Vol. XL No. 33 August 14, 2016

INDEPENDENCE DAY: Resolve to Fight Neo-Liberalism and Communalism

INDEPENDENCE Day on August 15 is an occasion to commemorate the epochal freedom struggle against British rule which saw the participation of millions of people across the length and breadth of the country. It is an occasion to pay homage to the tens of thousands who laid down their lives for the cause of freedom. August 15, this year, marks the beginning of the 70th year of Independence. The road travelled in these seven decades of independent India is marked by the relentless quest of the Indian people to lead a life of dignity, free from poverty, economic and social exploitation. It is a quest that remains to be fulfilled. This Independence Day anniversary was preceded by another kind of anniversary. This was the completion of 25 years of liberalisation which began in 1991. For the big business, corporates and the ruling circles, this was the dawn of another kind of “freedom”. The process of liberalisation and neo-liberal reforms initiated an era of “freedom” to loot the resources of the country; privatise the basic services catering to the people and the “freedom” to maximise profits at the expense of the people. These 25 years of rightwing neo-liberal reforms have resulted in a sharp increase in social and economic inequalities which have undermined the popular aspirations underpinning independence. The neo-liberal ideology has corroded the social fabric and exacerbated caste and communal identities. It has fuelled the rise of the Hindutva forces. The increasing burdens of price rise, unemployment and the threats to the livelihood of workers, peasants and other sections of the working people are a result of the aggressive pursuit of neo-liberal policies. The growing attacks on religious minorities, dalits and adivasis and the divisiveness in society are an outcome of the assault of the Hindutva forces. India’s independence was a product of the anti-imperialist nationalism which reached its high watermark in the 20th century. The Hindutva brand of nationalism has no moorings in anti-imperialism, rather it is its antithesis. The RSS and other communal organisations stood outside the mainstream national movement. That lineage is visible today in a glaring manner with the BJP-led government in office. The two years of the Modi government have eroded national sovereignty and the independent basis of foreign policy. The Modi government is poised to sign the Logistics Exchange Memorandum of Agreement (LEMOA) with the United States. This will allow the US armed forces to access and use Indian military facilities on a permanent basis. This is nothing but bartering the independence and sovereignty of the country to an imperialist power. While we observe Independence Day, it is a sobering thought that vital sections of the people of the country are facing brutal repression, or, are agitating for their rights. The people of Kashmir have plunged into a mass revolt against the Indian State; all over the country, dalits are protesting the atrocities unleashed against them in the name of the sacred cow. The shooting down of five adivasis including three women and a two-year old child, a month ago, branding them as Maoists in Kandhamal district in Odisha, is a chilling reminder of the war declared on the adivasi people by the State which is bent upon snatching away their lands and forests. Independence is thus threatened by the rampaging forces of neo-liberalism and communalism. The pledge to be taken this Independence Day is to resolve to defeat these rightwing forces. This should pave the way for fulfilling the authentic goals of the freedom struggle – for a free, democratic, secular and exploitation-free society. (August 10, 2016)