Youth Ki Awaaz in collaboration with MySpace India Fights Back campaign
The popular duo from Roadies, Raghu Ram and Rajiv Lakshman spoke to Anshul Tewari, the Founder and Editor-in-Chief of Youth Ki Awaaz on a range of political and youth related issues on Saturday, 26th April 2009. Given below are the questions and answers:
Can you tell me a bit about your involvement with the MySpace India Fights Back?
We have always been opinionated about political parties and moral policing. According to us, it is wrong. The moral policing guys say that others are spoiling the culture but according to us, they are spoiling the culture. It is just bad politics.
What we are doing is not a retaliation to all this. We have always been like this. Always!
Roadies has become a cult show in India. Through this, we have a voice, thus we have an audience. People know us as being proactive. It would be a criminal waste if we do not reach out. People just accuse us of doing all this as publicity stunts, but it is not like that. We will always support any initiative which is working towards change.
When the Mangalore pub incident occurred, we felt the need to express ourselves and engage a number of youngsters. So, we knew people at MySpace and got in touch with them. Expressed that we must start something and so we went ahead and did it.
We will come out in every way to help such movements. Pub culture incident was a correct incident for publicity stunts by politicians. We have been raising our voice wherever we can.
Raghu, you were recently involved in a campaign for Dr. Mallika Sarabhai contesting elections as an independent candidate from Gandhinagar, Gujarat. What made you do this and what were the key issues that you addressed? How was your experience?
I came to know that Mallika Sarabhai was contesting as an independent candidate. I had a look at her manifesto and the questions that she raised were correct. I sought out her email and connected with her. I offered her help; I said that if you need help, I am there. She called back and accepted the help I offered.
You see, political parties in India are based on their lust to win. I certainly do not agree with the BJP ideologies.
I believe that a person having an old ideology is not sure what change means. He is threatened by change.
Supporting independent candidates like Mallika Sarabhai is an alternative approach. I have never voted before, but I will vote this time. I am among those who have rejected politics.
When the Mangalore pub incident happened, many politicians came out and said something. The Chief Ministers of three states came out against the pub culture. This made Muthalik believe that he has been vindicated. And also made the victims feel that they were wrong. The fact is that the victims of the incident are not coming out in protest because of the fear. A victim did come out and agreed to file a case against them, but he received death threats. Even I got death threats and threats that my show will be shut down if I campaigned for Mallika Sarabhai. But I did it because I believed in it. It is basically a goonda politics.
There is not a single incident. The ATS chief, Karkare, gave his life for the country. But the politicians made a controversy out of this. We have faced a failure at every level.
On such incidents the youth must come out and say “we slap you at your face. Just get out. We will make mistakes, but not the same ones. We will not vote for you, no matter what.”
Who is Varun Gandhi to play such divisive politics in Pilibhit. A foreign educated guy, comes and wears a kurta-pajama, and says that he will chop the hands of anyone who touches the Hindus. The BJP never came out and spoke on this. But when Laloo retaliated and said that he would have run road rollers, the BJP came out and held a press conference. Wasn’t what Varun said wrong? Isn’t he threatening genocide?
The parties are buying their voters. Where is the money coming from? Anshul, I can go on-and-on on this.
Do you think that independent candidates have a chance in the elections, considering the fact that candidate from political parties have strong backing in regards of resources?
Well, literally, this time, they do not have a chance. But, if the youth can get together to support them, no matter what, they can surely send out a message.
Usually, in a constituency, a particular candidate has a strong hold. Like, in Gandhinagar L.K. Advani has a strong hold or in Gujarat Narendra Modi has a strong hold. Independent candidates find it hard to pick votes. But, a new kind of coalition could be possible with the independent candidates. The Indian voters are emotional. They keep voting for traditional parties and candidates. This is not change.
Independent candidates give more choices.
Why is the youth not voting? It is because they are not fond of any party. They do not agree with any of them. SP has the most retard manifesto. How can someone support that? The youth want a dynamic candidate.
By voting for independent candidates, their winning is not assured. Maybe we are not able to influence others. But, we can surely send a message to the political parties that we are aware. We do not support your ideologies. So that in the next elections, the parties know what to do. Varun Gandhi and the MNS know what to say and what to do.
You would recall the pub incident, you would recall Varun Gandhi’s speech, and then there are youth like Mallika Sarabhai and others who are working for the right issues. What is your take on the first two? Do you think they are able to cast an influence?
If you collect 40 women and tell them to bash up a man, many of them might not support it. If you collect 40 frustrated youth, give them arms and money, they will not hesitate in hitting women. The youth does not support such incidents. It is not that there are no good politicians. When we say youth, we mean a person having an open mind, a young mindset. A mindset which is progressive and open. Old mindset is one which is closed and believes in old age traditions and status quo. Mallika Sarabhai is much younger than Varun Gandhi.
Problems like unemployment and others, all lead to frustration among the youth. This frustration is taken advantage of by the politicians. They do cast an influence, but it is mainly intimidation. Influence has different ways of measurements.
Varun Gandhi and other such politicians polarize politics and the youth. It is just a defence mechanism and is the oldest trick in politics. This “Muslim together” and “Hindu together” politics is bad. The politicians claim to defeat the other sect, and portray their image as enemies. They are doing it out for intimidation and people will flock together out of insecurity.
By means of internet campaigns and blogging, we are able to connect to only the urban youth. How do you think we can connect to the rural youth which constitutes a major part of India’s population?
Reaching to the rural youth depends on the voice. A voice which is loud enough can surely reach them. It should be a popular voice which has an audience. Just writing a blog or giving a speech is not enough.
There is also a trickle down effect. It is true that we can’t change the whole country in one go. Pick people who are aware. Get them on your side. Once you are large enough spread the word, it will surely trickle down to the rural masses.
For example, a campaign like India Fights Back is a step in the right direction. People will come to know about it, talk about it to other people, and so it will spread. There is no one way by which we can reach people, there are many ways.
It depends on the people who are public figures and how they address them, issues that we are talking about. All this has an intense reaction.
Another way can be that if celebrities and sports persons stand up, come up with new ideas, better alternatives, and talk about the youth and its involvements they can cut across every boundary, every state, and every community. They have an appeal and people can relate to them. But again, there is this fear amongst people due to which they do not come up. I had got threats and it is true that political parties are goondas.
There is a way things must work. There was a time when drunk driving was taking place every other day. Once the law that the license of the person drinking and driving would be taken away for life came, the number of cases dropped. There must be firm decisions.
How should we choose our leaders?
Politicians should be chosen logically. There should be debates. Not political debates and not even public meetings. There should be debates where candidates stand alone for what they believe in. For issues like development. Although this could be too big an expectation. A candidate might talk about improving roads and infrastructure. Another might talk about tourism. The youth must think logically and then select. The system uses the youth. We need a mass movement. Politicians should be gagged. First, we must take out criminals from politics. Second, we must take out those who have indulged in communal or divisive politics.
The rest which are left must be called for a debate in which they talk about what they believe in.
Plus, in a multi-party system, absolute majority is gone. We need a bi-party system to have complete majority over issues.
If a political party gets 30% of the total votes and the rest get a maximum of 10% votes they will form a coalition, and the Government will be headed by the party with 30% votes. But the fact is that 70% voters do not want that party to come to power. It will be a coalition but not a change.
We must get together and question the politicians, question ourselves. “Why do we want to give someone communal, a second chance?” “Why hasn’t the MNS been outlawed?”
Do you think that the media is playing the correct role?
Media is an extremely powerful tool. It can change the way things work. Even they have interests of vested parties. Media has positive as well as negative applications. I don’t know what wrong role is and what right role is. The media has to be free.
There are some who have good intentions and some who do it just for TRP’s and business. But this is inevitable until we regulate them. And the regulation must not happen. They are sometimes wrong, sometimes right. That is the way they are.
What are your views on demonstrations by people over issues?
Demonstration is a political agenda. Once the youth becomes active, the agitation becomes effective. If you recall the Mandal commission agitation in 1991, the youth toppled the Government. This is the power that they have. This is the reason why the youth should be concentrated upon.
Similarly, when the medical students demonstrated their agitation against reservations, they took a stand and were unshakable.
In the Jessica Lal Murder case, the media picked it up, and you can see what happened. Media and the youth both can contribute to an effective demonstration.
India Fights Back has a large scale potential. Like minded people can get together; there can be a large youth involvement. Issues can be taken up and they can be effectively demonstrated.
Should negative voting be a part of the elections?
If that’s a question then yes. But, it is certainly not a long term solution and is also not the most effective one. We need a change at the fundamental level. The fact that our constitution gives each and every person the right to contest elections must be changed. The people with criminal charges must not be allowed to contest elections. We need much stricter Election Commission laws, so that people like Varun Gandhi cannot do what he did in Pilibhit.
What are the issues that one must consider important before voting?
There are 2 types of issues. One, which affects the youth directly and second, which affects the youth at a later stage, when they are no more youth. None of these are small issues.
Not being aware about things is a lame excuse. How much does it take to read the newspaper or watch the news or discuss issues with your parents or peers? It is easy to say that there is a problem.
A person like Muthalik can do what he wants because the youth does not come together. Why can’t we stand together and demand his arrest?
What is your message for the youth?
“Jitna bada jaanwar hota hai, utna hi usey hilana mushkil hota hai, par ek baar woh hil jata hai, to poora system hila deta hai” (The bigger the animal, the more difficult it is to move it. But once it moves, it can shake the whole system). The youth needs to move.
Raghu Ram is the Executive Producer of MTV Roadies and Rajiv Lakshman is the Creative head of Colosceum.
Special thanks to Radha Vishwanath, PR Pundit