The three measly bullets that penetrated the body of Mahatma Gandhi on the evening of 30th January 1948, befell the grand pillar of resilience and non-violence that released the nation from the shackles of the British Raj. The dichotomy of an act of violence culminating presumably the greatest act of non-violence (the life of Gandhiji) sheds light on the disparity that has plagued the nation from the onset of its controlled rule. But Bapu and his commissaries conceptualized principles of secularism that have forged the modern nation of India. Albeit the upholding and execution of these principles over time is subject to question. The nation looks to commemorate the sacrifices of the great pillars that paved the way for its prosperity by celebrating the Martyr’s Day on the 30th of January 2021, marking 73 years of the demise of the father of our nation.
The central ministry of home affairs has through a letter instructed all the central and state ministries to uphold the annual ritual of observing 2 minutes of silence across all government departments and offices. The proceedings will commence at 11 am on martyr’s day, 30th January. The ministry has expressed its desire for the state/UT ministries to encourage public sector enterprises and educational institutions under their control to participate in the annual ritual. The letter also conveyed the encouragement to hold patriotic speeches, talks and associated convocations to be organized in hybrid mode, given the situation of the pandemic.
In India, six separate dates have been recognized as martyr’s day or “shaheed diwas”: 23rd March-the anniversary of the executions of Bhagat Singh, Sukhdev Thapar, and Shivram Rajguru by the British Government, 21st October- Police martyr’s day to commemorate the heroics of the CRPF patrol who were ambushed by Chinese forces at the Indo-Tibetan border in Ladakh in 1959, 17th November- Death anniversary of Lala Lajpat Rai, 19th November- Birth anniversary of Rani Lakshmi-Bhai (former ruler of Jhansi) And the 30th of January- the death anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi, which is recognized nationally as Martyr’s Day.
The gunshots fired by Nathuram Godse 73 years ago, sparked the wildfire of Hindu nationalism in India. Gandhiji was blamed by Godse and his comrades to have been harboring the Muslim community during the partition and was also attributed to be the sole reason for the atrocities that transpired during the partition. But in retrospect, the assassination of Gandhiji can be viewed to have stemmed out of systemic brainwashing, wherein extremist Hindu nationalists envision a majoritarian nation-state for India, which convolutes the secularistic umbrella devised by the Nation-builders in the form of Jawaharlal Nehru and Dr. B.R Ambedkar to encapsulate the country’s heterogeneous communities.
The invocation of the BJP government into the parliament in 2014 has openly brought about the propagation of the BJP’s brand of Hindu nationalism into the light. Which poses a threat to the country’s secularistic traditions. The most recent and prominent decisions by the government which sparked anti-secular sentiments include the passing of the Citizenship Amendment Act, under which religion is used as a basis for granting citizenship to refugees from neighboring countries, the implementation of the National Register for Citizens, which potentially could dislodge the citizenship of millions of Muslim families who have resided in India for many generations by classifying them as illegal immigrants and the passing of the Jammu and Kashmir Official languages bill of 2020, which has raised concerns of the upheaval of the Urdu language which has been followed as the traditional language in J&K for generations.
Cultural and communal disparities are products of systemic brainwashing which has stemmed out of controlled practices, practiced by different communities to prosper in the societies. But the politicization of these practices and faiths to establish power will lay siege to the communal harmony of our nation which will only result in the sacrifices made by the martyrs who shed their lives for our great nation to go in vain. Positive changes in the nation can stem from positive changes in the attitudes of its citizens and hence the martyrs of 2021 can be used to realize the secularistic traditions of India.
Written by Vishnu Menon
Image Credits: Wikimedia