Did you see the MarchForOurLives last Saturday?
I had goosebumps for the whole of 6 minutes and 23 seconds as I remained in an almost frozen state listening to Emma Gonzalez talk. She survived the shooting at her high school last month in Parkland, Florida, while as many as 17 of her schoolmates perished.
On March 24, thousands took to the streets across the United States of America to fight for stricter gun laws.
The young came out strong. The young said, “I’m no longer accepting the things I cannot change. I am changing the things I cannot accept.” The young made it known that they were a force to be reckoned with. The young made it known that they were not to be messed with.
The media, domestic and international, gave them all the attention. They were on my news feed everywhere I looked. The march’s presence, its effect was inescapable.
Closer home, a lot has been happening too. I am writing this because there’s a lot I have to say and there isn’t enough time.
Time for what? Time to save ourselves from what’s coming. No, I don’t intend to plant seeds of fear or induce paranoia. That’s been the government’s job. But we have got to sit down and take a moment to acknowledge the full-fledged assault on education, and students, if not in the last four years, but just the last three months.
Students at the Tata Institute of Social Sciences have been protesting for over a month now to get the institute’s administration, the respective state governments, and the UGC to not take away current and future scholarships for those from marginalised communities.
Students at JNU have been fighting many battles. It’s under siege. The vice-chancellor wants research students to stay within the confines of the college chained to the attendance sheets. The administration refuses to take action against a professor who has eight FIRs filed against him on charges of sexual harassment. The fact that he was arrested and got out on bail within an hour is another story.
Thousands from JNU started their march towards the parliament last Friday, and the police instead of ensuring the safety of peaceful protestors cracked down on them. The mainstream media looked the other way.
Hundreds of students from NIFT Kannur rose against sexual harassment this month. In February, hundreds protested against the SSC exam paper leak in Delhi, and there were those from Mumbai university too, who were protesting against the exorbitant hike in exam fee.
I could go on. But there’s no time. The mainstream media is making its choices, to not report, to misrepresent, to ignore. It’s time you made your choice too. Just like Emma Gonzalez, Naomi Walder, Yolanda Renee King and the countless young people in the US (who also have the mainstream media’s attention). Maybe you already have – on your Facebook, Instagram and Twitter accounts but your stories must travel further and reach a wider readership.
I try every day, as Team Lead at Campus Watch, to talk to as many students as I can, and urge them to write about their experiences as a student. The experiences range from being a part of the long march to sharing the endless difficulties that come with being a student in India today. The routine sexism, bureaucracy, weak curriculum, fee hikes, lack of systems to deal with sexual harassment and what not.
But students always tell me, “write about us”. I do, and I will but would it be the same? I have no ownership of your experiences. I have not the slightest idea of how you felt when you were at the receiving end of the water cannon. Most journalists won’t either. It’s your story.
Your words have the power to bring about change. They will break barriers if you write. You will be heard. I can’t promise, but I can try and help.
Write before they can say you’re marching for your right to bunk. Write before you become numbers in an article in reported speech. Write because you can. Write because you should. Write because access to the internet is a privilege. Use it. Write because you matter. Write because each one of your experiences is valid and needs to be heard. Write because Youth Ki Awaaz is a platform that’s yours as much as it is mine. Write because there are people reading.
Write because it’s never too late.
P.S – If you’re wondering where to start, just click on the ‘Start Writing’ option that’s right at the top on this window, and you will have already taken your first step. Good luck!