BY Sarita Shandilya (Twitter: @saritashandilya)
As we are approach 15th August, 2023, it’s important to know what freedom means to young India and young diaspora as they will be the architects of the nation’s future. 15th August marks the anniversary of India’s independence. The young India and youth diaspora is a prized possession of not only India but of the world. Therefore, it’s important for us to know their perspective as a nation.
: India has come a long way in the past 75 years. Just as individuals grow old every year, so did India in 75 years. History is written afresh in 75 years, outlook changes in 75 years so does the meaning of independence over a period of time. The youth of today have a different perspective on independence compared to the youth of 1947. The meaning and impressions of the word have changed over time, with a time gap of over 75 years.
This raises the question: what does independence/freedom mean to the youth today?
Before brainstorming this question, it is necessary to understand the background and history. Independence Day is celebrated on 15th August every year to mark the end of the British Rule in India that lasted for 190 years. In 1947, India was declared a free country. In 2023, India will celebrate its 77th year as an independent nation.
The definition of independence has evolved over time. The Cambridge Dictionary describes independence as a word with multiple meanings in different scenarios that resonates with different people differently for various reasons:
- On a political level, Independence implies that a country or group of people are gaining freedom from a government or another country. We have seen this happen several times throughout human history. India’s declaration of independence from Great Britain in 1947 is a significant example of this. Thus began the 15th August celebrations for Indians.
- On the individual level, Independence also has emotional implications. It symbolises an individual’s complete freedom to be themselves, express their thoughts, make their own choices, and believe in their own beliefs without being influenced by others.
- For pre-teens, teenagers, and youngsters, Independence means trying new things, taking on more responsibilities, making decisions on their own, and discovering their identities. It is an essential part of their journey towards adulthood. Freedom was synonymous with Independence at one time but now, with the passage of time, freedom and independence mean different things to the youth. The youth of today, who did not witness the freedom struggle, have a unique interpretation of independence and mix up the personal with social.
- India will celebrate its Independence anniversary on 15th August 2023. “Nation First, Always First” is underlined as the Azadi Ka Amrit Mahotsav event organised by the Government of India which honours freedom fighters and celebrates the history, culture, and achievements of the nation. This event signifies the energy, inspiration, new ideas, and self-reliance that independence represents to young individuals.
One of the key objectives of Independence Day celebrations is to make our youth aware of the significance of independence and sacrifices made by our forefathers as freedom fighters. Therefore, it is important to understand the opinions of young Indians on the meaning of freedom and independence. Many young individuals shared their perspectives on independence. Their views include the ability to live life freely without fear, the responsibility to use independence for personal development while respecting the sovereignty of other nations, and the reassurance that they can solve their own problems. Independence also means living life on one’s own terms, expressing oneself freely, and having the liberty to choose. We tried to learn from some of the youngsters who are in the process of establishing and proving themselves in the world to carve a niche for them. The opinions of youngsters do count.
My question to them is-
- What does independence/ freedom mean to you?
They answered with multiple opinions-
- You can be free without necessarily feeling free. ‘Freedom to live life in its absolute fullness, without any fear, oppression, or manipulation is what true independence is for me,’ says Sunita, a young housewife.
- Independence is an opportunity that we’ve got after a long struggle. So, it’s our duty to use it for our development. ‘Independence is our achievement and honour and we should treat it with respect’ is what Asha, a literature student, opined.
- ‘Independence reminds me that no matter what problem comes my way, I will always have the power to sort it out myself. It’s the reassurance that I can solve my own problems’ is what Raju, a young social worker, expressed.
- Being able to live my life by my understanding and not be bogged down by societal norms and shackles is independence for me. ‘Living my life my way with my satisfaction is what independence means for me,’ Vinita, a college student emphasises.
- There are too many laws and obligations, so independence to me would be being able to do what I want, whenever I want and express my opinions freely. ‘If I can display my art in whichever manner I want, without any obligation to satisfy rules, is independence. We can say I don’t have to ask for independence is what Independence means to me,’ Rekha, a young banker says.
- ‘Independence or Freedom for me is to be able to express myself without being judged by my religion, to believe in the right things and to be free from unwanted pressure from society,’ feels Renu, the Insurance agent.
- ‘Living life on your own terms without thinking what people are going to say. Doing all you want but also realising responsibilities. Freedom to me is the independence to choose my life partner and course of life without anybody’s interference,’ says Nirmal, a Start-up owner.
- ‘In my personal life, I visualise independence as the ability to think and act freely without being excessively reliant on others. Not to be bound by shackles in the process of thinking and doing is at the core of independence for me. It comes with being self-reliant along with having some level of inter-dependence within a society. Thus, to me, being free is having individual freedom along with a collective identity,’ asserts Devanshee, an upcoming lawyer.
- Nishit, a young and fresh Chartered Accountant says, “Independence in this new age will always be a chase. Dependence in itself is not a bad thing. We’ve built civil societies after many years of evolution, which has made us dependent on one another. Rather, freedom is something that I always strive for, which is a state of mind.”
- Soumya, a Psychology student, opines strongly what Independence means to her, “Being a female residing in a Tier-3 North Indian town, I’ve visualised independence as the ability to exist, which is no less than a privilege and comes with its conditions attached. Personally, Independence could mean anything from roaming in a city without thousands of barriers to commenting and expressing dissatisfaction freely without any worries of harassment/troll. It also means openly disagreeing with राजा बोला रात है…यह सुबह-सुबह की बात है’ line and sleep peacefully in independence.”
- Isha, a Sociology student, beautifully puts what Independence means to her. “It is to take responsibility for your actions and be aware of their consequences, be brave and take the risk of trusting only yourself. Independence for an individual and for me is just like to choose your own desire freely, you are not in any type of restrictions like do this, don’t do this. There are such restrictions which parents often put on their children. Somewhere some type restrictions are good but when they come to interfere with your personal happiness, they are not independence. So, basically independence means you have your choice to choose your personal desire freely.”
- Sakshi Sinha, an upcoming politician, adds “As a young generation of India, I feel Independence is not about getting freedom from the Britishers but it’s also about getting freedom from the mental orthodoxy. Now as a young Indian, real Independence is when I don’t have to ask the shopkeeper to put the sanitary napkins into the black poly bags or to cover it with paper; or as girls we are not expected to like pink colours, barbie dolls, kitchen sets, etc.”
- Ishita, a Commerce student, expresses herself, “Independence means to be able to achieve any situation and be able to satisfy our needs. Be able to handle our life problems. Be able to take care of ourselves without being dependent on others. Enjoy your life with your own choice. Be able to handle the responsibility of our life. If we are able to do these things, it means we are really independent. We don’t have to be dependent on others.”
Taking all these opinions into consideration, and many more not quoted, Independence for most young Indians is about having the freedom to achieve their goals and handle life’s multiple challenges independently. It is about being able to make decisions and live life as they desire while respecting the rights of others. The youth play a crucial role in shaping the future of India. Their opinions on the meaning of independence and their pride in the nation are diverse and varied. Many young Indians identify themselves with the unsung heroes and ordinary people who sacrificed everything for the sake of nation’s freedom. They take pride in India’s achievements, such as its space missions, diversity, military strength, and being the world’s largest democracy. They are more determined than ever to shape the country’s future by being the change themselves. Recent elections witnessed tremendous participation by the youth, fearlessly voicing their opinions. Given the change in the country, it seems natural to know what independence means to young India, on this special day. Needless to say, their opinions shape the future.
Young Indians are concerned about issues such as corruption, misuse of power, communalism, ignorance, indifference, and the need for improvements in the education system and law enforcement. They believe in gender equality and express their patriotism through songs and movies. Although India’s youth may fall into different categories such as –
- educated vs uneducated,
- male vs female,
- employed vs unemployed,
- privileged vs underprivileged, or
- employable vs unemployable,
they all desire personal, social, and economic independence, along with the freedoms that come with it. They are equally conscious about society and nation also. Overall, the youth of India are determined to bring about change and shape the future of the nation. Understanding their perspectives on independence is crucial in building a better India. For young Indians their icon and pride and reasons for India’s independence are more elaborate.
- They identify more with the extremists of the freedom struggle, most of all with Bhagat Singh and Subhash Chandra Bose.
- For young Indians millions of Indians who sacrificed everything to attain freedom for the nation are the real icons, not any one person.
- The true icons of India’s independence are the unsung heroes, the huge masses of ordinary people who did not live their lives to give us freedom .
- The fact that we live with the neighbours who are Sikhs, Christians, Muslims, Parsis, Hindus and that I can relate with them and enjoy all cultures as much as mine.
- Their favourite songs are patriotic also. Their favourite movies are based on biographies. Their favourite literature about freedom struggle is sometimes not much elaborate as it is limited to movies and YouTube.
- Whenever they talk about India’s satellite missions they feel proud. The diversity of India, or largest democracy in the world and having the second largest pool of doctors and engineers makes them feel proud. They relate with NASA also.
They are also worried about the most serious threat to India in the current situation and they suggest the options to improve also. The meaning of freedom and independence is more self-centred than public issue. Still the awareness among the youth is visibly increasing, which can help in solving a lot of problems. For them the issues of concern and ways to improve are-
- Corruption is the biggest threat to the nation as it affects the economy.
- The misuse of power by politicians and authorities is the root cause of the poverty and inequality.
- Communalism is a red flag as all communities should have equal treatment.
- The ignorance and indifference of the knowledgeable educated citizens towards gender sensitization, rape conducts, caste discrimination , religious intolerance or the atrocities in any field is a matter of concern..
- The education system should improve and shall go work oriented. It has to be vocational.
- The law and order must punish the wrongs well in time irrespective of social status. Traffic Rules must improve.
- Gender equality, not just sheltering women and children but true equality, will solve many issues.
India’s youth is hungry for change in the independent India for personal-social-economic independence, and the freedoms that come with it. They are in the process of catching a holistic view and trying to connect personal with social. There is a ray of hope with various changes in the outlook with the youth of 1947. India has undergone significant changes in the years following its independence, and it is the constitution that informs us about our rights and duties along with freedoms. Initially, opportunities were limited, but after 75 years, there is a renewed sense of hope and optimism. The youth in India are filled with excitement and possibilities, especially in the realm of startups and entrepreneurship. One common criticism against the youth is that they take these freedoms for granted as they didn’t have to fight for them. However, this generation may not have the same attachment to the Indian independence movement as previous generations, but it doesn’t make them any less patriotic. Their freedom to speak, choose, and act to make the nation proud as Indian youth or young diaspora is their way of demonstrating their love for their country. The experiences they have and the choices they make shape their identity and contribute to their development of free India. We have to trust them as generations change and the change is the only constant. They are the future.
A man is made of his choices as they are free to choose, also a man is made up of his experiences and they are unshackled to experience their world. Being completely unshackled, the younger generation feels all the more chances to develop. Throughout history, India’s youth have been at the forefront of social change, from the JP movement in 1974 to recent protests in universities. They play a crucial role in shaping the future of the country. At least a new path is carved out to be tested with time.
Freedom is a subjective term. However, there are some common elements that resonate with the youth. These include the freedom of choice, the ability to live without fear, the absence of excessive bans, being accepted by society, and being comfortable in one’s own skin. A free man only can bring a change. The youth wants to feel free from the constraints of societal norms and expectations still they are conscious of their rights and duties, which makes them responsible.
The blanket meaning of the term is to be able to do what honourable citizens of a country would want to do. The current situation is such that the people of the country are not very satisfied with their level of freedom. The reasons for this dissatisfaction could be many like crime, corruption, gender inequality and various other things which help one person but suppress the rest of the nation.
India’s youth population and advancement in technology are significant factors in the country’s development. The energy and ideas of the youth, combined with the scale of digital services, contribute to the progress of society and the improvement of healthcare infrastructure. Technology, including artificial intelligence, blockchain, and cloud computing, can also address issues like climate change and waste management. They want to create a better future for themselves and their children. Independence is a cherished opportunity that their ancestors fought for, and they are grateful for the chance to lead independent lives. Ask the children of the GIRMITIYA population , they still remember how precious freedom or independence is for them . They have stories of their forefathers thus they value independence more.
Overall, the youth of India are eager to contribute to the nation’s progress. They come together to discuss, debate, network, and implement their ideas for a better India. Respectful of all religions, regions, and ideologies, they strive to create a society where everyone can achieve their dreams. On this Independence Day, the youth of India encourage everyone to share their thoughts on what independence means to them. It is a time to celebrate and reflect on the progress the nation has made 75 years after independence. Everyone can feel independent by having-
- Freedom to choose, with an eye on consequences. Going out late in the night or going for a run early in the morning, not all the citizens can enjoy this freedom in certain cities of the country. Other than that the choices that a woman makes or the choices that a man makes should not be the basis of judging the kind of people they are.
- To be free is to be fearless. Why there is fear of rape? Why are men scared of society? Why do women think twice before befriending a male? Why is travelling in taxis feared? Why is choosing the government not free? लोग क्या कहेंगे is the most feared slogan.
- Banning everything that the government finds inappropriate for the citizens of the country, without even consulting them, is not what the youth calls freedom. Like banning documentaries, books, organisations and movies will not help the country grow. One should discuss.
- Being accepted as we are by the society and the people around you is another form of freedom for the youth. They are being dismissed as they are under the western influence or they aren’t old enough to make choices for themselves. The youth want to break away from restrictions. Their choice of a partner, the work, the different opinions etc. are being denied globally either in family, society or nation.
- To be free is to be confident, to be sure of yourself and to be at a place where you are proud to be just you. The world may have a different opinion and that should not matter. Why should anybody have to prove that they love their motherland, their country, this love comes naturally.
Everybody in this country deserves to feel free and a Proud Indian at heart!l Youth has to Celebrate Independence Day with happiness.
As the Diaspora Indian Youth is concerned this year’s theme of Pravasi Bharatiya Diwas (PBD) was Diaspora: Reliable Partners for India’s Progress in Amrit Kaal. With 18 million Indian-born people living abroad, India has the world’s largest diaspora. Their children provide an important vision to engage and connect with the Indians and enable the diaspora to interact with each other. Over 3,500 diaspora members from nearly 70 different countries have attended the event and they include young diaspora. The duality of two opposite nations co-exists in India and this helps make the diaspora successful as they under their nation and also the country they live in. All this could open up investment corridors as India marks its 76th year of Independence this year. We strive to make India a better workplace through partnerships with countries like the US, Britain, Germany and a working holiday programme with Austria. Maximum nations are offering scholarships to attract young Indians. Roughly India has a young population, one-fourth are under 15 years of age and less than an eighth are over 60 years of age and a sizable amount comes from the young Indian diaspora.
- “The energy of the youth in India has led to the PBD’s theme, they have a key role to play in the country’s development,” said Dr S Jaishankar, Minister for External Affairs.
- Along with the youth population, India’s rapid advancement in technology could well be a case study. The scale of the country’s digital delivery of services is beneficial to society, as well as improved health infrastructure. “The rise of India could contribute to one-sixth of the world’s population. Technology makes our lives simple,” explained Anurag Singh Thakur, Minister of Youth Affairs and Sports.
- Artificial intelligence, block chain and cloud computing, can help tackle climate change and waste management. The technological solutions with their outcomes can activate generation X, generation Y and inspire the next generation, that’s generation Z or the next generation.
- For the Young Diaspora involvement “MP is home to 15,000 start-ups. For start-ups to innovate, their ideas should be encouraged and appreciated. A roadmap needs to be created for its execution and technology leveraged to scale and innovate and also to motivate next generation youngsters.,
- The food processing sector is being incentivised through financial assistance, and infrastructure development subsidy and this sector has many possibilities. MP is regarded as the food basket of India. It has bountiful land.
- As for the health sector, we have Pharma clusters. MP has woven a story of its own. It accounts for 43 per cent of India’s and 24 per cent of the world’s organic cotton production. All this in a nutshell.
For youth independence is Freedom of choice means that independence is something that affects their life from before the time their ancestors were born up until this very day. For me I try to build a better life for my children and to give them the independence that they deserve. Not a day passes by that I am not thankful for everything that my grandparents and parents have done to be able to provide me with the opportunity to be independent and build the life that I want in this country. We have opportunity and education to treat children with internal conflict. These children shall have the independence and freedom to achieve their dreams. We have political and personal implications to allow these children to find an outlet outside of their conflicts that give them a way to live their life free of influence and pressure with proper vocational education.
In a nutshell, Independence means having the freedom and the ability to take steps to better your future. Earlier, our families were never well off even though most of us are highly educated and talented. In British India the opportunities just weren’t there and that’s why we asked for independence. Now, we are given a chance, a chance to have a better education, a chance to have better work opportunities. This is the chance for freedom and independence 75 years after it.
So, what are you waiting for? start sharing your opinion about ‘What does independence mean to you?’
We hope you have a great 15th August and have fun celebrating this nation’s Independence Day!
A Proud Indian!