What do you think a 25-year-old in India does? Work, discuss the latest movies, PeeCee in Hollywood or some other distracting thing to get their mind off work or college exams. But, politics is not one of them.
Why? Simply because the idea of discussing politics is relegated to the old or maybe Bengalis who seem to have a born acumen for discussing it. But, who else? What does the youth of this nation care about?
India has a huge, growing number of middle-class people. They care about sending their children not to schools or courses that their children are passionate about but to courses they will get paid a lot when they land a job. Thai is engineering for most people. Doctors take centuries to study to earn money, The law field is an upcoming career option that people are discovering as a lucrative option. But the traditional is IT engineering and of course, the Indian dream to go ‘onsite’ to become an NRI is all they care about.
And you must have heard all this tension about getting into IT especially IIT, NIT or any other T is quite taxing, so much so that student suicide is one of the major concerns. India is truly a country that is diverse. On one hand we have students that don’t complete primary education, we have drop-outs and on the other there are students who kill themselves because they cannot get into IIT or give a successful entrance exam. Surely, among this ruckus who gets time to think about politics and the injustice of it?
But, one man did. In fact, a collective group of people rallying behind him did. Kanhaiya. The name echoes among the deep chasms of the internet. For many educated people, this issue was a wake-up call. It forced you to acknowledge it. Constant news media coverage, that friend who is into ‘too much politics’ sharing it on Fb constantly or universities talking about it. You either hated him or loved it. Of course, some people were too busy to care. Best phrased by Kanhaiya, “When you don’t talk about politics, you are taking a stand”. A non-committal stand, an ignorant stand, a stand where you declare you will not contribute to the country’s growth.
I have heard many people tell me with a proud swish of their noses that they do not read newspapers, follow the news or read anything about politics because it is a bad start to their day, they are too sensitive to digest the information or any other excuse they can find to rationalize it. It befuddles me how one can think that way. How do you feel that you are entitled to an education, infrastructural developments, growth, better roads, clean cities or corruption free governments if you do not want to follow or participate in your own country’s politics? Maybe you think the government should do all this, but has it crossed your mind as a citizen what duties you should do? Does it just end with paying taxes? (which many Indians evade). Just complaining loudly about bribes while we end up giving them anyway to get our work done fast? What is it?
Or maybe another simple reason is the helplessness you feel. ‘What can I do?’. You can. Not just in this period of the internet where every voice is magnified but in every other period. You can, you did and you will. Over many lifetimes. The collective voices of people squished injustice, helped progress and gave rise to a new era of growth. Our collective voices gave way to net neutrality, better treatment for animals, the perils of GMO food, women empowerment, and many more things. All this was started by a few people. But when an army of people joined them, they helped it to become a law. More than law, they helped it become a norm.
Let’s also look at it in a spiritual context. Many people give me examples about various guru’s or spiritual masters who were not politicians but helped instill great change in the society. But here’s the thing, they did it by changing the ideas that people were set in for centuries. They did it by questioning old-age beliefs that no longer served them. Many spiritual leaders have questioned the status-quo in their age and rebelled against kings, kingdoms, religious authorities or any group of power that held as much power as today’s governments do. Even meditation or energy transfer towards a cause will help that cause but with sustained, consistent effort. How many of those who claim to be spiritual do that?
Our minds are a powerful tool. (Check out the 100th monkey experiment). As a collective consciousness when we talk about a issue we can make it happen. We can change it purely by speaking about it. Words have magical powers. Do not underestimate the power of what you can do to change the system. Talk about it, discuss the atrocities that occur near you, do not turn a blind eye to it. Talking about change itself is change. It isn’t important whether you are on the right side or wrong side because that is the journey. You will learn and evolve. But it is important you indulge in something beyond your desires of fulfilling the ego with material and ambitious goals that will not reach beyond your immediate family.
Today, as any other 25-year-old, I was not aware that #KanhaiyatoRajdeepwas going to happen. By some divine intervention, while watching a brilliant discussion by Karan Thapar’s on the interim bail of Kanhaiya kumar, I became engrossed. The next program was an exclusive interview with Kanhaiya Kumar and Rajdeep Sardesai. As someone who was vocal about sedition being an antiquated law that must be removed, who said that the arrest was judicial injustice and completely supported the JNU students about their fight for a better India, I was curious about what Kanhaiya had to say.
I took away how humble he was in the interview, he stood naked and ready to reveal and discuss all the accusations this country’s people had thrown at him. Yet, he managed to smile and not throw a dirty remark against any politician save Irani (which was addressed as respectfully as one can). Coming from a poor family, studying in a ‘subsidized college’, doing a Ph.D., Kanhaiya could have lost his life or future. Or both. Aren’t we taught by our parents not to get involved in fights against authorities because it could harm us and our families? If you went to school or college- how many times have you witnessed problems that you couldn’t speak up against because you were afraid it would lead to something unpleasant?
Shastras talk about a final Kalki avatar, the final one of Vishnu. I see Kanhaiya as the avatar who braved to talk against the corruption of this country. Where we have no reliable party to vote on because all parties committed faults that are too heinous to forget. That, along with diversity which can be a strength, it is being used against us as a tool for divisive politics. I see this as a beginning of a new era in Indian Politics.
Many people echo Rajdeep’s feelings that these students are dreamers, stuck in the idealistic world of reforms where as the reality is different. Yes, it is a dream. 53 years after Martin Luther’s ‘I have a dream’ speech, USA had a black, historic president. Even if it takes 100 years for India to see a change after Kanhaiya’s dream, it will be worth it. Because those are the dreams that are worth dreaming.
Trust me, as a daughter of parents who braved all the odds to get their Ph.D’s in India, who fought for every single position in their universities, fighting against caste politics, language politics, gender politics, I know the academic injustice in India. As the daughter of a labor leader who was suspended, almost went to jail, received a few thousand rupees pension even after fighting for the minimum wage for laborers in their university, I know the pain of people doing minimum wage work. As a daughter of a mother, who overcame all odds of society to study a Ph.D. in Sociology at a time where everyone did economics, where women didn’t study beyond B.A, where women didn’t go beyond bank jobs-I understand gender discrimination and traditional women roles. As the daughter of a single mother, I know the Indian society’s backward social and cultural views on widowhood. As a woman today who often faces discrimination based on my sand-toned skin, my preference to speak English over hindi, weighing more than 50 kgs, choosing humanities not mass communication as my preferred subject to study, not doing a Master’s just because my peers did it, being a 25-year-old who talks about politics, being a woman who doesn’t go shopping or subscribe to whole bundle of beauty products, clothes or magazines or as a student who experienced an NAAC A+ accredited institute was not worth even a D minus rating because their institution was that horrible both in academic excellence and student treatment- I know discrimination and injustice.
I know, so I fight. But apart from these deep-rooted discriminations, we must fight for our country to be truly democratic, be transparent, end corruption and be a country that we will be proud not just because of the idea of ‘nationalism’ but because of the idea of ‘progress’.
Will you fight for it?