Bharat will celebrate its 75th year of independence shortly. At this juncture, it is crucial for us to revisit the whole idea of a ‘Bharatiya’ freedom movement from the perspective of Swa (our) which, if explained and explored well, will be deeply inspiring for the masses of this country.
Political and economic exploitation or religious conversion and, most important of all, Partition of Bharat were all attempts by erstwhile colonial rulers through organised attempts to dilute the idea of Swa. The freedom struggle was not only for freedom from political and economic exploitation from these colonial masters but also a fight to rediscover the lost Swatva in its real sense.
This 75th Independence Day celebration is also a great opportunity for all of us to refine and reinvent our lost ‘collective truth’ about the whole narrative of the freedom struggle to explore and acknowledge its unsung heroes as well as to change our perspectives so as to analyse our past and collective identity.
The British ruled Bharat for about 200 years. The exploitation of the Bharatiya people and the Bharatiya economy by the British made Bharatiyas realise the need for a united effort to drive the British out of Bharat. So, when we celebrate the 75th year of independence, it is imperative that we understand how we raised our voices against the British and what sacrifices were made by our country to free it from foreign rule.
It is a fact that the Bharatiya people never accepted foreign domination without resistance. Since the 15th century, there had been a number of popular protests in different parts of Bharat by peasants, workers, vanvasis, and others against the expansion of colonial rule. Their protests were no doubt localised and isolated, but they significantly contributed to the strengthening of voices against foreign rule.
During this long struggle for independence, our people fought for the idea of Swa. They believed that there would be no point in getting rid of the British without getting rid of the centralised, exploitative, and violent system of governance and the economics of greed it pursued. Sri Aurobindo and Mahatma Gandhi led this socio-philosophical construction with the idea of Sarvodaya, Swaraj and Swadeshi. The first concept in this trinity was Sarvodaya, the uplift of all. This includes the care of earth—of animals, forests, rivers, and the land. The second is Swaraj, or self-government. Swaraj works to bring about a social transformation through a smallscale, decentralised, self-organised and self-directed participatory structure of governance. It also implies self-transformation, self-discipline and self-restraint. Thus, Swarajis a moral, ethical, ecological and spiritual concept and method of governance.
The third in this trinity is Swadeshi, or local economy, which was an attempt to recreate the local demand and supply chains for local products and consumers. Earlier, the idea of Swadeshi was confined to economics but later it was used for socio-cultural aspects as well. If we closely observe the trinity (Sarvodaya, Swaraj and Swadeshi), there is a common root in all these three words and that is Swa.
If we expand the idea of Swa from the trinity (Sarvodaya, Swaraj and Swadeshi) we find that the colonial structure was a device to suppress this idea of Bharatiya Swa through various methods and techniques. An attempt was made to diminish the Bharatiya identity and self-respect of the people by the enforcement of foreign rule and foreign religion in the land of Ram and Krishna.
Bharat’s independence movement is one of the landmark movements in the world. It marks the end of hundreds of years of subordination and the reawakening of the national soul. Bharat was one of the first nations to regain independence from British colonial rule and thus served as an inspiration to other countries suffering under the yoke of colonialism. The movement was national in a true sense as it drew national fighters from diverse social backgrounds and across the Bharatiya subcontinent.
It is important to look at this colonialism from the perspective of religious-cultural imperialism imposed on the people of the East by the people of the West. The notion of racial superiority and the white man’s burden is conspicuous in various narratives of history which must be reinvestigated in the light of new findings.
We are celebrating this occasion of freedom for a larger cause, and we are also seeking this opportunity to emphasise and rediscover our own identity as a Rashtra which has been misrepresented and manipulated by a group of historians in independent Bharat.