August 15, 1946 — Freedom at Midnight

I wrote last week about Korean Independence Day, August 15 or the day the Empire of Japan surrenderred.

That same day — a year later — became the Independence Day for the nations of India and Pakistan, which broke away from the British Empire and joined the community of independent nations.  Today, India is the second-largest nation in the world in terms of population, and the world’s largest democracy.

You could write a dissertation on the British Raj and the pluses and minuses it brought to the Indian subcontinent.  By the end of WWII, it was a foregone conclusion that the Raj was dead.  Indeed, that was one of FDR’s requirements for supporting Great Britain through the Atlantic Charter.

Still it was a bitter pill for the British to swallow.  As I stated at NOVA Community College today for the I-Day celebration, the Empire lost its toughest fighting men and most beautiful women in a single day.  It never recovered.

Why are we celebrating this holiday in northern Virginia?  In the last fifteen years, as the Internet has dominated our economic landscape, the number of Indian immigrants has skyrocketed in NoVA.  The settlement pattern is not random; the great majority live in western Fairfax and eastern Loudoun, along the Dulles Corridor, which is the heart of Virginia’s technology sector. 

Indian students have soared to the top of our schools.  (I lost track of how many “TJHS” stickers I saw on cars in the NOVA parking lot for today’s ceremony).  Aneesh Chopra, of course, went on to become the first White House Director of Technology, after serving as Virginia’s Secretary of Commerce.

For creating the independent nation of India and opening the door to a new and thriving relationship with the USA (and Virginia), August 15 is a day to celebrate.

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