India’s 72nd Independence day is coming up soon. However, ‘freedom’ in India today varies greatly along axes of gender, caste class, region, religion, disability and occupation, and different people can have different desires of what ‘freedom’ is. We also recognize that dominant histories of the freedom movement obscure the narratives of adivasis, dalits, women and minorities, along with working class and peasant struggles. This is how histories are written by those in power, all over the world.
For the next month, we want to consciously explore historical narratives of the freedom movement from different (especially marginalized) viewpoints. We want to draw attention to more complex histories from multiple viewpoints, to do justice to everyone’s lives and struggles. This challenges us to build a diverse understanding of what India means to different people. The British Raj grew on top of existing inequalities and hierarchies in the different societies of India, and the freedom struggle (and 72 years of freedom) left many of those hierarchies intact and deepened others. As we learn more about this history, we will also highlight the current situations. For example, Champaran in Bihar, which is famous for Gandhi’s first Satyagraha in 1917, is still an extremely feudal area, with both rich landlords and bonded labourers present – not much different from 100 years ago.