DIMAPUR: Ideas are the most powerful force in the world because they transform human lives, enrich human society and enable the world to evolve further. Ideas can be constructive or destructive, or they could be a bit of both, so on the 68th anniversary of Indian Independence, let’s dwell on the idea of India that our freedom fighters conceived and the idea(s) of India we now conceive and contemplate on.

Rabindra Nath Tagore’s Where the Mind is Without Fear best encapsulates the idea of India when the country was astir with the aspiration and anticipation of freedom from foreign shackles. But what about the decades after Independence - what has become of the idea of India, as memories of the freedom struggle began to fade away and die with the passing away of the generations who participated in it?

And now, what is the idea of India to the younger generations for whom the freedom struggle appears to be merely a chapter in their school/college History textbooks? Yes, in the past few years, there have been attempts to revisit the idea of India but the focus was more on economic, scientific, technological and military progress and expansion ~ the focus was more on transforming India into a global power than a nation with a living and vibrant soul.

Perhaps this is one of the factors, which has impeded India from scaling greater heights considering that this country was always perceived and respected for its pulsating spiritual and cultural soul. And we must remember that this country, nay this civilization’s spirituality was not based on religiosity; neither was the vibrant cultural contours a product and prisoner of “the dreary desert sand of dead habit”.

The Indian civilization was an ocean nourished by the numerous streams and rivers of diversities, unfortunately we became quite content to have merely a country, a nation, but seeing that the 21st century poses great challenges all countries to progress into much more than evolved status, we are up to the task of confronting and overcoming these challenges? We will be successful only if we conceive of an idea of India, which is bigger and greater than merely the material and the transient.

What is so painfully apparent today is that this country looks at economic and material gains as the end and not the means to keep our tryst with destiny. In fact, we seem to have forgotten that we are yet to keep our tryst with destiny and that every generation must carry the torch forward. The poverty, illiteracy, hunger, disease, death, crimes, corruption and injustice in the country are evidence of our failure to keep our tryst with destiny.

So, today our idea(s) of India must be rooted in eliminating these social ills and evils and reclaiming our soul for which our mind must be led forward … into ever-widening thought and action. India has fought and won her freedom but what have we done to and with this freedom in the past 68 years?

Let our celebrations today not eclipse our contemplations for it is in our contemplations, the idea(s) of India will be conceived, emerge and reveal themselves to light the path(s) we would need to tread on in the years and decades to come. Freedom cannot remain an aspiration forever and neither can it be stored in a glass cage to prove ownership after having won it.

For any civilization, country or nation, freedom necessarily connotes collective ownership and collective responsibility. Now, the issue is whether this country would allow all her citizens this collective ownership, which would then enable and empower us to shoulder the collective responsibility?

Only this would validate India as the world’s largest democracy, which ostensibly believes that the people know best ~ and that our elections, once in five years, are not rituals born of the dreary desert sand of dead habit.

Yes, after 68 years of freedom from foreign yoke, India must now redefine and reclaim, as well as ensure and safeguard, a different set of freedoms for her citizens ~ the right and freedom to live, love and give; to independent thought and speech; to be what and who we are, and to human security including food, education, health and all other basic necessities to live in and with dignity.

The idea of India must once again be rooted and reclaimed in that place of hope where the mind is without fear and the head is held high.