Justice Markandey Katju: On Bastille Day

By Justice Markandey Katju–

Today, July 14, is Bastille Day. On this day in 1789, Parisians stormed and destroyed the Bastille, a French prison fort, which symbolized the feudal ancient regime, and the French people set about destroying feudalism and creating a modern nation.

Similarly, the Indian people (which includes Pakistanis and Bangladeshis) have to storm and destroy the feudal forces of casteism, communalism and superstitions, and create a political and social order under which we emerge as a mighty modern highly industrialised nation in which all our people enjoy a high standard of living and decent lives.

But while the Bastille was destroyed in one day, we can accomplish our goal only after a protracted, united, arduous struggle, transcending the feudal barriers of caste, religion, race, etc, and lasting for perhaps 10-15 years, in which tremendous sacrifices will have to be made.

Unity of our people is absolutely essential at this historical juncture.

This is because while the French people had only to fight against a weak king (Louis XVI), we have powerful forces, both within and outside our country, which will oppose tooth and nail the radical transformation of India into a modern industrial giant, and this they do by polarising our society and inciting religious, caste and ethnic hatred among us.

But without this transformation, this Great Leap Forward, we will remain condemned to massive poverty, unemployment, malnutrition, lack of proper healthcare and good education for the masses, and the other great socio-economic evils which plague our country. 

So, (paraphrasing Winston Churchill’s words on the eve of the Battle of Britain) let us brace ourselves to our duty, and so bear ourselves, that if the Indian nation lasts for another thousand years, men will still say, “This was their finest hour.”

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