“Hey Samia, tumhara Independence Day toh 14th August ko aata hai na, jab Pakistan aazad hua tha?” The childhood memory of many such comments and discriminations still rang in my ears as I stare down at our 70th Independence Day. Much has changed over the year, and a lot has remained the same.
Amidst gunshots from Kashmir, and political unrest from North East, Indian will celebrate its Independence Day with the same old grandeur. I remember my school days, when I used to get up early for flag hoisting. It was a Christian school, but it didn’t matter, they were Indians first. From every direction music rose, Aye mere watan ke logon, chak de India, mere desh ki dharti constantly played on radios and music sets. Children smiled as our teacher gave us sweets and chocolates. And we came home to watch special programs on the TV. But then we grew up.
It’s not easy to be a Muslim in India. It’s not easy to be a Muslim anywhere. You say your name and people look at you a certain way, act around you a certain way. You wear a Hijab and you are constantly under the scanner. You get into debates with people about how the “Muslim Kings” destroyed India and looted it. When lane names change people try to get your opinion. How would a change in a lane name in Delhi will affect a girl from Bhopal? How does ones religion define their way of life? What right does anybody have to discriminate me on the basis of my religion in a country which is secular?
A then we grew some more. Now, they simply ask you to leave the country and go to Pakistan. No, Pakistan is not my country, I was born in India, my parents were born in India, and my grandparents were born in India. I am as much of an Indian as anybody living here, irrespective of my religion. I cry when we lose a match, I celebrate when we win one, I get angry when terrorist attack our nations, I sympathise with the poor, and I celebrate Diwali and Christmas and Eid. I am an Indian first and then a Muslim. Stop compartmentalising Muslims by calling them Pakistani, more than half of the Muslim population is a non-Pakistani.
The politics isn’t helping, hate speeches on religion poison our minds every day. But, turning on someone you have known for 15 years after a 15-minute speech is not a very educated thing to do. Be an example for everybody. And this independence day forget difference and come together as one.