Tuesday, 13 August 2013

True Independence

    Come August 15th and we will be celebrating our Independence Day. Flags would be hoisted everywhere, in government edifices, schools, institutions, residential buildings, etc. Little kids would proudly roam the streets with the tricolor badges pinned to their attires. Patriotic songs would reverberate throughout busy lanes. Powerful speeches would be made by various political parties. The media would be addressed. Stories of our glorious freedom fighters would be telecast everywhere. People would greet each other with warm smiles and a "Happy Independence Day."
    But what does freedom mean to you and me? What does it feel like to be free? Is it a state of mind? Or something tangible that you can actually feel? My mother often tells me that a nation can never be fully independent or can never progress until the women of that country are respected, protected and safe. Are we safe? Am I safe? I ask myself this question and a gruesome incident that happened here, just as 2012 was coming to an end, comes to my mind. And the frightening thing is, the thoughts don't stop there. A barrage of such incidents varying in severity trickle in.
    Aren't we the country that deifies women? Don't we celebrate innumerable festivals where we idolize and worship these goddesses? So why is it that the respect is only limited to deities? Can't it be extended to living, breathing, walking and talking beings who have been given the boon to beget life? Even throughout our history we have women freedom strugglers who proved their mettle by fighting tooth and nail to bring India where she is today. Rani Laxmi Bai, Sarojini Naidu, Usha Mehta, Savitribai Phule, Begum Hazrat Mahal, Aruna Asaf Ali, to name a few. Then there were great women leaders like who inspired us with their courage and determination. Today we have countless women who have surmounted the impossible and achieved what we could only dream of. Be it in the field of education, entertainment, politics, media, business, science, technology, economics, sports, etc. They've come from different spheres of life, fought against the norms, refused to conform and accomplished what they have. On one hand we salute them and on the other we subject them to some of the worst forms of abuse. In that sense, it makes us the most dangerous hypocrites in the world.
    I don't remember a morning when I got up and the front page of my newspaper didn't have a  headline informing about a ghastly incident that happened to a woman. I've forgotten what it feels like to read a daily that doesn't have dreadful and horrible things splattered all over it. Hence I've stopped reading them altogether. Whatever traces of news I do get, I get it from sources other than these. Yes it is foolish some might say because it isn't going to solve anything, but I can't read another paragraph on how a girl's face was disfigured in broad daylight at a place that I've been to several times in my life or I can't go through the pain of seeing yet another important verdict being put on hold for an indefinite period of time. I can't stand it when "supposed" juveniles commit unspeakable horrors and they are just sent to a correctional facility for rehabilitation. It bothers me when people do hideous things to women and they walk away scot-free and also get a respectable job at a bank in another state.
    The day we address this problem at the grass root level, which is NOT illiteracy, (because literate people too sometimes surpass the rest in such grisly acts) but the mindset of people, will be the day of our true victory. The way they think and view women. I'm not a hard core feminist, never was, but when I got up today and sat down to think of design ideas that I could use to make a greeting for the big day it struck me how silly I am. To think that I could celebrate freedom in a country where we are still bound by such ineffective laws. Where promises are just words spoken to increase votes, where one shameful act after another are committed blatantly and we don't do anything, where the only response that a horrid crime elicits is a candlelight vigil or political mudslinging.
    I'll celebrate my independence day when I'm truly emancipated from the evils that plague the women of my nation day in day out. I'll celebrate my independence when stringent laws are introduced, implemented and executed with no delay. When little girls are able to play outside their homes without the fear of someone taking their innocence away. When women are no longer afraid to travel late at night. When the stranger lurking in the dark, waiting in the shadows, is closed in on before he dares to take a step.


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