Renowned authors, Anita Desai, Salman Rushdie, Jhumpa Lahiri, Geetanjali Shree, Perumal Murugan and others, have expressed their hopes and concerns about the future of the world’s largest democracy in the project commissioned by PEN America

Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi launched “Har Ghar Tiranga” campaign to encourage people to bring the Tiranga home and hoist it to celebrate 75 years of India’s Independence.  The idea behind the initiative was to  strengthen  the feeling of patriotism in the hearts of the people and to celebrate “Azadi Ka Amrit Mahotsav“, this year Independence Day was perhaps the grandest and most brilliant celebration of the national holiday of all time. Even as people across the country displayed their patriotism with great enthusiasm by sporting the ‘TRICOLOUR’ everywhere possible – a large group of India’s premier writers and thinkers, penned their thoughts on what India was, and ought to be, and what it has instead become.

International organization Pen America (the literary advocacy and human rights organization) has invited authors from India and the Indian expatriate to write candidly on this topic and some of the names chosen for this were Salman Rushdie, Jhumpa Lahiri, Anita Desai, Chithra Bannerjee Devkurani. Other personalities such as noted Konkani writer Damodar Mauzo and Goa-based journalist Vivek Menezes, have also contributed to the collection of essays which were published on Pen America’s website, (India at 75,) under a hard-hitting introduction to the project. 

Bringing up to the country’s 75th Independence Day as a moment of deep depression and reflection, rather than celebration and joy, Pen America says, “India retained many colonial-era laws that restricted freedoms and, over the years, added more such laws, undermining its democracy…. the election in 2014 has transformed India into a country where hate speech is expressed and disseminated loudly; where Muslims are discriminated against and lynched, where Christians are beaten and churches attacked; where political prisoners are held in jail without trial.”  It goes on to talk about how dissenting journalists and authors are denied permission to leave the country. “The institutions that can defend India’s freedoms—its courts, parliament and civil service, and much of the media—have been co-opted or weakened,” Pen America added.

Konkani writer Margao-based Mauzo, recipient of the Jnanpith Award in 2022, India’s highest literary award, penned a profound short story called ‘Sprout’. It is the tale of a man who plants a thought that sprouted in his head, in his neighbour’s garden. The sprout grows into a tree and bears fruit that is soon perceived as a cure-all and people from far and wide travel for a taste of the miraculous fruit that they believe can relieve them of every kind of affliction. However, things go awry when perceptions change, and the fruit ceases to heal. The fruit and the tree are suddenly demonized, and to the horror of the generous neighbour who was distributing the fruit freely to all, a mob attacks him at night and burns the tree to the ground. 

On the other hand, Vivek Menezes (Vivek Menezes is a widely published photographer and writer, columnist for the 120-year-old O Heraldo newspaper, and the co-founder and co-curator of the Goa Arts + Literature Festival)brought up independence from Goa’s point of view, explaining how the smallest State did not get the famous ‘freedom at midnight’, as “the 451-year-old Estado da India was invaded and conquered only in 1961, after Jawaharlal Nehru finally sent in the Indian Armed Forces.” 

Menezes said, “Instead of the appropriate negotiated merger (as happened with French India), there was only annexation—the official legal term—with all terms imposed directly from New Delhi,” lamenting that statehood and the slew of land, healthcare and educational reforms were not sufficient to stave off the cynical depredations of the 21st century. “The politics of division have taken root in dark and dismaying ways. At this point, the future does not look good at all,” says Menezes in his article for the collection. 

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