We gained independence from the British 67 years ago but some of THE MOST BASIC PERSONAL FREEDOMS are still a far reaching concept in India. It’s so bad that we have accepted these CHAINS as an extension of us and our society. We sometimes name them as culture or more popularly Sanskar.
1. Freedom to love and marry the person of your choiceIt is trivial from the parliament perspective. Probably doesn’t even land in the list of priorities of our lawmakers. But does impact an individual’s life at least once. This is one of the most important decision you make – and carry it for the rest of your life. Yet, the sad fact is that still a very large percentage of young Indians have to marry the one that is chosen by their parents. Very Bollywood-ish right? But why let films and songs let trivialize this discussion?
And no, it’s not just a family matter which can be resolved through discussion – not in many cases. Honour is a big deal in India – and young generation (or women of all generations) is always expected to carry the burden of it. From emotional abuse to actual physical violence of real gory variety can be witnessed in many cases where mere the wish of choosing one’s life partner can land you on your funeral pyre.
And this is a pan India phenomena – you’ll find parents / relatives killing their own while being completely oblivious to the basic need of a free human to choose their life partner. One needs to be free from this to be truly free. One should have the right to make this basic decision. And elders shouldn’t be allowed to rule or ruin the lives of young adults in the name of honor or ego. Maybe the constitution can be explicit in declaring and executing this basic freedom.
2. Freedom to choose your religionThis is a big one – as a matter of fact, a worldwide movement is the need of the hour to redefine religion. Religion was probably born from the need of answering basic spiritual inquiry of the human mind. Like where did we come from, where are we going, what is the meaning of life and what happens after death etc etc. That is the crux of every religion.
What is practiced today in the name of organised religion hides these basic ideas below the layers of rituals, beliefs, myths, stories, preachings, rules, penalties and punishments. There’s so much discussion about these layers that the real meaning of religion and spirituality is completely lost. And all this because of the accident of birth. You don’t subscribe to a religious path because of it speaks to you at a spiritual level – you are simply born into it.
Why shouldn’t the modern democracies (and India being the largest and most diverse) explicitly ensure that choice of religion is presented to every individual. Why is one’s spirituality whole society’s business? Why aren’t modern constitutions mature enough to recognize this basic spiritual need of humanity to pick it’s own path?
3. Freedom to choose your clothesIf I’m not wrong this is probably the biggest problem for the half of the population of the world. Women. And India this has crossed all limits, probably not more than Islamic nations, but it’s still quite revolting. Moral preachers go to every length to try to cover up the last inch of exposed skin – that too in a hot country like India? Then there are rape apologists who are only talking for “women safety”. Yeah right!
You might not be the one suffering from this. But most women in India are still fighting the personal freedom battles to choose their clothes. I mean, you have to be a woman to understand this pain. I’ll go explicit while describing this … men don’t have an iota of a clue about how hard can it be for women to simply dress per society’s rules. There’s just so much discussion around women’s bodies as if the last exposed inch of skin would be the cause of some apocalypse.
If you’re a guy your legs, your chest, your waist is the last thought on your mind. You can simply wear your clothes and simply go about your work. You don’t have to worry about how deep the neck of your shirt is, or how much leg you’re showing, or should you bend while wearing that? The biggest one, will someone probably violate every orifice of your body if you happen to show some skin by accident. If you, a man, were to worry about these things constantly 24×7 would you call yourself free?
This is not just about clothes really. Society needs to become comfortable with the female form. Women would look like women no matter how they dress. Why when women constitute the half of the population, their bodies are still considered an anomaly? Yes, anomaly is the right word. Women’s legs look like women’s legs and women’s chest look like women’s chest. Why so much insistence on hiding them.
4. Freedom to choose one’s sexual orientationDoes homosexuality exist in animal world? Yes. Does homosexuality exist in human history? Yes. Is a large part of world population gay? Yes.
Keeping all these facts in purview – how are governments still able to argue against the basic human need to decide their sexual orientation. Why does the state feels need to dictate your behavior in your bedroom? This is like the govt owns your body. How can this be considered freedom even in the remotest sense?
Straight people are mainstream, apparently, and in majority. Off course they should be because sex does lead to procreation. But human relationships are not only about procreation – they are about love. And sex is also not just about procreation – it’s about pleasure too. Can the straight population claim that their mainstream bedroom activity is only about procreation but not about love and pleasure? No they can’t.
Then what is the government in denial about a large section of population and their needs? Why go to the extent of legally claiming them invalids for the most basic expression of their sexuality?
Would a man be comfortable if the the state forces him to live as a woman or else? Or, vice versa? Would s/he be able to choose their sexuality according to the law of the land?
These are big questions which need to be answered at constitutional level before any claims of free country are made.
5. Freedom from imposed morality in the name of cultureWhy should free people of a free country not have the right to choose their culture too? Why do strangers feel that they can butt their noses in other’s lifestyle and preach them the RIGHT INDIAN CULTURE.
Who defines Indian culture? One should ask this question before making claims about sanskar and sanskriti? Does history define it?
History has always been changing for India – our diversity is a proof of that. And who says one has to always look in the past for validation? As if our ancestors weren’t wrong about anything – whose bright minds brought us the barbaric concepts like Sati Pratha?
When the constitution grants freedom – it grants freedom to every individual separately. It doesn’t say that these group or ethnicity has these set of rules and boundaries. Then who are these culture and sanskriti watchdogs telling people how to live their lives?
“This is against Indian Culture” … we hear it all the time in India.
Wearing jeans, visiting pubs, drinking alcohol, wearing bikinis, cutting cakes, premarital sex – cultural watchdogs don’t agree with so much. What have they replaced the British in modern India? British too didn’t allow us to make something as basic as salt.
In a free society it’s the people who decide the culture and not the other way around. Culture is not a hard written book of codes which need to be imposed by random people, or even the government. For example if a number of Indian people like to visit pubs and drink alcohol – then it is a part of Indian Culture NOW – BECAUSE INDIANS ARE PRACTICING IT. Good or bad, they’re exercising their natural freedom. You personally may not approve of it but that is your problem. Nobody is forcing you to do anything against your wishes.
You can define morality for yourself, may be for your children within legal means – but that’s where it ends.
You can’t blame the government for these entirely because our constitution does ensure these social freedoms in word if not explicitly. Though, government should work harder towards explicitly defining and ensuring these most basic freedoms. Still the constitution and law don’t form our point of views. At some level, we need to free each other of these chains; and you can start from within your families.
We did gain the independence when British exited India on 15th Aug 1947. But that was just the end of dependence on the British. Freedom on the other hand is a continuous process. And we’re all a part of it.