Why I Refuse to Celebrate India’s Independence Day
I heard a sage say, “home is where my children and grandchildren are born and not where my parents and grandparents are buried.” As a hyphenated Indian-American, I often find myself questioning the idea of “home.”
Although I left India four decades ago, I am grateful for my Indian heritage. To this day I carry many fond memories from my childhood and many more profound values from my formative years in India. Yet, I refuse to celebrate India’s Independence Day, and here is the reason why.
The “secular India” that I knew has already lost its way. If not, it will lose it, if it does not quickly alter its course from the widespread acceptance of vile prejudice, contempt for rights, and glorification of violence toward others who too have called India their home for centuries. And that’s why I refuse to celebrate India’s Independence Day.
The value of “fellowship” that I learned from my teachers, neighbors, and friends (irrespective of their religion and ethnicity) nurtured a shared spirit of decency, mutual respect, and unconditional love for each other and the greater good. Today’s India is obliterating (if not already done) fellowship with bigotry, fanaticism, xenophobia, and intolerance, organized and institutionalized by the State. And that’s why I refuse to celebrate India’s Independence Day.
As a young man growing up in the “poetic India,” I would find myself overwhelmed watching my elders breaking down listening to the late Lata Mangeshkar serenading us with “Aye mere watan ke logo.” Lata-ji gave her melodious voice and eternal life to Kavi Pradeep’s spiritual lyrics for all of India’s children, however much some politicians and pundits of this day may believe otherwise. And that’s also why I refuse to celebrate India’s Independence Day.
I close with what I have started with. Although my children and grandchildren have been in the United States of America, I must remember to not forget the home of my parents and ancestors that is on fire!
(Syed is the Executive Director of South Asian Network, Artesia, CA)