You may not believe it as a way of existence, but we did exist; before the day you landed in our land, mystified and probably terrified, we did live, leading a life adequate or otherwise, but free. You came in as a trader, and we traded our freedom. You stayed on to rule.
They said it was your strategy of divide-and-rule that worked. Invaders are not new to my land, we have been invaded, plundered, looted and ruled before. After years of being ruled by strangers in cyclic monotone, we the mass, rose as one voice and one soul to cry and defy. Obediently in a line, we protested to express our disobedience and to let you and the world know that we want freedom – we want you to go and leave us to our destiny.
Pure desi salt; yes, that simple salt was a symbol to express my pent-up aggression and your submission to my rage. 80 years back, for that pinch of salt from my nation’s abundant and beautiful coastline, I fought the might of British to walk those kilometers to tell and feel that I want to be free.
When I sat to weave my khadi saree, it was an urge to wear something that could absorb my dirt and sweat; something coarse and rough, but hand-spun with pride – pores allowing it to breath. I did not want to die a suffocating death in the ribbons of nylon or rayon, bundles thrown at me with scorn from the shores of the Queen’s yonder.
Yes, I knew you could lay roads, build dams and railway lines, yet I wanted you to depart, to allow me to experience what I am and what I was capable of becoming on my own, without a patriarch from across the seas deciding my every thought and action. I wanted to struggle to learn the science and art of doing it. I wanted to live and breathe on equal terms as You and Me. In your eyes, I might have been the dark, muddy, uneducated, funny looking, emaciated Indian, but I had the right to live. So I swelled, spilled and marched to death and beyond to see my nation liberated.
The day the flag was hoisted, I swelled with pride and happiness. The mass, the crowd, and the unworthy made it to the hall of power, to choose and run our government, the nation was free and ours only.
Sixty years and after what do I see? With 1652 languages and dialects, new, old, ancient religions and religious beliefs, varied cultures, I was a sitting duck for the orchestra of politicians and bureaucracy to divide and rule effectively. Lines were drawn, the lifeless, methodical lines on geography, boundaries were declared, the nation was divided not on distance, longitude and latitude, but the lines ware etched and seared on differences; and the million differences we had – cuisine, culture, caste, tribe, region, religion, language, dialect as varied as our billion thumbprints!
Nation-makers realized that I feel safest in a clan – of a common caste, language or social standing; and they have learnt to insinuate and goad me on as I ostracize another man who is not a photocopy of me, who speaks an unknown language or who worships an unknown God.
Divide and rule is what the British preached in pre-independence. Post-independence, we are divided and identified by religion, community, state, region and language. I am a faceless soul, with my religion, community and the language that defines me; a puppet in the hands of power.
The day the power of love overrules the love of power, the world will know peace.