Categorized | Independence Day

The Meaning of Independence

Posted on 14 August 2013 by admin

Kabeer Sethi

Toronto

Independence as a concept is difficult to define.

August 14th and 15th will mark the 66th anniversary of independence for Pakistan and India respectively. A time of reflection and pride for both nations. However, it is important to note that such freedom came at a tremendous loss of human life and a divide that still echoes across both countries. It is this very bittersweet nature of obtaining independence that has forever intertwined the destinies of India and Pakistan.

The aftermath of World War 2 was nearly as volatile for the British Empire as the war itself. With depleted funding and a weary army, they were faced with an enormous task in keeping India. For years prior to the war, India had been non-violently resisting and boycotting British rule. Led by Mahatma Gandhi, this revolutionary movement known as Satyagraha led to increased pressure upon England to relinquish their rule. Muslims were insisting on a land of their own, and eventually a treaty was signed that would declare India and Pakistan as separate, sovereign nations.

The decision was met with bitter communal riots and uproar. An estimated 500,000 Hindus, Muslims and Sikhs died during this period, though many studies put the number of casualties well in the millions. Nearly 30 million people were left homeless, while many were trapped behind and separated from loved ones. This dark period is referred to as Partition, and its effects are felt to this day. Independence during the initial years was a bloody struggle as the new countries sought to establish an identity and a working system.

It is this grim beginning that makes what followed all that is more remarkable. India became the world’s largest democracy, a title it still holds. Both countries established themselves as nuclear states and continue to offer top-level engineers, scientists and technology professionals to the world. In a relatively short span of time, both countries have managed to forge their place in the world and command international acclaim and respect. The journey is far from over, and both nations face challenges of high populations, illiteracy and poverty.

However, at this point in history, a generation of citizens can look back and reflect on the true ideal of independence, a concept that thousands gave their lives to uphold. The 66th anniversary is special, because it is at this point when both countries are trying harder than ever to mend ties and celebrate their similarities rather than fight over their differences.

Those who sacrificed themselves envisioned a free land for the coming generations. The bloodshed and horror of the struggle should never be forgotten. On this special occasion members of both communities should feel pride and raise their respective flags high. However, they should also reflect on the martyrs and freedom fighters that came before in order to truly understand the meaning of independence.

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