Beyond August 15

The 66th anniversary of Independence Day was a lacklusture event even by Congress standards. In his maiden address to the nation on the eve of Independence Day the newly elected President just issued a cautionary statement against the forces—implying possibly Anna Hazare and Ramdev—destabilising democratic institutions. This time democracy was the item song on August 15, not extremism or terrorism. In his view Parliament—the soul of Indian people—is under attack. Also, he opined, somewhat philosophically, in favour of a second freedom struggle to liberate the country from hunger, disease and poverty for ever. His predecessors talked of it many a time and yet millions are being forced to live in sub-human conditions. Problems for them are aggravated by galloping inequalities in the society, massive privatisation in the name of modernisation and reforms, the continual disappearance of communal property, economic migration, forced eviction, land speculation and climate change. But President has nothing to worry about as the so-called detractors of democracy have already fallen in line. They too are talking about ‘second freedom struggle’, whatever it means in the real world of deprivation and mass impoverishment. And their anti-corruption crusade has finally been transformed into a vague slogan of ‘defeat Congress’ in the coming general election.

This ‘second freedom struggle’, is a nice ploy to ‘confuse the confused’ as nothing of this kind will ever happen. What is meant by freedom is too cumbersome to be defined in the Indian context. True, some people enjoy freedom in every sphere as they have surfeit of democracy but most of the underprivileged will never get it. There are people, a tiny minority of the society, who enjoy enormous freedom in manipulating the market and violating the laws of the land with impunity. They don’t need a second freedom struggle. Those who really need freedom are being repressed by the state machinery whenever they show audacity to raise voice of dissent and defend freedom of speech.

Strangely enough, the presidential speech was conspicuously silent about the maoists, otherwise dubbed as the most destabilising factor in Indian democracy. Nor did he mince words to highlight the danger of cross-border terrorism originating from Pakistan. Terrorism, however, featured prominently in Pakistani army chief Parvez Kayani’s speech at an event at the Pakistani Military Academy, also to mark the 66th anniversary of their independence day.

Surprisingly, the strongman of Pakistan didn’t blame it on India for all the evils plaguing Pakistani society. He reiterated the oft-repeated Pakistani concerns about the possibility of a civil war in Pakistan’s violatile north-west frontier region. But Kayani’s statement came against the backdrop of US defence secretary Leon Panetta’s comments that Pakistan would like to open a new front, rather a second front, against the Taliban and al-Qaida affiliated Haqqani network. Haqqani that was once a blue-eyed boy of CIA, is now the number one target of American drones that symbolise medieval horror in Afghan villages bordering Pakistan. In other words US-Pakistan strained relations seem to have eased as Panetta went a step further to disclose the hard fact that the idea of second front along Pak-Afghan border was actually discussed with the top American commander in Afghanistan General Johhn Allen. In India it is second freedom struggle and in Pakistan it is second front.

Money talks and the beneficiaries of Pakistani military establishment that literally controls the life-line of Pakistani economy and polity, will go bankrupt if Washington freezes liberal dollar dole once and for all. Maybe, Pakistan is toning down its anti-American stance in view of American and NATO troops withdrawal in 2014. So long as America and its Pakistani proxy attendants remain politically isolated among Pakistani masses, no second front will help the administration bring in lasting peace in the region.

Meanwhile, the suicide squad of Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan stormed the heavily guarded Pakistan Airforce Base at Kamra just 40 km from Islamabad giving a tiring testing time to Kayani’s nerve. The attack in which 9 militants and one soldier were reportedly killed, came just two days after Kayani renewed his government’s pledge to treat America’s war on terror in this part of the globe as their own.

Luckily for the ordinary people of India and Pakistan both sides maintained restraint while observing the 66th anniversary, albeit Pakistani Prime Minister Raja Parvez Ashraf in his independence day speech casually mentioned about Kashmir and India’s delaying tactics to resolve what they call the ‘core issue’ perennially affecting India-Pakistan relations.

Vol. 45, No. 8, Sep 2-8, 2012