Whose freedom are we celebrating?

What is likely to be forgotten is the promise embedded in the new land.


Rubina Saigol August 11, 2010

As August 14 rolls around, Pakistanis will witness yet another independence day steeped in the usual rituals of the nation state: the hoisting of the flag, national day parades, 21-gun salutes, loads of platitudes and clichés in print and the electronic media about the promised day, the struggles of Partition, the sacrifices given and the freedom gained.

As our nation prepares to once again remember itself and reiterate the story of its birth, what is likely to be forgotten is the promise embedded in the new land. That promise was freedom: freedom for each and every one of its citizens — whether men or women, Muslim or non-Muslim, peasant or worker — to live a decent life underscored by all the freedoms and rights that are guaranteed in modern states.

Today, August 11 marks the 63rd anniversary of the vision of the new state presented by MA Jinnah to the Constituent Assembly when he promised a land where people of all religions would be free to go to their respective places of worship, for religion has nothing to do with the business of the state. Yet, today Ahmadis are killed for professing their faith and Christians are murdered after false accusations of blasphemy based on draconian laws.

Pakistan today, radically different from the imagined one, has neither freedom of religion, nor freedom from religion. The citizens have been subjected to a narrow, literalist, fundamentalist and virulent version of imported religion and the views of one small sect are imposed violently on all citizens.  We imagined a modern parliamentary democracy and ended up creating a sectarian state, unsafe for anyone but those belonging to the favoured sect.

As a result, our right to life, the most basic of all rights, has virtually ceased to exist. Today, scores of people die every day in bomb blasts, suicide bombings, target killings and drone attacks. This in turn has robbed us of freedom of speech, expression and conscience. Anyone who protests against the policies that deprive people of basic rights is silenced, either by militants spread across our land or by the government clamping down on the media. The right to information is thus also compromised.

Instead of the usual rejoicing, celebration and self-aggrandisement that accompanies national days, it is time to reflect and engage in serious soul-searching about the kind of state we have created. The gulf between the dream and the reality is too wide to be ignored. Today, our life, liberty, property, children and our future are all at stake.

It is time for us to ask the question: whose freedom did we gain? Who attained independence? Did our women and minorities gain equal independence? Did our workers and peasants gain equal independence? Why are there laws today that discriminate between male and female citizens? Why are there laws that divide Muslim and non-Muslim citizens? Where is the security and the prosperity that was to underlie independence? An unequal independence is no independence. Until our women and minorities become equal citizens in every sense of the word, we remain bonded and our freedom is a mere illusion, a slogan to cover up the chains on our minds and bodies.

Published in The Express Tribune, August 11th, 2010.

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COMMENTS (20)

hakeem | 10 years ago | Reply @Aalok.. i dont knbow about how majority hindus behave with indian muslims in india but i can tell you how they behaved with me when we were working togather abroad just for example one of our collegues invited us on dinner for her promotion i was surprised to know that my other indian muslim collegue did not come why i found soon when i was eating meat and the host collegue objected that i should change my seat because another hindu collegue does not like seeing me eating meat i was stunned...yet another example the compound where my company gave me lodging i was first muslim rest there were indian and sirilankan hindus now i wasnt a very religious muslim but i used to offer Friday prayer and on one of these occassions i over heard on my back "who is this MUSLA" no doubt i had one hindu friend Vinod Singh who had no religious bias but many couldnt conceal their hatered. Back to my Indian Muslim Collegue he belonged to south india and he used to say that in his part of india seldom riots occur but still he kept distance from his indian hindus i observed that whole his social circle comprised of indian muslims and he some times subtly mentioned his hatered towards hindus. My point is that friction is there. @All Pakistanis its pointless to debate that whether pakistan should have been created or not.. even worst of the oponents of Pakistan like Maulana Azad said that pakistan after its creation is a reality and now afforts shall be made for its prosperity. Lets build a pakistan where we can show indian majority how to treat minorities a pakistan where religion is not base of discrimination. Pakistan Zindabad
Aalok | 10 years ago | Reply I do not know why many of pakistani citizen have the impressions that in India Muslims are constantly treated like animals. Let me give my own example. I grew up in a Himalayan state of India namely Uttarakhand. My father was a teacher in a remote area. A road to my village is still under progress. Many of my class mates in school were Muslims, I still have sweet memories of those (Akhtar/Shamim/Shamshad etc). After completing my schooling my hometown in year 1997 I left my place & came to Chandigarh near Punjab in 2000 to study for graduation. I still had many Muslim students along with me. Then I got selected in a entrance test pursued my Masters in computers at Nainital till 2004 & finally got my first job in Delhi. Now I am 29, having worked for 6 years since then. Many of my college were/are Muslims. I am in USA for some time. My company that sent me here has a Muslim CEO. The team lead under which I joined the company was a Muslim. More than 25% of the employee in my company in India are Muslim. I am here in USA but my manager is an Indian Muslim. I never had any issues with any of them. They were my class-mates/team-mates/seniors at different interval of time, we never had any issue. Though I am a vegetarian but many other Hindus of my team loved to eat biryani that our team lead web-designer(a muslim) used to bring on muslim festival. We enjoyed Holi festival together. Today when I have got some experience in my field(IT) I also try to reach out the fresher Muslim technocrats that join our company or social circles. I elated to see many Muslims in India taking good positions in IT & other fields. And yes pictures has not been this rosy all other places. We have had communal riots in Gujarat elsewhere. I was also shocked/anguished on Gujarat govt. I did my bit, since then I have not voted to BJP. But these acts of communal forces(Bal thackery/Vishwa Hindu parishad and many more) are known to the world out but the huge silent community which is the unsung soul of the nation is not discussed. I have given my own example here from a common Indian's perspective.
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