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Does Young India take its independence for granted?

Last updated on: August 15, 2013 14:30 IST

Does Young India take its independence for granted?

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Paloma Sharma

Judge us not and do not appropriate our struggle. Instead stand and fight with us, says 18-year-old Paloma Sharma to the older generation that almost always dismisses her own.

Independence Day has long been associated with the Tricolour, re-runs of Sunny Deol's Gadar and our grandparents' stories of the struggle for independence.

Though enthralling, these stories usually ended with a single comment about how today's young people take their freedom for granted.

It is true that for a generation which has only heard or read tales about the freedom struggle of 1947, Independence Day often passes as just another holiday for a few of us. However, contrary to popular opinion, a majority of the youth of India do realise the importance of the sacrifices that our predecessors made for us to be able to walk into any public establishment without having to read something along the lines of, "Dogs and Indians are not allowed."

With 50 per cent of India's 1.21 billion people being under the age of 25, it is not surprising that India's youth figure as an important vote bank for the 2014 general elections. What will swing the youth vote is still a partial mystery. Aside from education and employment, what do the youth want? How do we define patriotism? What does freedom mean to us?

To understand the average young Indian it is important to realise that young people are not a monolithic group. We are as diverse as the nation's population and a lot of times, the only thing that brings us together, other than our age, is the fact that we are Indian.

While it is not entirely false that some of us are neither aware nor bothered about the state of the nation, it would be unfair to start off with the 'aaj kal ke bacche' diatribe every time the youth and their contribution to post-Independence Indian society are mentioned in the same breath.

From the JP movement of 1974 to the recent fervent protests against the brutal gang rape of a physiotheraphy student in Delhi on the 16th of December, 2012, young Indians have been there on the front lines to fight for a better tomorrow.

On a more personal level, all you have to do is walk into a college or university nearest to your home and have a look at the young people enthusiastically engaged in the NSS and the NCC's activities. There is a dream, a vision for India and there is a maddening hunger to see it come true.

Yes, it is true that young Indians today do not face an oppressive tyranny under the British but we are facing an oppressive tyranny under a native government. Privileges that once depended on the colour of one's skin now depend on the colour of one's cash. Atrocities against women and children are on the rise. The fourth pillar of democracy is standing on severely shaky ethical ground. Corruption is the new Simon and it just won't go back.

No, our war for independence is nowhere as bloodied or as glorious as that of our grandparents. Yet, it is an important war all the same; and a whole lot of us are fighting it with ink, microphones and social media.

I won't say that our generation is the most sincere in its efforts because I do not have a standard to judge ourselves against. Yes, we have our fair share of rotten apples. Yes, we don't always make the most rational of decisions; and no, we are not perfect at all. But we, just like you or your parents before you, have our minds set on a truly free nation where not one person shall have to fear either their fellow citizen or their government; where freedom of speech will be as sacred as God, if not more.

The young Indian today is often accused of being interested only in television, films and acquiring the latest mobile phones -- I can only call it a cynical view, at best, the likes of which are not going to hold us down.

The Indian youth is fighting against corruption and, violence against women and children; for equal rights for our differently-abled brothers and sisters; for inclusive classrooms and equal opportunity employment; for the end of the rural-urban divide; for farmers, soldiers, teachers and honest bureaucrats; and against a totalitarian regime; and it doesn't take a genius to figure out that we cannot do this alone. We need our elders to guide us (but not appropriate our struggle).

So instead of judging us young people, we ask you to stand and fight with us. Begrudge us not our privileges but point us to the light at the end of this dark tunnel that we've all been trudging on in. It's about damned time that we got there.

Does Young India take independence for granted? Post your views below!


Image: Young India is fighting its own War of Independence, says Paloma Sharma
Photographs: Abhishek Mande/Rediff.com