Here comes another August 15, one that instantly infuses patriotism in a lot of people who take pride in the fact that they live in an India that in 1947 became independent from the British clutches. But is this the right day to celebrate our freedom? We should know that India and Pakistan were granted dominion status on this day in 1947 and not complete independence (purna swaraj).
For me a country becomes independent when the invaders withdraw from all positions, even the ones at the grass root level. In other words, a country is not independent if the invaders continue to hold responsible positions within it. All levels are important, but those of general administration and armed forces are of extremely high significance. In that respect, one would have to say that India didn’t become independent on that August 15. There was the position of Governor General above the Prime Minister, and there was also an official King of India above the Governor General. This clearly indicates the administration was still under the British monarch. The Governor General was a Britisher until 1948 and the King was a Britisher until 1950 when this position was abolished.
The Britishers continued to hold key positions in the armed forces of independent India. Indians were kept away from the highest ranks in the Army until 1949, the Air Force until 1954, and the Navy until 1958. These should be matters of utmost shame to any proud Indian. What is more embarrassing is that our Navy continued to have its ensign modelling the Royal Navy of the British. In 2001, they thought the St George’s Cross in the Navy ensign was representative of the colonial hangover and wanted to change the design. But in 2004, the Cross was reintroduced to make it look similar to the Royal Navy flag again. I wonder whether the new design was changed because people were unhappy that it was representative of an independence hangover!
Some may argue that a newly born independent nation wanted a transition period during which we were assisted by the British. But they should know that no member of the Indian National Army was inducted into the Indian armed forces after independence. They would be in for a shock when they know that the Indian Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru had to pledge his allegiance to the British through the Form of Affirmation of Allegiance and the Form of Affirmation of Office in 1946. This image shows a page of the chapter “Personal Embarrassment of a Rebel” from the book “Reminiscences of the Nehru Age” by MO Mathai, the official assistant to Prime Minister Nehru.
What transpired to be an embarrassment for the whole nation was the fact that Nehru, being a loyal servant of the British had to seek approvals from the Britisher King in order to carry out various official responsibilities in his position as the Prime Minister of India. This image shows a 1948 letter in which Nehru seeks the approval of the King for the appointment of an Indian to the Governor General post when Louis Mountbatten left the office.
For me, national heroes are those who unhesitatingly shouted Vande Mataram even when death was imminent, and not those who happily waited with begging bowls to receive blessings from the same Britishers whom we fought against.