‘Irrespective of ideologies, we all support Constitutional freedom’
On the eve of 72nd Independence Day of India, Prathmesh Patil talks to representatives of various student organisations in the city about what freedom means to them and what kind of country they envisage India should become.
The representatives in the debate - Ajay Rahulwad, Ganesh Ghansawant, Vaishnavi Bagade - Ambedkar Students Organisation (ASO), Satish Gore - National Students Union of India (NSUI), Anil Thombare, Yogeshwar Rajpurohit - Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP), Ganesh Nagargoje, Akshay Raghatwan -Students Federation of India (SFI) and Sameer Shaikh - Satyashodhak Muslim Sanghatna (SMS).
ST: In times when definitions of everything have become vague and blurry and we are celebrating 72nd Independence Day, what does freedom mean to you?
NSUI: Since we gained independence, the ideal has always been that freedom is very fundamental to Indian democracy and it is for the betterment of poor and oppressed. Freedom of expression is most crucial, as without it, there is no democracy.
SFI: The definition of freedom changes from person to person. The freedom that we, the people sitting in a glass building sipping tea, are enjoying, is built on sacrifices of many. Freedom means democracy, fraternity and acceptance of criticism.
ASO: Babasaheb Ambedkar had clearly said that the Constitution will be of no use if it falls in the wrong hands. The basis of freedom is that every person in this country needs to be free and have the opportunity to grow from the position they are in. Until that happens, freedom is a mirage for the downtrodden.
SMS: As a Muslim youth, my idea of freedom begins from shirking off the baggage of partition. For me, freedom would be the opportunity to grow as a community without constant burden of proving commitments and not being treated with soft gloves either.
ABVP: The country was ruled so long by Congress. We think that freedom is based on values in the Constitution. Freedom of expression and others are good until they do not offend feelings of any community.
ST: Are the freedoms that we enjoy under some kind of stress today?
NSUI: Extremist persons of one kind of ideology are being supported by current government. There are killings of writers and rationalists like Gauri Lankesh, Pansare, Kalburgi. Our freedom is under attack in a way.
ASO: Education is getting beyond the reach of poor. From Gram Panchayats to Parliament, upper castes dominate. The Constitution was burned recently and only some people came forward to defend it. It comes to mind that freedom has not been achieved in totality yet and it was just a transfer of power. I as a Dalit, will still face discrimination.
SFI: People are being deemed anti-national just for raising issues. There are hate campaigns. The government accepts no criticism.
SMS: As I said earlier, the Muslims are stuck in a dichotomy. The right wing treats the community like a pessimist father, who only sees bad in them and the left-liberals treat the community like a doting mother, who never sees anything wrong in them.
ABVP: The first attack on fundamental freedoms of the country was made in 1975 when Indira Gandhi imposed emergency. Today, there is a cry that freedoms are under threat, but that is only by those who use the freedoms for harmful reasons.
ST: As student leaders today and political activists of tomorrow, what kind of India do you envisage? Do you stand by the values of sovereignty, democracy, socialism and secularism as stated in the Preamble?
SMS: I would like to see that people are offended less by religious feelings getting hurt and are more offended by Constitutional values getting hurt. I would want an India where people are not labelled anti-national for keeping their views.
NSUI: I would like to see an India where freedom is complete and interlinked with choice. Where no one is limited to their caste by forcing a profession on them and they have a right to mobility.
ASO: An ideal day would be when we learn to shake aside the ideologies or beliefs that we have been indoctrinated with and to listen to others and grow better.
SFI: Back in our villages, we greet everyone with a Ram Ram, but it is in stark contrast with Jai Shree Ram, as the latter is not inclusive. There should be a larger debate on employment, development and rights and duties and we should all arrive on a common understanding. There should be no hatred for each other and for that, the Constitution and the Preamble are the guidelines we adhere to.