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Mount Carmel Student Pens Open Letter Responding To The #RahulStumped Controversy

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By Elixir Nahar:

An Open Letter to ‪#‎RahulStumped‬ Enthusiasts

Those ‘No Ragging’ posters you vaguely see around educational institutions could be put to good use this week. They must all be collected and sent to Indian media houses country-wide! It has arisen to be the need of the hour, considering the events of November 25th, 2015 – the day we’d fondly remember as ‘Mr. Rahul Gandhi’s (memorable?) visit to Mount Carmel College’. If I had a few hashtags to throw around, they would be on the lines of ‪#‎Misconstrued‬ and ‪#‎Exaggerated‬, and this is from someone on the inside.

Didn’t get your invitation? Don’t worry, it wasn’t lost in the mail or anything. It was lodged with all the other invites to media houses in P.O box: Sorry You’re Not Invited.

As we students made our way past the lurking media and into our college campus, the fact of the matter was – this is about us, not them. It was going to be a friendly interaction between him and us, discussing matters that concern the youth and the country. We were definitely eager to see how he had tailored his interactive speech to suit our audience of young women.

Image source: Twitter
Image source: Twitter

He opened with why he chose our college in particular. He spoke about societal norms: What is ‘pretty’, what is ‘skinny’, how irrelevant these terms are to him, and why women are so important in his life – his grandmother, mother, and sister. He was humourous, and he struck a chord with the audience right from the start, before jumping into the nitty gritty.

What touched most of the audience was Mr. Gandhi’s emphasis on ‘starting a conversation’ about all the issues. He informed us about how his government was being shunned out of Parliament, to the extent of their mic being turned off while they are speaking, despite them being the Opposition and still having a foothold in there. He brought us up to speed on how the central government has not once been open to starting a conversation with them, about anything under the sun that concerns the citizens. He drew up examples from the past, when former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh was in office, and how he would pick up the phone and directly call the Opposition just to have a conversation. Let me add that these facets arising on the eve of the Winter Session in Parliament could be more than a mere coincidence.

He emphasised the need for a collective ruling body, and that change cannot be brought about by just one man, including himself. He said the body should be made up of people like us and that we should be allowed easier access into politics, including Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha. These were all facets that resonated well with his young audience. Questions were raised about the GST Bill, the ‘Suit-Boot Sarkar’ the situation in the North East, tolerance in India and opportunities for differently-abled citizens. He was understanding and answered seamlessly.

The best part was that he recognised corruption in higher levels of the Youth Congress. He admitted to things going wrong in Congress which led to their loss in 2014. He spoke about rejuvenating the party and giving it a new face and image. It was touching to hear him question about why there isn’t more love and kindness being spread – something I highly doubt any other politician in India would do. Now before you write that off as being weak, it is the strongest relationships that are built on love, kindness and respect, and that very well applies to matters concerning the country.

Rahul Gandhi was able to have an intimate conversation between himself and 2500-odd people, and how. Little did we know the situation that would transpire immediately after. Young women left the campus that afternoon with starry eyes and a cheerful air. I too walked to the car, in a headspace of recollection and appreciation for the man of the hour, when my phone exploded with news updates from the very event I was at.

“Rahul Gandhi stumped by Mount Carmel students”

“Rahul Gandhi questions crowd; backfires”

I was appalled, more so because not once have I questioned the authenticity of the top-tier news app on my phone, where I get my news on-the-go. Clearly their reputation precedes them if they were publishing something that they could not even vouch for at that very stage.

This is how that exchange in question went, minus the hullabaloo surrounding it:

“Do you think Swachh Bharat is working?”

“YES/NO”

“Really?”

“NO/YES!”

“Ok. I don’t think it’s working”

And

“Do you think Make in India is working?”

“YES/NO”

“Then do you think more jobs are being created?”

“NO (Majority)”

That’s what an adult conversation looks like, media folks and other not-so-well wishers. You may want to sit up and take note! There are two or more sides, and opposing ideas make for healthy banter. To deliberately cut these circulating videos is to cut off our voices. I felt an iota of what Mr. Gandhi must be feeling on a regular basis, thanks to misrepresentation by the media. To have the screams of my peers and I shouting “NO, IT’S NOT WORKING” to be cut off and tuned down like that. Also notable, if the same audience who thought ‘Make in India’ is working, also thought jobs were not being created – perhaps there is a questionable aspect to how much the audience collectively knew about the topic.

Who are we without opinions? They shape our character. Just because half the audience might not have shared the same opinion as Mr. Gandhi about the central government’s pet campaigns, does not make them any less right or him any more wrong. Not a single news report spoke about how he wants to make India safer for women. How he doesn’t want us to feel uncomfortable walking down the street. How he doesn’t want us to have to think twice about going to a pub. No. All the reports focused on how his question round allegedly misfired.

As journalists – isn’t it a basic rule not to believe what’s on the surface? Aren’t we taught to always dig deeper and find out more. The Indian media fed off a measly leaked clip from ANI and *BOOM*, cue #RahulStumped posts, memes and more. Smart alecks are raising imaginary toasts to the Mount Carmel students for helping the country immensely. Yet, almost the entire student body – and they will back me up on this – are bewildered and almost apologetic to Mr. Gandhi that their answers were also misinterpreted by the news.

What struck me is that all the media were synonymous in one approach: Trying to pinpoint what he did WRONG. It’s so unfortunate that before he even attempts to do anything, there are vultures circling… waiting to pounce on any potential screw-up, or churn up something out of nothing. They’ve procured this image of him in their minds and they expect him to stay in that frame, and if he ventures out, they will find some way to put him back in there. Up until this event, I too would take whatever the media fed me, without questioning it much. It makes me wonder – are we all just victims of good or bad PR? This seems to be a realisation that has hit many Mount Carmel students and teachers.

Noteworthy also, the very evening that the GST Bill issue was raised by students in Bangalore, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley surfaced to address the same. He was optimistic about the Bill, and echoed a few concerns. This comes on the heels of Mr. Gandhi enunciating to us on not accepting being thrown aside and wanting the GST Bill to suit and benefit the country, it being the most ambitious tax reform since Independence.

Arnab Goswami took it upon himself to orchestrate his daily screaming match around the events of Rahul Gandhi’s visit, when at that point leading news channels had moved on to other, more pertinent matters, and #RahulStumped was reduced to news for the ticker.

The central government seemed to be having a field day, making suggestive statements of the youth siding with them and not Congress. All I can say is that the majority of youth will go wherever they feel safe, where their opinions are heard, where there is tolerance and where women feel comfortable. They will side with someone who makes sure secular is not just another word in the dictionary, but a way of life once again.

Thanks for stopping by, Rahul Gandhi. You were inspiring and spirited.

You must be to comment.
  1. Aman Saxena

    Thank you for this letter, Elixir.
    It’s beautifully written and delivers a much needed harsh critique on today’s media that masquerades as intellectuals. The media, should just reflect the uncut truth, and leave the judging part to the readers; rather than propogating their own biased opinions.

  2. ucallmebhakth

    petty lame congress chamcha rant as always.
    when you dont have guts to accept a fact that one man is trying hard to change the way this nation moves ahed, you dont have the moral right to stay a journalist.

  3. Arati

    A very well-written article, Elixir.

    I understand that Rahul Gandhi was not all bad while addressing the crowd at Mt Carmel. But quite frankly, I am tired of his repeated hollow jibes and over-enthusiastic attitude that have come to light only after the election of 2014. For 10 years he had been mute to the very same problems that he talks about today. And, I feel he should face the same criticism directed towards any other politician in India today (though I agree that the media has gone overboard as is usually the case).

    I hear Rahul Gandhi going on about empowering the youth, women, making them the decision makers etc. That is quite a smashing plan indeed, but it would do him good to be prepared with a methodology to attain the same. Mere rhetoric won’t work anymore. If I had to write a letter to him, it would be along these lines:

    Mr. Gandhi,

    Your speech at a college in Bengaluru drove me to write this letter. Having seen in you in action after ten dormant years of UPA rule, I had hoped for an eloquent address befitting the glorious tradition of the educational institution you chose to grace with your presence. As has been the case usually, my optimism was in vain. The mudslinging that ensued had me frowning throughout your speech. I will get right down to the contentious bits instead of beating about the bush.

    You think Swachh Bharat cannot be a viable central government strategy? Why do you think so? What, according to you, should be the one big ‘strategic’ plan of the central government for 2014-19? You say that Make in India, Connect India (I think you meant Digital India) and other flagship programmes are not working. Okay, but could you suggest an alternative route for job creation, given your contempt for the corporate sector (the ever-repetitive suit-boot rant), even after liberalizing the economy in 1991? You say farmers are suffering and the Land Bill is meant to snatch away the little that they have. Why did your government (when it was in power) replace the existing draconian British law (1894) for land acquisition only in 2013 (on the eve of the general election)? Were you unaware of the fallacies of the previous law for 60 long years? Quite frankly, your sympathy sounds hollow

    When you start off on a tangent about the RSS-BJP being hardcore communal agents, please substantiate it with facts/data to make your arguments more credible. Also, highlighting the steps undertaken by your regime to counter such cases of caste/communal violence from 2004-2014 will help the common man gauge the noble intent of your words.

    Your total disregard and apathy towards the issue of AFSPA and Irom Sharmila’s struggle left me shocked. The glib answer you gave in this context does not become a mature politician, even one with half-baked knowledge.

    Your remark about Nitish Kumar being relatively more honest compared to Lalu Prasad Yadav goes on to prove that compromise is the cornerstone of Indian politics. It amused me that once upon a time you readily tore a copy of an ordinance that could save Lalu from the law, but now you find no fault in govt formation with him to suit your needs.

    You say women’s security is at risk. Please elucidate the steps that you think would solve the problem and how the government of the day has failed miserably in implementing them. Take them to task! I did not see such vehemence in your demeanour regarding women’s safety when the Nirbhaya rape case happened. Pardon me if I don’t find resonance with you here.

    I think it is high time that India had a competent government and an equally competent opposition. I am not a blind follower of any political heavyweight, but a concerned citizen who has only witnessed frustrating shouting matches which lack any substance. You should set aside the ambitious plan of cultivating a personality cult for yourself. I would rather vote for someone who delivers even 10% of what he/she promised than someone who has only woken up to the sorry state of India after May 2014. Your party’s past sins notwithstanding, you can salvage what is left of it if you care to speak the right words, rather than aping a broken record.

    I hope you start a nuanced/informed debate sometime between rolling up your sleeves and pointing fingers at all and sundry.

    Sincerely,

    A concerned Indian

    1. Craig

      Excellently worded response. I like the respect that you give the author of the article for their point of view before going on to make your own. We could use more debate such as this in India today.

  4. Siddharth joshi

    Elixir,

    Very eloquently written. I don’t agree with most of your points there, except the conditional bias that the media has forever been infected with. Names change, their favourites switch and they play on a popular sentiment to deliver entertainment. A sad state.
    However, I’m here not to discus your or my opinions but only to congratulate you on your writing skills. Good job!

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