Every New Year brings in cheer and good news. The first day of the year is celebrated the world over. India, that is Bharat, is not far behind, in joining the celebrations. But it is not just the first day. Every day for the rest of the year should be a celebration.

In the year 2024, let us all in our great nation celebrate freedom. By adopting freedom as the theme of our celebrations, we can give a boost to our democracy.

India, being the largest democracy of the world in terms of numbers, has the greatest responsibility in ensuring freedom ― and protecting the rights of citizens.

Oswald Pereira

The people of India should play the lead role in invigorating and protecting her democracy.

It is absolutely necessary that every citizen has freedom of speech and expression. This is possible when we are free from fear ― that we may be penalised if we speak or write what is true, or express our understanding of the truth.

Our scriptures contain sound advice on conquering fear. Swami Vivekananda said, “We have a place for struggle in the Vedanta, but not for fear.”

He added: “All fears will vanish when you begin to assert your own nature. If you think that you are bound, bound you will remain. If you think you are free, free you will be.”

In a true democracy, it is the people who are the torchbearers of freedom and democracy. As citizens, we cannot compromise on our freedom, and leave it to the ruling class to decide what is right or wrong for us.

This seems so basic ― but it is in such simple and basic issues that we often flounder, making us vulnerable to assaults on our freedom.

“Man has freedom, but every moment forgets it,” remarked Vivekananda. Therefore, it is necessary that we are conscious of our freedom and assert it, at all times.  

We can never be free, if we feel weak and fearful. In order to be free, we need to be strong. Only when every citizen is strong, will we be free and the nation as a whole will be strong and capable of making its democracy robust and vibrant.

People who live in fear of the powers-that-be are afraid to speak their mind. George Washington, the first President of the USA, said, “If freedom of speech is taken away, then dumb and silent we may be led, like sheep to the slaughter.” Strong words by Washington, but so very true.

“Freedom, O Freedom! Freedom, O Freedom! is the song of the soul,” said Vivekananda.

Freedom, indeed, is the soul of democracy.

We need to fight to keep it safe and strong in our great nation to ensure that our democracy never ever falters or flounders, and stays strong forever.

Oswald Pereira, a senior journalist, has also written eight books, including The Newsroom Mafia, Chaddi Buddies, The Krishna-Christ Connexion, How to Create Miracles in Our Daily Life and Crime Patrol: The Most Thrilling Stories. Oswald is a disciple of Paramhansa Yogananda, and practises Kriya Yoga.

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