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Many young readers will agree on one thing. We fondly remember Republic Day celebrations from our school days. Display of military hardware, uniformed officers marching past in tandem, and tableaus showcasing the rich diversity in India would spice up a pleasant winter morning. But Independence Day celebrations did not register with many from the younger generations. All we knew was the Prime Minister hoists the national flag and delivers a speech. That too, generally, in the rains!
Now, fast forward to 2014. The PM’s speech was very atypical of that on 15 August. He delved into cleanliness, open defecation, women’s welfare and more. Subsequent speeches have also tried to break the mold even while harping on government schemes. He has spoken about water scarcity, climate change, and energy self-sufficiency among others. His admirers claim he is trying to inspire the nation. But his detractors dismiss his speeches as mere ‘jumla’. Nevertheless, the Independence Day event grabs a lot of eyeballs so much so that a synopsis of the PM’s last seven speeches was published this year!
If the speech can hit the headlines, then why not the venue. All PMs have hoisted the tricolor from the ramparts of the Red Fort. The PM can now consider hosting the Independence Day event at other places of national significance. It could be a historical site, a destination for religious pilgrimage, or even a place endowed with natural beauty. In fact, he did away with traditions and held the Independence Day celebrations in different parts of the state when he was the Chief Minister of Gujarat.
The first venue that comes to mind is Lothal in Gujarat. It is the only port-city of the Indus Valley (or Indus Sarasvati) civilization discovered so far. Planned urban settlements and functional maritime docks remind us what our ancestors could achieve in terms of living standards, and business and commerce. Another probable candidate is Nalanda in Bihar. The ruins of the ancient University stand testimony to the intellectual achievements of bygone India. Other prospective locations can be Hampi in Karnataka. Though abandoned, this medieval city throws light on the economic prosperity achieved by the Vijayanagara empire. Through his August 15 speeches, PM exhorts the citizens to think big and bold to build a better India. What better way than to do so with historical artifacts in the backdrop?
New venues can also augur political dividends for the ruling dispensation. Post-1947 India’s public discourse has had a Delhi-centric approach. When PM visits different regions and addresses the nation on August 15, it signals an attempt to break from the tradition. Indians from these regions may feel valued. With the ruling party aspiring to have a nationwide footprint, the PM’s actions can help them score some brownie points. After all, public perception dominates in recent times.
It would be pertinent to showcase the generally syncretic relation in India between different faiths and traditions. Cheraman mosque in Kerala is the second oldest mosque in the world. It was possible due to the voluntary land grant by a Hindu king. Today, a sharply polarised India debates on the spread of Islam through force. Yet this structure reminds us that peaceful coexistence is not so difficult. Similarly, Ajanta and Ellora are not just about artistic creativity and splendor. They are also about the generally symbiotic relationship between different Dharmic traditions such as Buddhist, Jain, Shaiva and Vaishnav. Again, for those who don’t repose much faith in Nehruvian secularism, these are baby steps towards creating their own version.
Also read: Independence celebrations didn’t interest Gandhi. The National Flag’s design did
These pieces are being published as they have been received – they have not been edited/fact-checked by ThePrint.