Delhi nowadays resembles a city under siege. Armed security personnel everywhere, fingers lightly placed on the trigger. This is no security drill. As 15th of August 2005 draws near, every citizen is a suspect. I can’t venture out at night without being frisked. Is this the freedom our forefathers had dreamt about? Those momentous words of Jawaharlal Nehru, “At the stroke of the midnight hour, when the world sleeps, India will awake to life and freedom,” hold very little significance. Life halts and individual freedom is curtailed.

When I was a little child I couldn’t comprehend the meaning of the word ‘independence.’ And when I did, militant organizations called for a bandh on every Independence Day. I couldn’t venture out of my own home. Our school and many others in the hill city of Shillong held the Independence Day celebrations one day in advance. Which ironically coincided with Pakistan’s independence day (India’s estranged sibling).

In 2001 when I visited Sanchi, a small town in central India (a prominent Buddhist pilgrimage) was the only time my conscious mind could feel ‘free’ on Independence Day. When will the time come when the cities of modern India will be as free as the small towns and villages of the interiors? When will school kids in Jammu and Kashmir and the North East unfurl the national flag on the 15th of August without any fear and apprehension? When will come the day when I don’t have to frantically search for my identity card the moment I see a man in uniform eyeing me? When can I live my freedom?

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