Chandigarh, August 15: Bharat Mata Ki Jai…Vande Mataram…Jai Hind.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi ended his perhaps the longest ever speech from the ramparts of the Red Fort on Independence Day with these three invocations, in that order. The dominating shade was the saffron.
The Red Fort in Delhi has been the seat of power before Hindustan came under the British rule after the Sikhs lost in 1849 Anglo-Sikh war. However, the First Resident of this seat of power has never been from the now dominating majority community. The Prime Minister has been addressing the Indian nation from the ramparts of the Red Fort every year on August 15, the Independence Day.
It is said that Modi loves to make spirited speeches when he addresses the Indian origin people during his foreign tour. He rarely makes his appearance in Parliament. However, he left no room for any complaint in his about an hour and a half long speech today morning. He started by referring to the Vedic roots of the Indian culture and the like. He also talked of 350th anniversary of 10th Sikh Lord Guru Gobind Singh to be celebrated at the national level. After all, the Rashtiya Swayamsewak Sangh also has great reverence for the 10th Sikh Guru, though for different reason. This should please the Sikhs in Punjab where the BJP is in alliance with the Akali Dal. The state is to go to polls in February 2017 and the alliance faces tough challenge from the Aam Aadmi party in the triangular contest.
Considerable part of the speech was devoted to self-praise, how the functioning of his government was better and speedier that the previous UPA government that ruled for 10 years. His predecessor Dr Manomohan Singh was among his listeners. He also dwelt at length on what can be termed as the pro-people initiatives but are now compulsion of the situation in the fast changing world. These are the administrative reforms.
Significantly, the Prime Minister made a fervent appeal to all those who believe in the politics of gun to give up arms and join the mainstream as this path would lead to nowhere. He should have better given the example of Punjab where about 50,000 people were killed over a span of about decade and a half but the militant movement was crushed by the security forces although the remnants continue to be active. India seems to have forgotten the fact that it was the militancy in Punjab that took the life of Prime Minister Indira Gandhi and Chief Minister Beant Singh, that too in the highest security areas.
The Prime Minister of India is among the most protected persons. So are Punjab Chief Minister Miunister Parkash Singh Badal, his Deputy Chief Minister son Sukhbir Singh Badal and Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti.
When a leader who himself or herself is having high security cordon make such an appeal to the people who have adopted the politics of gun for their struggles, it seems to be a farce.
In Srinagar under curfew, Mehbooba Mufti made similar appeal to the militants to shun violence and give her a chance. One does not know to whom she was addressing as the entire valley continues to be under curfew for more than a month now.
Made from behind thick walls of heavily armed security people, such appeals lose legitimacy. Modi also talked of Maoists. The simple tribals started their struggle against exploitation in the thick jungles of Chhatisgarh and Jharkhand with bows and arrows. The militants in Punjab carried Ak-47 and AK-56 assault weapons at that time.
The independence was accompanied by partition in which a million and a half people lost their lives. Punjab region witnessed the biggest ever migration of the people since civilisation evolved in this region. The Radcliffe line was artificial.
One has to go back to the historic ‘Tryst with Destiny’ speech of Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru in the context of the Modi’s speech today.
Pandit Nehru stated, “The ambition of the greatest man of our generation has been to wipe every tear from every eye. That may be beyond us, but as long as there are tears and suffering, so long our work will not be over. We are citizens of a great country, on the verge of bold advance, and we have to live up to that high standard. All of us, to whatever religion we may belong, are equally the children of India with equal rights, privileges and obligations. We cannot encourage communalism or narrow-mindedness, for no nation can be great whose people are narrow in thought or in action.”
These words are equally relevant in 2016.