Sunday, August 14, 2016

Independence Day Lecture: The burden of Azaadi

'Azaadi' has become a rather fashionable word these days among the Left-Liberals, who have welded their cause to that of Islamic fascism. The term, an Urdu one, directly implies the call for the Two-Nation Theory to take root again in the Indian subcontinent and further balkanize the wounded civilization. Back in those days of August 1947, when the subcontinent was torn apart, the term could be heard too - albeit with different meanings. For some, it was azaadi from the English colonists and their exploitation, for others, it was azaadi from the Hindu civilization that has existed in this land for thousands of years. And therein lies a lesson.

The day after
But what is this azaadi for? To what end? Consider the children of 1947: one has reached Mars, the other is the global center of terrorism (and the grandchild is actually doing well, despite its own problems). Of course, this is only today: a few decades back, things were quite the other way round. For many years, Pakistan did much better than India, and it is only in the last few decades that it has descended into the abyss. But that is not the point. What is azaadi for?

There are two theories to this. One is that azaadi has a value of its own, that freedom is not obtained for the sake of economic growth, but for freedom itself. This was an argument made for #Brexit to oppose all the doom-and-gloom scenarios that were predicted. On the other hand, there is the opinion that azaadi must be for the larger cause of improving the lives of people, both economically and socially. This is the argument used to further the causes of smaller states in India, most recently seen with Telangana.

So what is azaadi for? Is it both? But what if the two contradict each other. Take the case of the many smaller islands that are tied to former European colonial powers. If freedom had a value there and was achieved, it is hard to imagine those countries doing well on their own, without joining some sort of confederacy. Indeed, looking at the situation today, it is questionable as to what Pakistan and Bangladesh have gained from their azaadi (from India). In another case, look at Australia and New Zealand, which had progressed significantly well before they cut most of their ties with the British Parliament. What was the point there, if not for the sheer value of freedom?

The real question
The answer to this apparent contradiction lies in the related question: azaadi from what? From exploitation? Or merely from a benevolent but foreign ruler? In a post-ideological world, does the notion of 'foreign' even mean anything anymore? On the last question, there is actually a bit of a red herring, for we are told by academics that we are indeed in a post-ideological world, but Indian knowledge tells us that even that does not negate the existence of a common nation among various peoples. Thus, even in a post-ideological world, the idea of a nation remains, for no other reason that it being a part of human nature.

Therefore, we seem to have a test for the value of azaadi: the azaadi of a nation from another, and that of people within a nation for the sake of prosperity. The latter has an explicit reason, and a burden on the children of the new country. But what of the former? Is the freedom of a nation an end in itself, or can nations collapse after achieving freedom? The history of the modern nation-state is so short that the answer is difficult to guess, although if the term 'nation' can be expanded into 'civilization,' it does appear that the civilization can be destroyed by itself (with notable exceptions).

We then have an answer: the burden of azaadi of a nation is to survive, and for its people to survive. And while survival is possible without prosperity, it becomes very difficult. Indeed, the only nations that survive with little prosperity are those that force themselves to be in a constant state of war (real or otherwise) - North Korea, Eritrea, and Pakistan come to mind there. And if the nation cannot survive, then there was no point of azaadi itself.

Therefore, those who scream azaadi without knowing what it entails must be careful what they wish for. For to win a Pyrrhic victory is to win the present and lose the future. And without a future, what is the present really worth?

On the 70th Indian Independence Day, Opinions 24x7 greets the nation in celebration of 69 years of continuing our ancient civilization.

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