This post has been self-published on Youth Ki Awaaz by Shanaya Iyer. Just like them, anyone can publish on Youth Ki Awaaz.

Are You Sure You Are ‘Liberal’?

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About a week ago, a couple of colleagues and I were deeply debating politics during lunch. The topic being discussed was how intolerant our country had become, especially in the wake of the “Padmaavat” incident. The debate covered all sorts of topics, ranging from the beef ban to the Dadri lynching.

A colleague of mine who we all know to be a BJP bhakt (devotee) suddenly piped in and gave his view on the topic. I immediately dismissed his argument and didn’t even bother to hear what he said. He was going on about abolishing the Haj subsidy offered to Muslims to travel to Mecca each year. Rubbishing his arguments as being RSS-sponsored, I quickly returned to my seemingly more intriguing sandwich.

That evening, when I got home and opened ScoopWhoop, I found a similar article about the Haj subsidy. I read it and the arguments actually made sense to me. Why should a secular government subsidise the pilgrimages of one community alone? As I thought about this, I remembered my lunch-time conversation. Wasn’t my colleague making the same argument? Wasn’t I the one who had branded him a bhakt and closed all doors to any of his views or opinions?

The more I thought about these things, the more I realised that in trying to be as open-minded and liberal as possible, I had effectively done exactly the opposite. I had completely ignored a person’s arguments simply because of my preconceived notions about him. And to add to the problems, when I read the same article on a news source which I personally liked, I suddenly found logic and reason in what I had earlier deemed to be a bhakt’s rant.

This article was not meant to talk about my political leanings. If supporters of any political party find this demeaning to them, please note that this was not the intention. However, for me, this small incident essentially opened up a larger problem in the way in which I, and a lot of others, think.

We, the millennials, as a generation, are more open-minded and liberal. But at times, we too get caught up in our own preconceived notions and bigotry. Whenever someone puts up an idea that may not align with our view or may actually offend us, we forget what liberalism means.

While we many not agree with what everyone has to say, we can at least lend them an ear and an open mind. We can think about what they have to say and analyse it rationally, rather than dismissing them due to preconceived notions.

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  1. Sushant Jadhav

    Thank you from bringing up this topic.. I totally agree with your following statement.
    We, the millennials, as a generation, are more open-minded and liberal. But at times, we too get caught up in our own preconceived notions and bigotry. Whenever someone puts up an idea that may not align with our view or may actually offend us, we forget what liberalism means.
    But at the same time I believe that the liberalism you are referring to and the liberalism in discussion are contradictory. The dictionary meaning of liberal literally means “willing to respect or accept behaviour or opinions different from one’s own; open to new ideas“.
    The reason is that I miss the liberalism defined above in thoughts/ dialogues of these bhakts? Don’t you?
    Most of the topics of debate (personally feel more than 90%) by the bhakts are planted by the right wing for years.. and we are normalizing these topics rather than debating . The past political history of congress acts as a booster to these topics.
    I believe that the right ideology groups are spoiling the nation, They have successfully planted the seeds of hate, intolerance , communalism.. They have distorted the history in popular culture and made us slaves of their ideology.
    Lets take example, look at the topics of discussion you had with your bhakt friend .. what are these topics? Beef ban, dadri, haj subsidy,( topics like love jihad, bharat mataki jai, vande matram, ram mandir, reservation, cow, kashmiri bhramins, ram mandir are the point of interest for majority of the bhakts.)
    All these topics lead to a single political, religious, and social ideology which is communalism.
    Don’t we have enough serious issues with health, poverty, unemployment, malnutrition, education etc…which needs attention and debated?
    Citizens are not born right wing, left wing or secular .The social, economical, political circumstances make them take the stand. And in our country the political parties and ideologies define our social, economic and religious belief.
    The bhakts are just repeating what they have been taught, made to believe throughout generations, Congress, right wing, left wing all are equally responsible for this mess that we have today.
    Lets take example of the topic of discussion you had with the bhakt. The Haj subsidy…
    I welcome the SC order that ended the subsidy, and I agree with the justification of the order.
    But my question is why just Haj subsidy? Why this selectiveness?
    Is this the only religious pilgrimage subsidy we have in our country?
    What about four Kumbh Melas, held in Haridwar, Allahabad, Nashik and Ujjain. Kailash Manasarovar Yatra, godavari pushkaram,kanwar yatra in uttarakhand, geeta festival kurukshetra, Mukhyamantri Tirtha Darshan Yojana, and hundreds of state sponsored pilgrimages?
    The point I want to make is not about which religion gets subsidy and how much, but want to highlight the ideology of communalism we are supporting.
    There is no problem till the bhakts welcome the SC order, but the problem is when they use such judgements to spread communalism . And this is just what the right wing wants the people to do.
    If one is really liberal, social then he/she should also criticize all the religious subsidies. Criticizing selectively, favouring communalism, intolerance , hate is not being liberal or social.
    It is our fundamental duty to ask questions to the government . But look what happens when we ask questions to the current government.. we are awarded Antinational title.
    Earlier governments exploited us whenever we were silent.. The movement we said enough is enough ,we have thrown out the ruling party. But this has happened only when people were allowed to ask questions to the government, Political parties were made answerable for their actions and outcomes.
    But what is happening today? Are we allowed to ask questions? Raise our voice? Look at the mainstream media, social media trends….. Its hidden fascism under democracy…
    Have you ever been trolled for speaking intellectually, factually?
    Just try to criticize any of the BJP/Modi policy with proper justification, research, or factual argument on any of the social media platform. And see the replies….. My experience is they will troll you instead of having a healthy debate. (I have been trolled on virtual as well as physical social platforms)
    The political parties /leaders have hijacked our thought process, we are not free in real sense. All the information from the mainstream media, fake news on social network, saffronization of education, bureaucracy, judiciary is a big agenda towards making our country Hindurastra. The left and social Democratic parties are social / Democratic just for the sake of it. There is no difference….. they are here to rule the people.
    I think we the people are responsible for this, we have allowed them to make use of us. We just make buzz about our fundamental rights but we forget our fundamental duties as citizens of Social Democratic Republic country. We become bhakts of political parties, we have forgot that the government is of the people, for the people , by the people.
    After all these years of freedom, We are still struggling in the idea of our Nation. Should it be right wing religious ideology based, communist left ideology based, or social Democratic?
    I think the answer is in the preamble of our constitution. The day we citizens align our thought process based on the constitution, the day we people start living our constitution, we will be a true Nation and people will be true nationalist.

    Well We can think about what the bhakts have to say and analyse it rationally, rather than dismissing them due to preconceived notions. The same goes other way around, the real question is
    are they ready to accept others thoughts and ideas?
    Will they stop trolling and start to have health debates?
    Will they accept constitution above any religion?
    Will they consider minorities as citizens of this country?
    Will they end the Brahmanism and treat the dalits equal?
    Will they stop opposing reservation for backwards and instead ask the government to provide affordable education, healthcare and enough employment opportunities?
    Will they ask BJP/Modi questions on their policies, failures or actions?

    1. Shanaya Iyer

      Thanks for the comment! Almost wrote more than the article itself 😛
      The idea behind this article as I’ve mentioned is not to pick political sides. I completely agree with what you’ve said. The idea was that I feel a lot of us have become almost intolerant to certain logical ideas simply because they come from the “right-wing”. Yes, there are hundreds of issues to be tackled and yes debating them is a solution, but my intention was to showcase a lesser spoken about side of intellectual intolerance. The “bhakt” anecdote was just an example. This article has no political leanings or motives, it merely tried to describe an upper class urban elite mentality which many of us have.

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