The Erasure of 1950
There has been a great deal of controversy over Kangana Ranaut’s recent statement that the freedom India won in 1947 was ‘bheek’ (alms) and true freedom was gained only in 2014 when Narendra Modi’s BJP came to govern India. The controversy mainly focuses on how she has devalued the efforts and pain of so many people who fought for India’s freedom, both famous and unknown, whose struggle made India’s freedom movement a role model for subsequent liberation movements all over the world.
But one extremely important historical fact is being overlooked here, both by Ranaut as well as her detractors and sympathisers. India won her freedom in two stages. The first stage was in getting the British to leave, but the crucial second stage, achieved in the free space created after they left, was to shape the country as a democratic constitutional republic, formally achieved on 26 January 1950. We became a democracy founded (for the first time in history) on universal adult suffrage from the first day, and a republic built on the ideals of justice, liberty, equality, and fraternity.
By moving straight from 1947 to 2014, Ranaut seeks to erase this second stage from popular recognition. And she seems to have succeeded, as all her detractors have primarily focused on 1947 and not on 1950. Many of her detractors have unwittingly become her collaborators. This erasure is what we should be focusing on.
This erasure has a long history: earlier governments, even earlier court judgments, have supported it. But it has been escalating to unprecedented levels since 2014. Our task is to recover and sustain 1950, not to get side-tracked into empty celebrations of 1947, and inconsequential controversies over it.