Indian television channels also celebrated by airing the shows focused on India's journey over the last 60 years. Some shows focused on 'what is going right for the country' whereas some focused on 'what has gone wrong and what could we do to right the wrongs.'
Once again, we pledged to do whatever it takes to make our nation strong, united and self-sufficient. We remembered and honoured our fallen soldiers. We honoured our best and encouraged our 'better ones' to be the best. We were upbeat. We were positive. We believed in our strengths and pledged to remain focused on our goals. We reflected upon the 'past' and talked about the 'future.'
But sadly, we forgot the 'present.'
While the nation was celebrating the freedom, there were many amongst us who could not do the same. For these unfortunate ones, freedom means much more than hoisting the national pride -- the tricolour. For them, freedom means freedom from fear, freedom from persecution, freedom from governmental apathy, freedom from unemployment, and above all freedom from the shackles of pseudo-democracy.
Yes, my friends, I am talking about 7,000 odd Kashmiri Hindus who are still in the Kashmir valley. These faceless and voiceless human beings stayed put in the valley because that is where their home is. These unfortunate souls decided to weather the terrorism because they cannot leave the place where their heart is. One might argue that why they didn't leave the valley like other 400,000+ folks of their community.
But then one might also want to argue that why should they leave their place of abode. Why should they leave the lands that their forefathers had tilled? Why should they? They are patriotic souls who believed in the tricolour and the nationhood of India. They believed in the Indian Constitution that is supposed to guarantee them the security, dignity, honour and freedom of expression.
They are brave souls who decided to weather any and every storm they might have to face. But their bravery does not mean that we, the rest of the nation, leave them alone at the mercy of hegemonic behaviour of the majority community in the valley and indifferent and apathetic state and central government.
You might argue that there are more pressing issues that India faces and needs to tackle than care for these 7,000 odd Kashmiri Hindus' fundamental rights and I would not dispute that. But I would strongly argue back that while their numbers might look small, the strategic consequences of losing them would result in losing Kashmir altogether.
It is these 7,000 odd human beings who are still keeping the Indian tricolour alive in the valley.
Isn't it shameful that while we were hoisting flags all over the globe, the only tricolours that were hoisted in the valley were hoisted by ministers at official ceremonies? No one would dare to hoist the Indian tricolour openly at any other place.
If you visit the valley today, you will not see a single tricolour flying at any place. It is only these 7,000 human beings who, while living in ground zero, still 'unconditionally' believe in the Indian Constitution and its sovereignty. If we lose them, we lose Kashmir. And if we lose Kashmir, that would be the beginning of the end of one Indian Nation.
If we lose Kashmir, that would be the beginning of the Balkanisation of India. After losing Kashmir, it would be just a matter of time before we start losing other limbs of our nation.
So please decide which issue is more important for India's future as a nation.
My dear friends, can we afford to ignore these 7,000 brave souls and leave them at the mercy of terrorists? Can we afford to lose Kashmir and then see India gradually disintegrate? No. We cannot and should not.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in his address to the nation, from the ramparts of the Lal Qila, talked about his vision of a new caring India -- 'An India in which the weak and downtrodden are empowered, the disabled find support, the destitute find succour and every individual is touched by the hand of progress and development... An India in which every citizen can live a life of dignity, self-respect, decency and hope; where every citizen feels proud to say -- I am Indian!'
Mr Prime Minister, these 7,000 Kashmiri Hindu souls already feel proud to be Indian but they are not living the life of dignity, self-respect, decency and hope. They are being subjected to perpetual humiliation at the hands of the majority community. Would you please stand up and take notice? Would you please direct your Chief Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad to take stock of their situation and provide relief and rehabilitation to them?
Would you please guarantee these minority citizens their fundamental rights? Would you, please?
Talking about industrialisation, agrarian change and the resultant displacement of rural masses, Dr Singh said, 'I agree that it is the responsibility of government to ensure that displacement does not lead to impoverishment; that those who lose land do not lose livelihoods; and, that those who have lost employment get better opportunities. We are, therefore, giving final shape to a National Policy for Rehabilitation and Resettlement for all those displaced by major projects.'
What about the people who are displaced due to the prevailing scourge of global terrorism? What about a National Policy for Rehabilitation and Resettlement for all those displaced by Islamic terrorism perpetrating in the state of Jammu & Kashmir? What about such a policy, Mr Prime Minister?
It is time that the Prime Minister's Office stops organising farcical round table conferences and working groups that do not produce any results. Those have been a total waste of time. It is a facade that the PMO creates to divert the attention and drag its feet.
It is about time that the PMO gets serious about Kashmir and implements initiatives and policies that protect the fundamental rights of its Kashmiri Hindu citizens in Jammu & Kashmir. It should seriously, with sincerity of purpose, look into the political, economic and social demands of these citizens who are the last bastion of hope within the valley.
These Kashmiri Hindus, refugees within their own state, need representation in the legislative bodies of the state so that their issues are properly represented in the corridors of power. It is first time since 1947 that there is no representation of Kashmiri Hindus in the state cabinet. Don't they deserve representation? Since these Kashmiri Hindus have lost their primary source of livelihood, they need to be provided with soft industrial loans and employment packages. They need proper secure environs where they can breathe freely without the fear of gun.
It should not come to a pass where these very Indian citizens, who day in and day out breath their Indian identity with pride, lose their last bit of hope from the Indian government and end up taking extreme measures.
I am afraid to say that if it did come to that, then those extreme measures will have serious long-term adverse consequences for the nation of India.
So, Mr Prime Minister: Are you listening? Would you take the lead, please?
HAPPY 60th to all the readers!
Looking forward to even happier 70th!