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The Dawn of Freedom

Sarvepalli-Radhakrishnan-150x150

(The following speech was made by Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan on the eve of taking a pledge on the night of 14-15 August 1947 in the Constituent Assembly.)

History and legend will grow around this day. It marks a milestone in the march of our democracy. It is a significant date for the people of India who are trying to rebuild and transform themselves. Through a long night of waiting, a night full of fateful portents and silent prayers for the dawn of freedom, of haunting spectres of hunger and death, our sentinels kept watch, the lights were burning bright till at last the dawn is breaking and we greet it with the utmost enthusiasm. When we are passing from a state of serfdom, a state of slavery and subjection to one of freedom and liberation, it is an occasion for rejoicing. That it is being effected in such an orderly and dignified way is a matter for gratification.

Mr. Attlee spoke with visible pride in the House of Commons when he said that this is the first great instance of a strong imperialist power transferring its authority to people whom it ruled with force and firmness for nearly two centuries.

We, on our side, have also added a chapter to the history of the world. Look at the way in which the people in history won their freedom. Let us also consider the methods by which power was acquired. How did men like Washington, Napoleon, Cromwell, Lenin, Hitler and Mussolini get into power? Look at the methods of blood and steel, of terrorism and assassination, of bloodshed and anarchy by which these so-called great men of the world came into the possession of power. Herein this land under the leadership of one who will go down in history as perhaps the greatest man of our age, we have opposed patience to fury, quietness of spirit to bureaucratic tyranny, and are acquiring power through peaceful and civilized methods. What is the result? The transition is being effected with the least bitterness, with no hatred at all. The very fact that we are appointing Lord Mountbatten as the governor general of India, shows the spirit of understanding and friendliness in which this entire transition is being effected.

You, Mr. President, referred to the sadness in our heart, to the sorrow which also clouds our rejoicing. May I say that we are in an essential sense responsible for it also though not entirely. From 1600, Englishmen have come to this country – priests and nuns, merchants and adventurers, diplomats and statesmen, missionaries and idealists. They bought and sold, marched and fought, plotted and profited, helped and healed. The greatest among them wished to modernize the country, to raise its intellectual and moral standards, its political status. They wished to regenerate the whole people. But the small among them worked with a sinister objective. They tried to increase the disunity in the country, made the country weaker and more disunited. They too have had their chance now. The freedom we are attaining is the fulfilment of this dual tendency among British administrators. While India is attaining freedom, she is attaining it in a manner which does not produce joy in the hearts of people or a radiant smile on their faces. Some of those who were charged with the responsibility for the administration of this country, tried to accentuate communal consciousness and bring about the present result which is a logical outcome of the policies adopted by the lesser mind of Britain. But I would never ever blame them. Were we not victims, ready victims, so to say, of the separatist tendencies foisted on us? Should we not now correct our fault of character, our domestic despotism, our intolerance which has assumed the different forms of obscurantism of narrow-mindedness, of superstition bigotry? Others were able to play upon our weaknesses because we had them. I would like, therefore, to take this opportunity to call for self-examination, for a searching of heart. We have gained but we have not gained in the manner we wished to gain and if we have not done so, the responsibility is our own.

Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan

Reference:

Constituent Assembly Debates.