Freedom Is The Most Desired Aspect For A Better Life

By Zile Singh

Ambassador (Retd.)

Freedom is the oxygen of the soul.– Moshe Dayan

The dictionary meaning of Freedom is ‘ the power or right to act, speak or think as one wants without hindrance or restraint.’  It is the absence of subjection to foreign domination or despotic government.  Its synonyms are: independence, self-government, self-determination, self-rule, home-rule, sovereignty, autonomy and democracy.   Freedom’s antonym is Slavery and everybody hates slavery.

Freedom is the most desired aspect for a better life, aspired earnestly by every living being in the universe.  Every one’s  first act on the earth is to  act towards getting a free atmosphere for his all round development and happiness.  This is possible only in an atmosphere of freedom.

The ideas of freedom and the free-will are quite prominent in ancient Greek Philosopher Plato’s moral and political thoughts.  In his book the ‘Republic’  it is mentioned that  justice is  beneficial and a  just man alone is truly free.  He wrote:  “Wise men speak because they have something to say.  Fools speak because they have to say something.”  All forms of  social, economic and religious freedoms emanate from the political freedom.  The history of political freedom in different parts of the world is long and arduous  The first such step was the Magna Carta Libertatum – the Great Charter of Liberties agreed by King John of England and the rebel Barons in June 1215.  The Charter became part of English political life and was renewed by each monarch in turn making the Charter an essential foundation for the contemporary powers of Parliament to uphold the basic freedoms of the common man.  Magna Carta also influenced the American and the French Revolutions of 1787 and 1789 respectively. which became the supreme law of the land in the new republic of the United States and France.  Magna  Carta still forms an important symbol of liberty.  Lord Denning termed it as , “the greatest constitutional document of all times – the foundation of the freedom of the individual against the arbitrary authority of the despot.”   In Thomas Jefferson, former American President’s words,  “ I prefer dangerous freedom over peaceful slavery .”

On December 2, 1981, one hundred and fourteen years after the Confederation, the Canadian House of Commons approved the text of a constitutional resolution for presentation to Her Majesty the  Queen.   It was the final and crucial action by the House in requesting patriation of the Canadian  Constitution. The Resolution stated, “ We, Your Majesty’s loyal subjects, the House of Commons of Canada in Parliament assembled, respectfully approach Your Majesty, requesting that you may graciously be pleased to cause to be laid before the Parliament of the United kingdom a measure containing the recitals and clauses hereafter set forth …..” .  After receiving the approval of both Houses of UK Parliament, the new Constitution including  the Charter of Rights and Freedoms and the amending formula was returned to Canada with great pomp and show which was  proclaimed the law of the land on April 17, 1982.   Thus, Canada erased the last vestiges of the colonial past without firing a shot.  Though, in technical terms Her Majesty  Queen Elizabeth II  is still the Head of the Canadian State.

The four Fundamental Freedoms stipulated in the Canadian Constitution Act, 1982 under the  Charter of Rights and Freedoms are:  (a) freedom of conscience and religion; (b) freedom of thought, belief, opinion and expression, including freedom of the press and other media communication; (c) freedom of peaceful assembly; and (d) freedom of association.

Unlike Canada, India had to fight  for almost one hundred years to throw the British yoke and gain its freedom in 1947, August 15.   During the freedom struggle  ‘Lokmanya’ Bal Gangadhar  Tilak gave the slogan, “ Swaraj is my Birthright and I shall have it.”  After Independence, when  the  Indian Constitution  was in the making, the United Nations on December 10, 1948 adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR).  Article 1 of the UDHR states, “ All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights.  They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.” The blueprint of the UDHR was written by John Humphrey, a Canadian national.  The UDHR helped to form the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms of 1982.

The  Indian Constitution also was influenced to a large extent  by the UDHR to enshrine in it  the Fundamental Rights and the individual Freedoms.  The  list of  such Freedoms in the Indian Constitution  is: (a) Freedom of speech and expression; (b) to assemble peacefully and without arms; (c) to form associations or unions; (d) to move freely throughout the territory of India; (e) to reside and settle in any part of the territory of India’ (f) to practice any profession or to carry on any occupation, trade or business; and (g) freedom to practice religion.  These freedoms are, of course, subject to reasonable restrictions such as ; public order, decency and morality, sovereignty and integrity of the State etc.

The dis-similarity between the Canadian and the Indian freedoms were that the former was ‘ without a shot’ but the latter was with Mutiny of Meerat, Massacre of Jallianwala Bag and the Lathi Charge of Lahore where boots of the policemen, butts and bullets of Rifles were used indiscriminately on non-violent civilians. Thousands of patriots had to sacrifice their lives at the Altar of Freedom.   A heavy price had to be paid even after getting the Freedom by the division of the country into India and Pakistan.  The Independence Days were celebrated with great enthusiasm by the Consulates  General of Pakistan and India in Vancouver on August 14 and 15 respectively.


Zile Singh is a former Ambassador(Retd.) of India and a Vipassana Meditator. He can be reached at zsnirwal@yahoo.ca .





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