On Monday, August 15, 2022, the government and 1.4 billion people of India will celebrate with pomp and pageantry the 75th anniversary of independence. The theme for India’s 76th Independence Day celebrations is, “Nation First, Always First” and the national events will take place at the Red Fort in the Indian capital, New Delhi, a beautiful and well-planned city which I visited three times in the 1980s to attend Non-aligned and Commonwealth conferences. Prime Minister Narendra Modi of India will address the nation on the historic occasion.
India’s struggle for independence from 200 years of British colonial rule was long, protracted and full of challenges, difficulties and pitfalls. It took a great, illustrious and selfless man like Mahatma Gandhi to courageously, relentlessly and successfully lead and wage that struggle to its logical conclusion.
Uganda and India established diplomatic relations in 1965 and have enjoyed cordial and mutually beneficial bilateral relations ever since. Both are non-aligned countries and maintain High Commissions in Kampala and New Delhi. India is one of Uganda’s major trading partners.
India’s first Prime Minister, Jawaharlal Nehru, (above) supported Uganda’s legitimate, nationalist and patriotic struggle for independence in the 1950s and 1960s. Uganda Peoples’ Congress (UPC) founded in 1960 was modeled on the Indian National Congress (INC) founded in 1885 and Ghana’s Convention People’s Party (CPP) founded in 1949 by Kwame Nkrumah.
Unlike current Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Jawaharlal Nehru was elegant, eloquent, well educated and a gentleman par excellence. Nehru was groomed by Mahatma Gandhi as a political leader and Prime Minister of India. In my opinion, Nehru remains the best Prime Minister of India followed by his daughter Indira Gandhi who was tragically assassinated by her Sikh bodyguards on October 31, 1984.
On the eve of India’s Independence Day, August 14, 1947, Pandit Nehru delivered a historic and powerful speech at the Indian Constituent Assembly which is acknowledged by political scientists as one of the great speeches of the 20th century. The speech titled, “A new star rises; the star of freedom in the East” begins as follows:
“Long years ago we made a tryst with destiny, and now the time comes when we shall redeem our pledge, not wholly or in full measure, but very substantially. At the stroke of the midnight hour when the world sleeps, India will awake to life and freedom. A moment comes, which comes but rarely in history, when we step out from the old to the new, when an age ends, and when the soul of a nation, long suppressed, finds utterance. It is fitting at this solemn moment we take the pledge of dedication to the service of India and her people and to the larger cause of humanity.” Nehru argued and stressed that freedom and power come with responsibility which rests primarily upon the shoulders of elected representatives of the people at all levels, especially Members of Parliament.
“The service of India means the service of the millions who suffer. It means the ending of poverty and ignorance and disease and inequality of opportunity.”
Commitment to eradicate poverty, ignorance and disease in a secular state called India became the clarion call of the Indian National Congress which under Nehru’s able, wise and selfless leadership played a critical and pivotal role in laying a solid foundation of a non-aligned country and the largest democracy in the world. Now you know the roots of a popular slogan of UPC which enjoyed fraternal relations with INC in the 1960s. UPC has since Uganda achieved independence in 1962 made every effort to eradicate ignorance, poverty and disease in the country which Winston Churchill called “the pearl of Africa.”
India is today ruled by BJP, an extremist, reactionary and right-wing Hindu fundamentalist and nationalist political party which has rejected multiculturalism and secularism, cornerstones of Jawaharlal Nehru’s domestic policy. Congratulations to the government and people of India on the auspicious occasion of the 75th anniversary of independence.