By Kirti Krishna:
Dearest Netas to be,
Over the 24 years of my existence, I have only come to understand that the politicians in India take only two things seriously — matters to do with corruption and matters to do with religion. While the former of your ‘seriousness’ has already received widespread attention from us, the youth, I would like to draw your attention to the latter, your incessant urge to use the religion trump card. Party to party, each of you seem to have a common manifesto of spreading hatred among the existent communities by misinforming people of the supposed existence of a religious intolerance among their counterparts.
I would think of this to be my duty, representing a majority of what we have as a nation today, the youth, to convey to you that we do not bind ourselves by the shackles of what you want our religion to prescribe. Therefore, making an earnest attempt, I would like to in simple words put across to you, a checklist on how religion works for us and how we would like for you to treat us:
1. My God, is my conscience, and my God does not judge: If you have a problem with the way I behave, with the people I hang out with, with the fact that I have a social life, with the fact that I freely choose to have a relationship with someone of my choice, or with my habits (which a society using reasonable judgment would not brand as ‘antisocial’), you will not move towards painting a religious canvass out of it.
Sentences like ‘this is not in our culture’, and ‘this is not what our (read: your) religion prescribes’, are offensive and should not be used in order to protect your interests, which broadly includes the protection of a faction of your vote banks. Do remember, the youth too are a part of this ‘satta’.
2. Women should not *cannot make space for endless restrictions*: While being in power, you may want to show that you vouch for gender equality and fight for all those brownie points, you must, however, bear in mind that a major chunk of your allies will continue to batter women who party in clubs or plot an honour killing. A bunch of your allies may also push to encourage child marriage and female infanticide. In all our big cities, we may have a group who have a huge problem with inter-religious romantic relationships and in worst cases, have a problem if a Muslim and a Hindu behave like consanguineous siblings separated at birth. A large segment of your allies may be against women who seek employment — come on, let’s face it, they eat chowmein, which again is an established and oh yes, scientifically proven cause for rapes. Oh! And then, among our endless restrictions, I cannot help but miss our girls who wear jeans and t-shirts and the others who dress up like boys — a major blow to our religious and cultural principles you would think?
I wish you would look at it from what the scriptures actually state. The Vedas hold Shakti, or the mother as the progenitor from whom the universe emerged. Religious principles and our ever inspiring history have never debarred a woman from exercising her right or her freewill. At the cost of sounding clichÃ©d, I would also like to remind you at this point that India receives most of its credit because of the women who have emerged from this land. Womanhood is a gift from the giver, and deserves the most respect. Do make sure you learn how to offer this respect and please have in place a process to ensure that this is inculcated in every one of us.
3. Religious demographics are just a number: For the purposes of stating facts, we are a country with an 80.5% Hindu population, a clear cut majority. But would this give us a right to undermine and ill-treat the ones who do not fit into this majority? The answer my Neta, is a blunt ‘no’. My Constitution gives me a fundamental right to profess and practice a religion of my choice. While I’m a Hindu today, I may want to be a Muslim tomorrow. As I have clearly stated, my God is my conscience, and my God does not judge.
Supporting a chunk of the population against the others on the ground of them being a majority and letting the others down is not a sign of good governance. The sign of good governance is when you are in a position to treat all religions on the same level without bringing in a disparity. Given how desi we are, we are always in a position to forgive your sins of the past, but forgetting them has always been quite a task. As a leader, you will work towards bringing all religions together and not dividing us on the basis of our God. The policy of divide and rule worked in your age and time, I’m not too sure if much of it makes any sense to us anymore.
4. The east is east and the west is west (not when you’re in the same country!): People from the north-east are not to be stereotyped and labelled. A girl from Mizoram who gets molested by a gang of goons in Delhi should be equally protected as a girl from Delhi would reasonably be.
Just because a person comes from North East India, it will not be taken for granted that they can be exploited at our will and treated as someone who belongs from outer space. The seven sisters of the east and the number of individuals who come from those corners are a special and inevitable part of our tradition and culture. Their dressing, their food and their accent is natural to where they come from and are at ease to live at any place and position in this country. Their rights and interests will be safeguarded at all times and will not be damaged.
The motive here is to not rant endlessly and point out the faults but to give a width to the level of the debate that happens when we decide to vote (or not) for a candidate. Corruption is the root of many evils but solving it is no panacea. We have the Delhi example for that and a lot of manipulation and harassment that happens in different shades of religion, patriarchy, racism as well as caste-class politics needs to end before we go too far away with our pipe dreams.