Once upon a time, we were ruled by the British. They came to our country under various pretexts before finally usurping our land and our freedom. And rule us, they did. We parted with the fruits of our hard earned labour, our dignity, our wealth and our land. Women were raped, the poor were plundered and justice was made a mockery. There were those who rose against their tyranny - and died for it. There were also those to advise the Britishers for their own nefarious reasons... people who helped them rule us by breaking our unity in the name of caste, creed, religion and more. No doubt, these cracks already existed previously but they knew how and where to tap it so that the pot would break. Divided, India stood no chance against the might of their oppressors.
It took us awhile but eventually, in one of history's biggest underdog victories, we won. We got our Independence and the Britishers - rulers of countries much more powerful than us - left. And guess what we did after that? Well, substitute the word "British" with "criminal politicians" and read that first paragraph again. That's what we did.
You ask me whether we take our freedom for granted? I ask you, what makes you think you got freedom? Are you living in a country where womenfolk are free to walk in the streets alone? After Dhoni, Modi and Rahul, is not gang-rape the word you have read the most this year in your newspapers? It isn't that crimes didn't exist in the past - but aren't they more blatantly open these days?
As politicians make more and more insensitive comments belittling the poor, are you not the ones being arrested for a simple query on a social network? When laws binding them to be honest to the public are created in the form of RTI acts, are you as proud as I am at how quickly all the parties who stall Parliament session after session instantly become 'brothers and sisters of the same cloth' to veto court orders and make sure they remain unaccountable? Can you honestly tell me that in the city/town/village that you are reading this issue from, there is no case of obvious criminal activity which is being supported by a local political or law enforcement entity?
Just because the people ruling us have changed from pale skin to white dhotis, do not assume you are free. We are as blatantly oppressed today as we were before we declared our Independence. If anything, it's becoming safer today to be corrupt and crooked than to be a honest Indian.
Gandhi didn't just survive the British... he rode them out. But here's an interesting addendum to that legend - in today's India, how would the political parties react to a single old man in funny attire telling them to mend their ways? Would he not just be a side-show clown to them, ridiculed and mocked on television panel debates? More importantly, would you - the common man - stand steadfastly for years by the side of such a character in today's India, taking on the seemingly endless might of the political parties?
Freedom is your birthright in a democracy but you don't have it today. Making comparisons with failed democracies around us and saying we are better off than them - that is not freedom. Freedom is an equality for every citizen in this country. It is the level field on which we all are supposed to be allowed to play.
We are a Democracy. We are a nation. We have our Independence. But in today's India, just as it was a century ago, we still do not have our freedom. There are miles to go before you achieve it. But the first step is the most important one - acknowledging the truth about where you stand today.