India at 75: Indian I was born; Indian I shall die

How do I see the future of India? Unlike the chronic pessimists and congenital grumblers, I am confident of a brighter future for our country. India will become a world power, working in a balanced way for the establishment of world peace and goodwill. Poverty will become a memory and so will joblessness.

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A kid holding Indian flags. Photo © Sikandar Ali for Unplash

India of 2022 is spectacularly different from the India of 1947. There is one vital element that has remained active, unchanged—democracy.

I am 18 years older than Independent India. I remember vividly keeping awake till midnight of 14/15 August 1947 to listen to Jawaharlal Nehru’s never to be forgotten speech.

“Long years ago we made a tryst with destiny, and now the time comes when we shall redeem our pledge, not wholly or in full measure, but very substantially. At the stroke of the midnight hour, when the World sleeps, India will awake to life and freedom. A moment comes, which comes but rarely in history, when we step out from the old to the new, when an age ends and when the soul of a nation long suppressed finds utterance. It is fitting that at this solemn moment we take the pledge of dedication to the service of India and her people and to the larger cause of humanity…”

This was great and moving English, but 80% Indians did not understand it. Nehru also disregarded the fact that half of the world was wide awake. A majority of the members of the Constituent Assembly present in the Central Hall of Parliament understood English. The applause was thunderous. That speech of Nehru lives in our hearts and minds. India of 2022 is spectacularly different from the India of 1947. There is one vital element that has remained active, unchanged—democracy. That miracle has been endowed to the nation by the people of India, not by its elite.

The Indian Freedom Movement under the unique leadership of Mahatma Gandhi was one among the historical and unforgettable events of the 20th century.

India’s Freedom Movement inspired other countries under British, French, Dutch, Portuguese and Spain’s imperial/colonial rule.

In 1947, Africa had three independent countries, South of Sahara, Ethiopia, South Africa—dedicated to perpetual white rule, even though three fourth of the population was non-white. The third was Liberia. Several African leaders admired Gandhiji, Kenneth Kaunda of Zambia, Kwame Nkrumah of Ghana, Chief Lithuli of South Africa. Ahmed Kathrada, a colleague of Mandela, all mention Gandhiji in their memoirs. Kathrada spent 27 years in jail with Mandela. He writes, “My own views on multiculturalism are best summed up in a passage by Gandhiji: I want the culture of all lands to be blown about my house as freely as possible. But I refuse to blown off my feet by any.”

Kwame Nkrumah of Ghana led the freedom struggle in his colonised country by following Gandhian methods, “I described Positive Action as the legitimate and constitutional means…. Non-cooperation based on the principle of absolute non-violence as used by Gandhi in India.”

Lech Walesa, the Polish leader of the movement called, “Solidarity” and future President mentions Gandhiji several times in his autobiography, “The Struggle and the Triumph”. I met him in Warsaw and in New Delhi, when he paid a state visit to India.

How do I see the future of India? Unlike the chronic pessimists and congenital grumblers, I am confident of a brighter future for our country. India will become a world power, working in a balanced way for the establishment of world peace and goodwill. Poverty will become a memory and so will joblessness. It goes to the credit of the Narendra Modi government that not a single serious communal riot has occurred in the past decade.

I do not have time for those of our countrymen and women who rush to the United States. After completing their education a majority accept the status of second class citizens. One or two make it to State Legislatures or House of Representatives. Some succeed in business, but Mother India is no longer a priority. They encounter not so subtle racism and put up with it.

Some even acquire various kinds of accents, which sound phoney and grating. They have made their choice. Good luck, but no respect from this corner. Indian I was born and Indian I shall die.

K Natwar Singh

Kunwar Natwar Singh, IFS is an Indian diplomat and politician who served as the Minister of External Affairs from May 2004 to December 2005. Singh was selected into the Indian Foreign Service in 1953.

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