Dear Teenagers of India,
This is the first time that I am writing a letter to you. You all are growing up in the Digital Information age, which is also the information revolution age. You have advanced technology at your disposal today; you share video, texts, pictures with your friends in less than a minute. You are a very fast generation. You have full knowledge of the world, with information at your fingertips. You are more aware of your surroundings. I didn’t have that kind of knowledge or information in my teen age. But, today, I feel as if this digital knowledge era has certain malfunctions. There is lots of information at our disposal without any editing or censorship. Sometimes many religious groups are also misusing this digital technology to spread hatred.
Today, I am writing to you this important letter after reading many public statuses on social media, which worry me. Let me explain why.
I believe that we live in a country where intolerance is growing. Attacks on freedom of expression are increasing. A famous writer and activist like M.M. Kalburgi, Govind Pansare, Narendra Dabholkar, who criticized religious superstition have been murdered. Many authors who are critically writing on religion have been banned or facing life threats.
A Muslim man Akhlaq was beaten to death and his son severely injured in Dadri after rumours spread in the area about the family storing and consuming beef. Two Dalit children were allegedly burnt alive in Sunpedh village by an Upper caste Rajput. The Government canceled the registration of an environmental watchdog like Greenpeace and several other civil society organizations. I have recently read some Facebook statuses in which many have criticized people who returned awards against this intolerance and religious extremism. Often many of us share or ‘forward’ jokes on secularism in our family whats app group. We make fun of people who criticize government policies. We call them anti-national.
I have noticed that many issues are being connected to nationalism. Like many others, if I am not a supporter of PM Narendra Modi, if I criticize government policies, if I am against budget cuts in education and health, then I am anti-development, anti-nationalist, anti-Modi and anti-Hindu.
I am very disappointed with these particular labels, ‘anti-national, anti-development’ that are inflicted on me in social media. I love my country; I am as much Indian as anyone else. If I am working as an activist to save Jal-Jungle-Jamin (water-forest-land) of this country that does not mean I am anti-national or anti-development. I believe this is part of our great culture and tradition to save our biodiversity, our river, forest, mountains, and water. If we want to save our great Indian culture and tradition we must save our land, forest and adivasis way of living. At least that’s what I believe.
I must acknowledge that you are the ones who are going to make this country a better place to live in. So I am reaching out to you. We need to understand that secularism is not an anti-religious idea. Secularism allows us to believe and freely practice whatever religion we want in our personal life, but it does not mean anyone can dictate what other members of the society should eat, behave or believe. Secularism means humanity, peace and development of any civilization or country.
I believe we must understand what is the spirit of our country, what is the idea of India. In my time, our country was based on “unity in diversity”.
Today I can see many people trying to politicize religion for certain vested interests. Politicizing religion and forcing religious ways on others is a definite way to damage the image of that religion. Religious extremism is a more destructive force than any other threat to the world that comes from an ideology that says “my way is right for everyone”. You, being the future of our beautiful country have to reject any politics, ideology or society which based on religion or any ethnicity.
We have to also understand that the Islamic state, the Boko haram all are trying to establish an extreme idea of a religious country where they will rule by an anti-humane, draconian law. They want to control our way of living, our freedom of expression, our arts, our history, and our science. They are anti-women, anti- caste, anti-poor. To love this world, love humanity, we don’t have to love people based on their religion or caste or any other identity. We love them because they are human and humanity should live longer than anything.
A concerned citizen