Ranjona Banerji: A lesson on India’s Independence

16 Aug,2012

By Ranjona Banerji


Independence Day, one is pained to point out to India’s media, celebrates India’s independence from British colonial rule. As many people in the world are aware, though evidently not the Indian media, India achieved this independence through non-violent means. This method of fighting for human and civil rights, by appealing to the moral conscience within all of us, inspired other oppressed peoples the world over. Most famously, Martin Luther King Junior who fought for civil rights for Black Americans in the 1960s and later Nelson Mandela who fought against apartheid in South Africa were inspired by India’s unique battle for Independence.


The man who steered this course of action to success was Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi.


The reason for this little history lesson: Because most Indian news channels apparently think that Indian Independence has something to do with military might. The focus was on Indian soldiers fighting for India’s boundaries. In fact, there is no connection at all between the military and Indian Independence. And much as we have decided that Gandhi has got too much publicity already and perhaps we cannot tell the difference between MK Gandhi and Indira Gandhi (and have developed an anathema to the surname), the fact is that the struggle for Independence cannot be disentangled from the Mahatma.


Also even if we love Hindi cinema and we are all excited by rightwing propaganda which tries to move the discussion away from Gandhi, the RSS had almost no role to play in the events of 1947 and neither did Bhagat Singh. There is always room for critical discussion on those times – and for disagreement – but no Indian new channel is interested in the intellectual rigour required for a meaningful conversation on how India got its independence.


In 1947, just as a matter of interest, the army was under British rule. It was not involved in our freedom struggle. Running to the National Defence Academy to eat with the cadets – I refer to CNN-IBN – is sadly inappropriate on a day which celebrates non-violence.


If the media wants to glorify the armed forces (and it is impossible of course to expect a dispassionate analysis of India’s military from its news channels which are always stuck in rah-rah nationalism) then it should wait till January 26. That is when we have a military parade, remember?


As an aside, the media might now end this struggle to search for freedom fighters. The mathematics and mortality rates are both against it. India became independent 65 years ago. You may honour the youth who were inspired by the freedom struggle but all the meaningful players are long gone.


That’s it. Class dismissed.


The writer co-authored and co-edited a book on 50 years of Indian Independence with Ayaz Memon in 1997, called India 50: The Making of a Nation.


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One response to “Ranjona Banerji: A lesson on India’s Independence”

  1. rajendra says:

    i totally agree…..