views. On being asked about the ambience of the place on the occasion of I-Day, he grumbles, “Poore Kashmir ko jail bana diya jaata hai (Entire Kashmir is turned into a jail). There are unlimited restrictions and no free movement. The police and army forces control the entire place.

They don’t even spare the tourists. They’re also harassed. Curfew and strikes take over Kashmir. Students, except from army and missionary schools, never take part in the celebrations.”

When there is only one India, then why are there different feelings related to Independence Day. This question might wrack minds of those who are living isolated and away from the celebrations. Perhaps, the true meaning of freedom is still not clear in our minds.

Names have been changed on request.

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