Indian Independence Day

Today is 69 years since India gained its independence from the British Empire.

On this day, everyone in the Liberal Democrats will send warm wishes to our friends in India and the other countries of the Indian sub-continent that were created when British rule ended.  We restate that our friends and neighbours of Indian, Pakistan, Bangledesh, and Sri Lankan heritage in Britain are welcome and valued members of our society, as are people of all heritages.

The struggle for self-rule in India was long and hard.  As Liberals, we recognise and share the deep, basic, natural desire for freedom that drove men and women such as the Salt Marchers at Dandi (who made their own salt rather than comply with an exploitative British monopoly).

We are inspired by wisdom of Mohandas Gandhi, who reminds us that “simply experimenting with the truth” can tear down walls of oppression of any type.

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An article, “What It Means To Be Independent” in today’s Hindu newspaper reminds us that there is nothing inherently incompatible with liberalism and national pride.  But that hyper-nationalism destroys the very liberty that national movements have from time to time won:

The hyper-nationalism witnessed in India in recent times is not the nationalism of our freedom struggle. It misuses nationalism, which has a positive connotation in the minds and hearts of the Indian people, to polarise, to divide, and to suppress individual freedoms. How can this be the genuine article? Our nationalism is meant to unite, to harmonise, to guarantee freedom of speech, freedom of the press, freedom of association. I particularly want to draw attention to the issue of civil liberties, as this is one of the strongest elements in the legacy of the freedom struggle which is under grave threat today. Witness the reckless use of Section 124-A to charge students with sedition, with vigilantes attacking even journalists inside law courts, with books being withdrawn and pulped, with Ministers attempting to terrorise dissenting intellectuals by labelling them as ‘intellectual terrorists’, with gau rakshaks physically attacking those who they think are flouting their diktats, especially if they belong to the Dalit or minority communities. These attacks on freedom of expression, of movement, on freedom to eat and earn your livelihood, bring home to us the urgent necessity of resisting these attacks, and that can only be done by defending civil liberties, by defending this legacy as an integral part of our nationalism, and by declaring these attacks as anti-national. To do so, we need to arm ourselves with greater knowledge about how the battle for civil liberties was linked to our national struggle. I offer some examples below.

In fact, the leaders of the freedom struggle believed so strongly in the absolute right to freedom of expression, including freedom of the press, that they considered the struggle for these civil liberties to be an essential part of the national movement. Almost half a century before anti-imperialist nationalist ideas begun to emerge, Raja Rammohan Roy, often called the Father of Modern India, as early as 1824 protested against a regulation restricting the freedom of the press. In a memorandum to the Supreme Court, he argued for “the unrestricted liberty of publication” to ensure that every individual could bring his views to the notice of the rulers.

Modern India is thoroughly engaged with the international community.  It sometimes has difficult relations with Pakistan, China, Russia and other neighbours.  It’s political system is under strain.  Corruption calls into question the reality of democracy and ideals of those who won independence just as those ideals are threatened by some in modern Britain.

But to all the people in India and of India, Liberal Democrats will say we are pleased and proud to be your friends and people in Britain hope to work with you to build a twenty-first century with truth, justice and freedom for everyone in the world.

 

* Antony Hook was #2 on the South East European list in 2014, is the English Party's representative on the Federal Executive and produces this sites EU Referendum Roundup.

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14 Comments

  • Richard Underhill 15th Aug '16 - 6:58pm

    Maintaining British rule would not have been desirable or possible, but we should recognise what Mahatma Gandhi was trying to achieve at that time. The widespread perception that he had been killed by a Muslim was uninformed and incorrect. The number of people killed at partition was 1-2 million, which should sadden us all.
    Pandit Nehru’s eloquent speech “at the stroke of the midnight hour” was occasioned by the different dates.
    http://www.timeanddate.com/holidays/india/independence-day 15 August
    http://www.timeanddate.com/holidays/pakistan/independence-day 14 August
    Bangladesh separated from West Pakistan.
    https://simple.wikipedia.org/wiki/Independence_Day_of_Bangladesh 26 March
    Ceylon became Sri Lanka
    When David Davis or Boris Johnson try to negotiate a trade deal with India they should recognise India’s geographical, cultural and religious diversity.
    http://www.timeout.com/sri-lanka/things-to-do/68th-independence-day-of-sri-lanka 4 Feb

  • Interesting that, in common with all the other nations that have gained independence from Westminster rule, the Indian subcontinent nations have faced many problems and challenges. But no matter how difficult they found those challenges, none these nations have asked to go back to being ruled from London.

    Better together? They don’t think so.

  • Very good article, very liberal sentiment.
    Why does the party choose to take a different stance toward self determination in Scotland?

  • That ex-Liberal Winston Churchill didn’t exactly distinguish himself in India when he said, “they are helpless children who will “willingly, naturally, gratefully include themselves within the golden circle of an ancient crown”.

    Of Mahatma Gandhi launching a campaign of peaceful resistance, Churchill said, he “ought to be lain bound hand and foot at the gates of Delhi, and then trampled on by an enormous elephant with the new Viceroy seated on its back.” As the resistance swelled, he announced: “I hate Indians. They are a beastly people with a beastly religion.”

    In 1943 a famine broke out in Bengal, caused – as the Nobel Prize-winning economist Amartya Sen has proved – by the imperial policies of the British. Up to 3 million people starved to death while British officials begged Churchill to direct food supplies to the region. He bluntly refused. He raged that it was their own fault for “breeding like rabbits”. At other times, he said the plague was “merrily” culling the population.

    Barack Obama had it returned to Britain. It’s not hard to guess why: his Kenyan grandfather, Hussein Onyango Obama, was imprisoned without trial for two years and was tortured on Churchill’s watch, for resisting Churchill’s empire.

    It still goes on today. Boris Johnson who regards himself as Churchill’s successor. says he has no regrets about claiming that Barack Obama’s “part-Kenyan” heritage had driven him towards anti-British sentiment.

  • Sorry, missed out……… Barack Obama returned a bust of Churchill from the Oval Office to Britain

  • Daniel Walker 16th Aug '16 - 9:18am

    @Al: Impressive use of false equivalence there. India, Pakistan and Bangladesh did not enter the British Empire voluntarily, had little-to-no say in its workings and they had no right to leave, none of which are true of the UK’s membership in the EU.

    Also worth noting that all three remain part of the Commonwealth.

  • @Daniel Walker – and as has been shown and talked about Article 50 the EU was designed so no one should leave it or at least find it difficult.

    In the end the legalese politics of the LIberal Democrats will go down in flames. People want to know what they are getting for their alliances and whether they can get a better deal elsewhere.

    It’s weird that the Lib Dems don’t say that the Indians should have had a referendum – perhaps if they’d elected to stay with the British they should have had a second referendum? Or have a second referendum if they’d opted for independence.

  • Daniel Walker 16th Aug '16 - 10:40am

    @jane “Not expecting anyone to use it” is not the same as “not accepting that it should exist” – no-one, as far as I know, has suggested that the UK does not have a right to leave the EU. They just didn’t expect that anyone would want to.

    And we do know what we get from our alliance, the texts of the various treaties are not secret, and there isn’t a better deal elsewhere.

  • Richard Underhill 16th Aug '16 - 11:41am

    Sorry I left out Burma/Myanmar which had been occupied by Japan and wanted at the time to do the opposite of what India did in respect of the Commonwealth.
    Rarely mentioned these days but one of the problems with the application by PM Harold MacMillan to join the EEC was the continued existence of British (and French) empires. The Falklands and Gibraltar and numerous islands around the world continue to depend on relations with the UK. In the EU referendum Gibraltar voted heavily to Remain and now has a problem. In the European Parliament it is represented as part of a constituency in the south west of England.

  • I find it curious that while India and Pakistan both became independent on 15th August 1947, India’s Independence Day is on 15th August each year and since 1948 Pakistan’s is on 14th August each year. It is also interesting to note that while both countries started from roughly the same economic position, their current day prosperity is significantly different.

  • Jayne Mansfield 16th Aug '16 - 6:41pm

    I agree with Anthony Hook, but in my opinion, one of the best ways to support India, and Indians in both India and the diaspora, is to remain supportive of justice for the scheduled castes and tribes in India , and in the UK, remain vigilant that caste discrimination remains an unaltered part of our anti- discrimination legislation.

  • Richard Underhill 16th Aug '16 - 7:55pm

    Gerry M “India and Pakistan both became independent on 15th August 1947”.
    No, they did not, see above, hence Nehru’s speech. Astrology was a factor.

  • Richard Underhill “No, they did not, see above, hence Nehru’s speech.” I am a philatelist and recalled related independence stamps issued during the George VI era which showed both India and Pakistan initially using the 15th of August as Independence Day. However, your correction is true (see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Independence_Day_(Pakistan) ). Please accept my apologies.

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