An Answer Based on Rabindranath Tagore’s “Where the Mind is Without Fear”

Rabindranath Tagore’s “Where the Mind is Without Fear” is a poem that envisages a country where there is no fear of oppression, where discrimination is eradicated, where illogic and superstitions have no place and where the people have dignity and embrace reason and knowledge. In the form of a prayer to the Almighty, Tagore sets the ideals that he believed would make India a prospering nation. Even the Constituent Assembly adapted Tagore’s ideals into the Preamble of the Constitution, where India is declared to be a sovereign republic. Sovereignty refers to supreme control by the nation itself and freedom from internal and external coercions. When the Constitution was brought into effect, India as a nation was free from external oppression, but internal compulsions have still not vanished. We still cling to some of the worst issues that a society can possibly face.

In the decade of 1940, the world saw two iconic events of the last century: first, the pre-independence struggle of India and second, the macabre Holocaust. While the horrors inflicted by Adolf Hitler on Jews, gypsies and other minorities in Germany spread ramifications all over the world, the non-violent Gandhian struggle for India’s independence spread another powerful message; a message that the world respected, a mass freedom movement, Satyagraha, that relied on truth and insistence, ultimately forcing the British to withdraw and transfer power. It later influenced the American civil rights movement led by Martin Luther King Jr., and the anti-Apartheid movement of Nelson Mandela in South Africa. Inspite of our glorious freedom struggle, the question is, have we attained the ‘heaven of freedom’ envisioned by so many revolutionaries apart from Rabindranath Tagore, such as Bhagat Singh, Bal Gangadhar Tilak, Jawaharlal Nehru and Dr. Bhimrao Ambedkar?

The answer, I believe, is unfortunately, not completely. No country in the world has achieved an ideal set-up and all are in the process of achieving freedom, in terms of mindsets and societal issues. After nearly 70 years of independence, the Indian society still faces some alarming issues that if we address, we can progress further in our goal to achieve an ideal society.

Tagore envisioned a country where the mind exists without fear; even today, there are several fears among people. There is fear to speak out against wrongdoing, the consequences being severe backlash and the branding as being ‘politically incorrect’. There is fear to expose corruption of high officials, consequences being harassment and even killing. Money and wealth define status; people in impoverished communities still cannot hold their heads high with dignity. People blame women for the crimes against them and lawyers defend those criminals. Victims of such crimes still have not been empowered enough to hold their heads high with dignity.

Knowledge is still not free; government schools lack the infrastructure to cater to the talents of their students and private education is still the monopoly of the higher income groups. Even reservation systems in private schools are exploited by the wealthy. A sizeable population of ‘independent’ India still represents an emaciated nation submerged in poverty and illiteracy.

Tagore further idealised a country where narrow domestic walls do not fragment the nation and words emerge from the depth of truth. However, in undeveloped regions, age-old prejudices, the caste system, honour killings and dowry still persist. In the name of diversity and adequate representation, the huge body of Parliament exists, but its sessions are washed away with trivial issues, blame games and politicians trying to defend their self-worth. Resolutions do not come out in benefit of the people and the depth of truth, rather the interests of the ruling party. The judiciary hesitates in implementing the Uniform Civil Code across all religions.

The poet prays that the clear stream of reason does not vanish in the dreary desert of age-old customs and superstitions do not override the ability to make right judgements. He wants the mind to be led forward by the Almighty, into open-mindedness and a willingness to embrace change. With growing urbanisation and the rise in a younger, more free-thinking population, people have abandoned their superstitions and are gradually eliminating irrelevant age-old customs. However, due to the restrictive nature of our education systems and mindsets, even with such a talented population, India still cannot boast of twenty-year-old billionaires and innovative start-ups. We are a country where the Prime Minister needs to start a cleanliness drive (Swachh Bharat Mission) across the nation to keep our surroundings clean.

India so far is the most developed of the developing countries and the current government is working hard to address infrastructural projects and improve living conditions. New industries are emerging, the younger generation is trying to break the mould, however, there’s a long journey ahead. The journey of a thousand miles, however, must begin with a single step and our government is working to take those steps which will accelerate our growth as a nation. We, as the youth, must be the flag-bearers to take the nation forward and bring Tagore’s ideals as close to reality as possible.

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