[This article was published in The Sikh Review in their August 1997 issue. Reading this article in 2015, I feel a humble satisfaction that my views have crystallised more on these matters as my knowledge of issues referred to here has increased further over the years – Verpal Singh]
WHAT FREEDOM MEANS TO POST-1947 GENERATION
by Verpal Singh
On August 15, 1997 India will celebrate fifty years of Independence. Being only twenty-four years of age I do not know what it was like before the British left in 1947. But what I have been able to glean from older people and from books written in the pre-1947 period somehow belies all that I have been taught as ‘History’ (which means ‘truth’) in school and college. I will like to trace my journey from a ‘Proud India’ to a ‘cynical, anti-national India’ – to quote a statement of C.R.Das : “How will it profit India if, in place of the white bureaucracy that now rules over her, there is substituted an Indian bureaucracy of middle classes?”
C.R.Das died long before 15th August 1947. When Constitution came into force in 1950 the Indian Civil Service became the Indian Administrative Service. One fails to understand how a mere change of name was supposed to bring complete change in the outlook of bureaucracy who till 1947 were helping the British masters maintain the status quo. And this is what the lAS/IPS have been doing.
The laws which helped the British keep the people of this subcontinent enslaved for centuries continue to be part of the statute books of ‘Free India’. The Official Secrets Act of 1923 which enabled the British Government to keep the truth from people by classifying it as an ‘official secret’ and which gave the government power to prosecute anyone who dared to bring the truth out continues to be part of the Statute of ‘Free India’. The Indian Telegraph Act of 1885 which allowed the British government to scrutinize, censor or withhold a citizen’s post continues to be part of the Indian Statute books while another section has been added to it which allows the government to control what the citizen sees on the TV in his house. The fact of the matter is that our whole legal system is run on the lines laid down by the British.
A classic example is the argument used to discredit the British rule. The British are accused of following a policy of ‘divide and rule’. Look at the contemporary social and political set-up of this country, and try to find who is now trying to ‘divide and rule’.
By inference, if the present day rulers are no better (probably they are worse) than the British, then should we not, the citizens of this country, start a new ‘Freedom Struggle’? Do not even think about doing such a thing!
Two reasons make me advise against doing such a thing – one, the ‘fast-unto-death’ is not the same today as it was in the time of the British; and second, all the laws which were used against Sardar
Bhagat Singh, Sardar Udham Singh, Sardar Kartar Singh Sarabha, Netaji Subhas Chander Bose, and others, are still in force, and to them have been added utterly inhuman laws like NSA and TADA. The definition of ‘Treason’ is borrowed from section 121 of the Indian penal Code of 1860: “Whoever wages war or abets the waging of war’ against the Government of India is punishable under sec 121 of the Indian Penal Code. A conspiracy to wage war against the Government is punishable under sec 121 of the Penal Code.”
So what was ‘treason’ for the British is ‘treason’ for the present rulers as well. But what was ‘fast-unto-death’ for the British is not the same for the present rulers, as illustrated by the examples of S Darshan Singh Pheruman, Sant Fateh Singh, Master Tara Singh and, in recent times, by Ms Medha Patkar, Sunderlal Bahuguna and many others.
On February 25, 1950 a month after the ‘Constitution of India’ came into force, Vallabhai Patel moved the Parliament to adopt the Preventive Detention Act 1950 which empowered the Government to arrest a citizen for any length of time without his having committed any offence and without allowing him to seek redress from a court. This law was replaced in 1971 with Maintenance of Internal Security Act, 1971 (MISA) and in 1980, with ‘National Security Act 1980’ (NSA). In addition, TADA was passed in 1985 to completely take away the right to liberty which the citizen is suppose to have won in 1947. The most significant point is that TADA (although it has been repealed most of its provisions have been incorporated in other laws like NSA and Criminal Procedure Code, etc.) is a law which is worse than the Rowlette Act of 1919. The kind of public protests which followed the passing of the latter act in 1919 make their own point when compared to complete absence of public protests (leaving aside some individual voices of protest) when TADA was passed by the Indian (overwhelmingly Hindu) Parliament of India.
So does the ‘Freedom’ gained in 1947 mean that we have lost our voice to protest against those who enslave us, through Statute Books and through the threat to prosecute and punish us?
We, the citizens of this country, should be aware of what’s been going on, to effectively counter the attempts to keep us enslaved by the rulers. The number of the British officers in this country never crossed even 0.1 percent of the population, yet they succeeded in ruling for centuries on this land.
Since 1947 a small 3 % part of this country’s population has been controlling the wealth and political power, and formulating laws which help this 3% to retain control. What is happening in Punjab (on a much smaller scale for the past about one and a half decade) and in Kashmir, is an example of this instinct at work. The police and army atrocities are not working towards weaning away the citizens of these states from the secessionist path. What these atrocities are meant to achieve is the subjugation of the people of these states so that the rulers can continue to retain control of the land and resources of these states.
How am I affected, while living in, say, Kerala as to whether Tripura is part of India or not? Yes, it does matter that all these states remain part of India because Rulers know. It matters to the residents of the Hindi belt that no part of our land secedes because only then can they force the rest to learn about their culture and force them to adopt it as their own.
Maybe while saying all this I am indulging in ‘sedition’ but judge for yourself whether this is not the truth? As long as we are afraid of man-made laws we will be afraid of speaking the Truth. Let’s be afraid of only God and respect only His laws. Only then will we be able to make this world a heaven on earth.
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