India is all set to celebrate her 71st Independence Day on August 15 -- a day which commemorates the country’s independence from colonial rule. It is a day that marks India’s impressive political and social history, and a reiteration of the values of democracy. Every year, August 15 is observed throughout India with flag-hoisting ceremonies, parades and cultural events. As we move into our 71st year of independence, we spoke to the next generation about what independence, and independence day, means to them.

“Independence means freedom,” says 16 year old student Anisha Jaiswal. “Freedom to have the choice to be whomsoever I want. Freedom to think, to act, to eat, to dance, to sign, to just be. This may sound superficial -- but freedom is by definition political. Restrictions on how to dress or what to eat are as much political means of oppression as they are social. This independence day, I am reminding myself of what our forefathers fought for -- an independent India, where each and every individual had a right to equality, to justice, to freedom.”

“Independence Day is about pride in our nation. It’s about remember the small victories, and the big accomplishments. It’s about looking back at our history -- from tiny warring Kingdoms to a nation-state imagined under the construct of colonial rule to a movement to assert our identity as a nation, and finally, to independence,” says Anmol Singh, a first year college student. “For many of us, Independence Day has become more about a holiday from school or college. The day, however, is an opportunity to be thankful for the fact that we are in charge of our own destiny -- and this statement applies to us at an individual level, but more so at a collective level. We need to be reminded of the fact that our destinies are linked; that India’s prosperity is dependent on the collective prosperity of its people. And perhaps, to achieve that -- or to take a step forward toward that -- we need to cooperate. Independence has provided us with the theoretical framework to make that cooperation and that fulfillment possible, but it’s upto us to realise the goal.”

“Independence and democracy, for me, are synonymous,” says Himmat Singh, a third year college student. “You can’t have one without the other. Are you capable of being free in a dictatorship or a one-party state? How can you be free without choice? Choice in fact is central to the definition of both democracy and independence. I think we need to take a huge amount of pride in the fact that our forefathers imagined us as a free, democratic country, and to this day, that remains our biggest strength. Jai Hind.”

Sonal Mehta, a young Delhi based design professional, says that independence and freedom are about personal choice. “For me, freedom or independence is the ability to earn my own money, doing what I choose to do and love doing, living in my own apartment, paying my own bills, spending Friday nights with people I choose to call my friends, go shopping for clothes that I think capture the essence of who I am, eat what I want to eat -- whether that choice stems from being vegan or vegetarian or not eating particular kinds of food. We forget that freedom is something that shouldn’t be taken for granted. It’s an attribute that human beings take so immediately to that we forget that it once wasn’t there. For me, I had a curfew, my parents didn’t like most of my friends, I couldn’t dress the way I wanted, nor could I watch what I pleased or say what I wanted to say. This lack of freedom was my reality all through my growing up years. Now that I live on my own, I take my freedom for granted… and this is a huge mistake; I should appreciate my freedom, because so many people never attain it. So many girls don’t have the ability to say, do, think or even marry whom they want. It may sound like an overreach but it isn’t when I say that just as many of us take our personal freedom for granted, many young Indians take our country’s independence for granted. We don’t know what it was like to not be independent, and perhaps we need to do more to educate and sensitise ourselves to our past, so as to be more appreciative of our present, and more determined to work toward an even better future.”

Rakhi Advani perhaps sums it up when she says, “independence is freedom, freedom is choice, and choice comes with responsibilities.” Happy Independence Day!