Colorful Ballons soaring in the sky signifying independence

Independence: Freedom or Commodity?

The combination of a multitude of identities, like one’s gender, caste, class, regional and religious identity among many others, determines one’s exercise of independence says Sampurna Sarkar

On August 15, 2021, India celebrated its 75th Independence Day.  

As a student I remember, my peers and I were more fixated on organizing, participating and applauding the cultural programs arranged rather than comprehending the significance of the event. 

To commemorate Independence Day, the Prime Minister of the country hoists the national flag in Red Fort, the military organizes parades while competitions are held across some cities. The Great Independence Day Sale is also organized in honour of the occasion.

The great Independence Day Sale

From online shopping platforms to giant shopping and lifestyle stores, each promotes its sales through attractive campaigns on online platforms, through personalized messages on phones and banners displayed across the city. 

Like others, I often visited the malls on the day to enjoy the discounted rates. However, at present, I am unable to ignore the overarching socioeconomic and political repercussions associated with such sales.

Change in Perspective.

Without my education, I would probably have never been able to acknowledge the existent restrictions which continue to determine one’s access to resources and opportunities and the inequalities and oppressions that never dissipate. I have realised that the socioeconomic hierarchies of caste, class and gender still determine one’s access to education, occupation, geographical locations, socioeconomic and cultural capital among others. 

Such realization is both a blessing and a curse.  

For instance, on August 15 this year, I had made up my mind to utilize such discounts to purchase a stock of formal clothing. While glancing through the racks, a thought struck me. I realised that the stores, subscribing to the principles of capitalism, had used discounts to increase customer traffic and covertly coerce consumers to buy their products.

Independence: a commodity?

There exists a specialised sales team that formulates strategies to attract impulsive buyers. Such specialised teams, look into each business segment to enhance profitability. The occasion led me to question if independence too was only a commodity as it seemed to me as if the consumer’s patriotism was reflected in the number of shopping carts. 

On the day, many of us visited the mall to commemorate not only India’s independence from British rule but to also celebrate our freedom to spend economic resources without inhibition, to move without constraints, to rejoice in the multitude of choices available.

After reflecting on the socioeconomic and political circumstances, I became more certain that independence indeed was a possession. The possession of a multitude of identities, like one’s gender, caste, class, regional and religious identity among many others, determined one’s exercise of independence. It cannot be denied that the class identity, biological sex, sexual orientation of individuals enable sections of the population to possess certain freedom and commodities. 

Belonging to such identities enabled certain individuals to continue patriarchal institutions and values. This has facilitated certain sections of the society to deny freedom to those willing to struggle against such unjust social organizations. Even after 74 years of the fall of colonial rulers, the colonization of the upper-caste and class has persisted ensuring the acceptance of such practices by all including those discriminated against. 

Thus, the Scheduled Tribe  (ST) community could not even protest when there was no appointment of a ST judge in the Supreme Court. Thousands of nameless women did not have the agency to protest when their husbands exerted their freedom to rape. The Dalit students too did not have the opportunity to protest when the ‘merited’ students abused them, driving them to desperately seek an exit from institutional education

The exercise of commodifying the state of independence by certain dominant population sections undermines the efforts and upheavals borne by the subjugated like Dalits, minorities, indigenous and tribal people and individuals located at the varying ends of the gender spectrum among others, to attain freedom from subordination, inequality and inequity.

I write today not with the hope of impressing with novelty but with the hope that commodification of independence ceases. I write with the hope that someday, in the near future if not today, the subordinated sections enjoy freedom and equity. I write with the hope that all of us can facilitate such hopes into reality.

Photo Photo by Ankush Minda on Unsplash

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Independence: Freedom or Commodity?

by Sampurna Sarkar Reading time: 3 min