"Have you ever experienced the season's first snowfall?
It is always cherished the world over as somewhere there is this rankling urgency to grasp the fleeting chance of seeing something as yet unsoiled and untrodden."
As intricately woven into the fabric of Khaled Hosseini's path-breaking novel A Thousand Splendid Suns, this short anecdote sends across a strong ripple effect.
At this moment one can pause and reflect on the nature of the vision of an independent 'Incredible India' crafted by those who were at the receiving end of the misery of the era of painful subjugation. If we discard the rose-tinted glasses which the power structures relentlessly thrust before our faces and take the time to view Freedom from an intersectional lens, are we confronted with an illusion of the propounded reality or does the definition of freedom we have been holding onto so far appear to be a truncated, frayed and corrupted version of the former vision?
Seven scores and five years have passed since India dismantled the colonial regime and set out on the seemingly daunting task of making a tryst with destiny, charting a new path towards building the largest democracy which had hitherto been yoked under the tyranny of exploitation and monarchical hegemonic forces.
A word of caution has been whispered down through the alleys of time from those who had experienced the surreal bliss of the tricolour fluttering in the dewy August morning, relishing the taste of freedom melted in the ambience of a liberated India which materialized their nationalistic fervour and stoically preserved aspirations for a hopeful future. These brave hearts had to go through the horror and malice of extreme communalism which had ripped the nation's soul apart along the colours of green and saffron but ultimately what must not be neglected is that the blood spilled to note this incident in the pages of History was unmistakably red. A grand and lofty onus has been handed down to us through their heart-rending, poignant stories and tragic losses they were forced to endure. Their voices implore us- Honour the cost of liberty and do not let our sacrifices go in vain. Has our collective consciousness as a nation gone back on its word?
There is rampant discrimination based on social grounds lurking in almost every nook and cranny even in the so-called Freedom that the present-day democratic nation entails. Minority voices are squashed amidst the growing clamour of the upper classed relatively privileged sections. In the literary sphere as well some of the native writers belonging to the politically neglected, socially exclusive and economically disadvantaged ethnic groups have to undertake painstaking efforts to rewrite the forgotten stories from scratch notwithstanding the strict censorship imposed on them if they violate the set 'standards'. The scraping of the women Dalit writers' accounts or novels of other backward communities from the syllabi of premier educational institutions provides a glaring example of the violation of freedom of speech and expression which is a core principle of democracy. It's tragic to know that till today casteist slurs are passed, reservation is continually targeted, those not belonging to the heteronormative constrained gender structures are subjected to all forms of humiliation and not given any breathing space to express themselves as liberally as other individuals. The conservative anti-social elements still refuse to accept that only a singular sexual orientation is not the thumb rule when it comes to naturally expressing one's sexuality. This lack of tolerance creates countless problems for the LGBTQ+ community and most of them end up facing the brunt of deeply dehumanising social ostracization which leaves them with nothing to fall back upon. Bringing women issues into focus, one cannot deny the fact that even the economically independent and educated women are not fully equipped to exercise their agency as effectively and freely as their male counterparts. They are constantly rebuked by the domineering patriarchal institutions to remain within its confines and not to become 'over-ambitious' in their pursuits. Those living in rural areas are the victims of domestic violence, dowry abuse, marital rape, have no access to higher education and health care facilities. Keeping intersectionality in mind a woman belonging to the scheduled caste/tribe would starkly differ in suffering from misogynistic tendencies, molestation and sexual assault than an upper caste woman and would face casteism in a remarkably different way in comparison to a Dalit man.
In the words of Swami Vivekanand :There is no chance for the welfare of the world unless the condition of women is improved. A bird can't fly on one wing. How satisfactory is India's performance when it comes to the emancipation of women?
Sheer prejudices are still harboured by the diverse religious sects and a mere spark would be enough to set fire on the core ideal of 'secularism' enshrined in the Constitution. The power structures formulate and enact controversial laws dictating the lives of Indian citizens, turning down every stratagem and outlet of opposition and dissent in the Parliament wherein debates and discussions are considered to be the lifeline for a healthy democracy centering around the guiding principle of Freedom, Liberty and Equality. Throughout these seventy-five years, various government regimes have passed and implemented certain disputable policies cloaked under the garb of the fulfilment of a higher purpose. These political tactics enforced at the expense of the marginalized and disenfranchised communities are not restricted to a single political party adhering to a particular ideology but almost to every other party concerned dabbling in the dirty game of power politics.
It needs to be understood that all existing inequalities are not created equal. An intersectional approach needs to be timely adopted for establishing the acknowledgement of social identities distinct from the mainstream which will enable the disintegration of the compounding experiences of discrimination.
Using an intersectional lens also means recognizing the historical contexts surrounding an issue. Certain groups have been pushed to the extreme periphery of the social construct and have faced histories of violence and systematic discrimination which have widened these disparities. An intersection of poverty, caste discrimination, racism, sexism, communal hatred, gendered biases, denying people their rights and equal opportunities extend across generations.
One must keep in mind that a few drops of poison can overpower the sweetest of nectars. Such widespread injustices must not go unnamed or unchallenged. A new 'normal' must be fair, inclusive and accommodating for all and not just a chosen few. Freedom cannot be held hostage by plutocracy, bureaucracy, caste hierarchy, nepotism and corruption.
To prevent mutual recrimination from becoming the new flavour, constructive energies should be directed towards an authentic universality, spiritual regeneration, creative excellence, productive political debates and not merely on toxic nationalism. An Intersectional lens needs to be put forth to frame concrete remedial initiatives to address these issues of grave concern.
Let's stand in solidarity with one another, challenge the power equation, speak out against the root causes of inequalities and dispose of the impostor syndrome to cling onto the true foundation of national greatness.
Freedom would then revitalize our sagging, weathered spirits in no way less than the pure tranquillity of the season's first snowfall.
As said by Aruna Roy the famous Dalit woman activist:
You can never evaluate anything from outside, to be able to truly understand something- all voices behind the narrative need to be heard with due respect.
An inquisitive explorer hailing from the quaint town of Nainital and now pursuing English Honours in her third year at Gargi, Himani is a work in progress who tries to take each opportunity and challenge up her stride in this beautifully paradoxical journey of life.
You can always find her ambling around the library shelves relishing the biblichor and getting her hands on as many fantasy novels, mystery fiction, and sci-fi (well the inexhaustible list goes on) as she possibly can. She has chosen 'living in the moment' as the philosophy of her life and strongly believes in spreading love and compassion in the world which it needs in heavy doses now more than ever before!! For her, reading means time travel and writing means giving time the license to freeze. She likes to chill with a strong brew of mocha and her Spotify Playlist in full volume. She has gained mastery in keeping things a secret but her journal can betray her sometimes.