Saturday, January 26, 2019

Strengthening the Republic

If Independence Day was the birth of modern India, it is Republic Day that gave this birth a purpose, direction, and a soul. After the end of World War II, many countries attained independence, and democracy as a form of governance found its roots across the world. It very soon became the most legitimate and popular form of governance. However, the real challenge of building the nation was post-independence.

Across the world, independence was achieved at a high cost, after decades of struggle with the colonisers and with sacrifice by thousands of people. In India too, it was a hard-earned gift and valued by millions of citizens. People who led the independence movement saw these sacrifices as a part of their selfless service to the nation and its people. The movement nurtured a different breed of leaders, for whom nation building was the sole purpose of their life.

Millennials are born in a different age- for the most middle-class population that was born post-90s, freedom is a given fact and thus often taken for granted. It is a harsh truth that the current generation of Indians doesn't understand the gift of independence, and responsibility that comes with it.

It will be wrong if we only blame the millennials. Inspiration comes from role models in public leadership. Role models in 50s and 60s were leaders of independence, people who lived for the country and were willing to die for it. In the last three decades, there has been a severe dearth of role models in public life. For people like us who are born in mid-eighties, there was no one to look up to in our teenage except Atal Bihari Vajpayee, who valued dialogue, brought respect in politics. As a teenager, I was touched by his personality only to understand his politics as I grew.

Freedom fighters have played a big a role in educating masses. Mahatma Gandhi and Rabindranath Tagore used to write scathing articles criticizing each other's ideology, but had deep respect for each other. It was Gandhi who made sure that his favourite Andrews was there to take care of Tagore when he was not well and raised money for Shantineketan. The titles of Mahatma and Gurudev were given to the great men by each other. Last known respectful debates by political leaders were between Jawahar Lal Nehru and Jai Prakash Narayan about the flaws of democracy. These leaders knew that millions were reading their articles; these debates not only educated the masses but also kept the spirit of true engagement with national issues alive.

India has failed to inspire its current generation. In the last three decades, we haven't seen much of such written debates in the newspaper or respectful debates in parliament.India Against Corruption was a moment of awakening for many, but it's energy fizzled out. India lacks role models in public life who selflessly serve the nation. In a parliamentary democracy with a multi-party system, it is a shame that the nation starves for alternatives and doesn't have leaders to look up to.

Every generation has its own challenges and has to fight its own battles. As a higher percentage of our population is moving towards the upper middle class, and with basics taken care of, many of our young people are in pursuit of meaning in life and are choosing careers in the social sector. It is time that a significantly higher percentage join active politics- in any political party because we need good people everywhere.

India needs to end this leadership crisis in public space. The republic will be strengthened only if many more youth join active politics and lead the country through moral courage and imagination. Preserving the republic can be the highest tribute to makers of India and its constitution.

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