The need to rediscover independence @ 71 | Sunday Observer

The need to rediscover independence @ 71

“There is no easy walk to freedom, anywhere. For, to be free, is not merely to cast off one’s chains, but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others”.
Nelson Mandela World Philosopher from Africa (1918-2013)

“For what avail the plough or sail, Or land or life, if freedom fail?”
Ralph Waldo Emerson US Poet, Essayist and Philosopher.
(1803 – 82)

“The greatest glory of a free-born people Is to transmit that freedom to their children”.
William Harvard

The said, sacred and serene National Day is almost on us – this time around, in the guise of a 71-year-old sober ‘Personality’. Rejoicing, has been the invariable staple feature, in our regular celebrations to greet our National Day, formally.

To us, National day is a prime moment of pageant and parade, paean and panegyric; praise and pleasure and above all a season for pomp and panoply.

But, in the “hum and buzz” of our conspicuous ‘partying’ to celebrate Independence, have we not – collectively as a nation lost sight entirely, of a crucial matter? At each annual celebration of the achievement of independence, we have been progressively distancing ourselves from the pith, core and the crux of the centrally important event- the struggle for independence.

The massive struggle waged by subcontinental India, claimed more than a million lives. That was not the only harsh and tragic cost. The land itself had to be divided into three segments – and in a massively, arbitrary manner. The authority called upon to perform this ‘hurried’ final cut-Sir Cyril Radcliff – utilised his ‘guided’ pen ‘to separate farmers from their fields, and canals from their headwaters’ (among other oddities).

The freedom fighters of our land were a totally different group. The leaders of all communities were totally united, representing the Sinhala, Tamil, Muslim, Malay and Burgher people. They unanimously accepted the selected leaders, with no thought whatsoever about their communal identities.

From the moment they entered the ‘fray’, they risked their lives. They were open to be arrested, imprisoned or to be confronted by a firing squad, at the whims and fancies of the colonial officers.

E.W. Perera (EWP) – a highly committed patriot, had a complaint against the local colonial officers, here in Sri Lanka (Ceylon then). This petition was drafted into a document, and EWP volunteered to take it to England. But, if the local colonial officers detected this document in his person, it would have spelt immediate arrest and imminent death.

EWP, had the letter sewn into the sole of his shoe. He wore the shoe on his voyage to the UK and presented the document to the Colonial Secretary. This incident forms a graphic and potent section of the Sri Lankan struggle for independence (Incidentally, what happened to this patriotic shoe?)

Members of many families, loyal to the cause of the struggle for independence, risked death each moment. In spite of such tragic threats they kept on going, undaunted. Towards the victorious culmination of the ‘struggle for independence’, ultra patriot D.S. Senanayake had to wage a ‘war of diplomacy’, to persuade the Soulbury Commission, that, the generality of the people in Sri Lanka were ripe and mature enough to run an Independent Democratic State, in a context of total independence.

The historic day of Independence dawned on February 4, 1948. As for me, I was a youthful undergraduate then. We were not allowed to move close to the newly constructed Independence Memorial Hall, where the historic transfer of sovereignty was made, to the First Prime Minister of Independent Sri Lanka – Maha Manya D.S. Senanayake. At this first Independence Ceremony the British Royalty was represented by the Duke of Gloucester. The British Flag (Union Jack) was hauled down and the Sri Lankan flag was hoisted.

Incidentally, the Sri Lankan flag that was hoisted, has an intriguing history. It was the identical Sri Lankan flag, that was hauled down on March 2, 1815, when we were made a British Colony.

This highly significant Lion Flag, was discovered by yet another stalwart, in the Independence struggle – D.R. Wijewardene. When he was a young student in England, around 1946, he serendipitously discovered this exceptionally historic Lion Flag (of all places) in a closet in the Royal Hospital in Chelsen.

When we celebrate the 71st anniversary of Sri Lanka’s independence, there should be, some effort to remember those patriotic leaders who won independence with no thought whatever for their personal safety. Sheer human gratitude, calls for such a recognition.

In the present era of history we inhabit today, controversies, differences in view-point and ideological discrepancies may occur.

But, in veneration to the sacrifices made by our patriotic leaders, to ensure a free and untrammelled land for their descendants, we must strive as hard as we could to prevent the recurrence of harmful and discordant policies, that lead to division and violence.

A positive and totally wholesome aspect of our independence celebrations should be our dedicated determination to be mindful of the leaders, who paved the way for friendly co-existence, by creating a nation, that can enjoy freedom and independence, enhancing the joys of such liberty, through a deep-seated feeling of being ‘one community and one group’.

When we uphold the greatness of Independence, these pioneers won for us, we must quite clearly realise that ‘talk’ along would not bring about communal harmony and social integration. Mere ‘festivities’ and ‘lip-service’ alone, do not bring about instant transformation into totally free, responsible and democratically enlightened model citizens.

The most significant issue that is closely linked with National Day celebration is the training of the citizens to understand what it really means ‘to be free and independent.’

This sustained training is essential to inculcate the concept into the minds of today’s youth.

The younger generation of today, is somewhat helpless in selecting the right, wholesome and humane path to tread, to achieve a healthy and meaningful future.

National Day celebrations in each village and community must invariably have this component of enlightening the younger generations, who are helplessly led astray by unhealthy forces that influence them, propelling them towards vicious and antisocial styles of behaviour.

Yearning for Independence, is a strongly built-in human trait. I am quite fond of narrating a story, that drives home quite effectively, this inner urge we possess to be free, independent and liberated.

The story, I referred to is a highly esteemed creation of Indian savant Mulk Raj Anand.

The central character in the story is a little child. Clinging to his mother’s safe hands, the little child goes into a highly attractive carnival ground.

The child sees a balloon seller:

“I want a balloon”, he pleads.

The mother pulls him along without responding to his request.

Next, it is a sweetmeat stall.

‘I need the sweets’ says the child.

This too is unheeded by the mother.

Following this routine of ‘requesting and unheeding’, they pass toy shops, garment displays and various vendors marketing their ware.

As they proceed, through the milling crowd, the child misses the mother’s hand and is stranded in the thronging crowd.

The little one begins to scream desperately and soulfully. The organisers of the carnival rush to him and try to comfort him. “Do you need balloons?” they ask.

The child’s response is a vehement no.

“No, I don’t need balloons. I need my mother.”

The organisers try to tempt him, offering him all the things he asked for, when he was going along with the mother.

The child is not comforted. “I need my mother”, he insists.

It is the same situation with Independence. We may receive whatever we yearn for. But, bereft of the comforting presence of Independence (mother) those other attractions do not have any sustaining meaning.

The story, brilliantly sums up, the quintessence of the spiritual potentiality of Independence.

But, as we pass long years of Independence, we may, at times, adopt a casual, routine attitude towards Independence.

It may lose its attraction for us. This is likely to lead both individuals and societies, to disregard the nobility of the achievement of Independence.

Given this situation, it is a paramount need for enlightened States, to drill into the minds of people, the unparalleled importance of Independence.