February fourth, for quite a few of us, is just another day. It’s a day to stay at home and enjoy the deafening noise of the air crafts that fly above us. The national flag may be hoisted, almost as if it is enough to prove our patriotism. Yet, in general, it isn’t a day we make too big a deal of.
The fight for independence is something we learn from textbooks. We learn about individuals like Ponnambalam Ramanadan and S Mahinda Thero just because its part of our history syllabus. British colonization and the release from its claws are part of our story. However, it is a chapter we never lived through. For many of us, it’s a time that belongs with the stories about kings, invasions and battles. The years seem so far away, even though we weren’t completely free from the British until 1972, a few decades ago.
Looking at the song Master Sir, it isn’t a song many of us relate to. We never had to bow down to the white-skinned, nor do we have to fear or respect them. While it may not seem so, gone are the days when they were the masters and we were the slaves. And did the British themselves realize it was time to leave and sail back to their lands happily? Did they hand over the nation to its occupants without putting up a fight?
People of all religions, castes and ethnicity stood together and fought for their rights. There was bloodshed, there were heated arguments and wasted words. After years of no complaints, Sri Lankans started rising against the British forces. They said, ‘enough is enough’ and didn’t stop until the British were driven away from the island.
After all this, what do they get? A few faded flags that are hoisted just because we are expected to? People meaninglessly wishing each other through text messages?
We worship our motherland. We respect her. We love her and swear to die for her. Yet, how many fought for her?
Look at the Civil War that is still fresh in our minds. We saw the number of death increase by the hour. We can now visit places where once, thousands were killed, where blood was shed. All the fear, hate, anger we felt just a few years ago, was felt decades ago too. Today, we walk around freely thanks to the soldiers who fought for peace. Decades ago, our parents and grandparents walked around freely thanks to the freedom fighters who sacrificed their lives for the nation.
One may argue that February 4 wasn’t the day we were able to cut all strings that tied us to the British. However, it isn’t about what day it is, or what month it is. Independence Day is just like Mothers Day or Teachers Day; you can’t limit pride of your nation or how thankful you are for the freedom fighters to just one day. Thus it is not the significance of the day that matters the most, but the significance of what the day stands for.
Finally, Independence Day is a reminder. It reminds us of the history we keep forgetting. Every year, we are told of the fights, the individuals and their dedication. We are reminded that freedom isn’t a gift. It’s not offered for free. We didn’t have to pay the price decades ago. But someone had to. Their names are slowly being forgotten. There are more recent and maybe more important events to remember. However, they deserve to be remembered. We owe it to them.
Thus Independence Day might be insulted or ignored by certain people. However, it will also continue to be a day when we all hold hands and remember that not that long ago, we were ruled by a foreign people. And that if not for those freedom fighters, we wouldn’t be as independent as we are today.