India is a composite country, where the people have come to historically celebrate harmony in heterogeneity. It is a country whose singular identity is that we can only talk about it in the plural. From the picturesque mountain ranges of the Himalayas to the exotic Andamans, the geographical spectrum of the country is like no other. Indian society takes pride in accommodating a wide array of cultural ethos, ethics as well as establishments. Such a society needs a strong mobilising force for constant leverage and is highly vulnerable to destabilisation. Given the unparalleled uniqueness of the Indian society, the elements which constitute our society need perpetual churning and continuous changes for the better. At such a crossroads, social reforms become indispensable for the healthy functioning of the society.
India is not alien to social reforms. Every time, societal norms and ritual operability have reached an ignominious nadir, India has felt the dire need for social reform. In this regard, mentioning the names of visionaries like Raja Ram Mohan Roy, Ishwar Chandra Vidyasagar, Jyotirao Phule inter alia, is sine qua non. They were mavericks who showed the world that Indian society is, in no capacity, sacrosanct, and is subject to constant pro-human improvements.
In the 21st century, in an age of massive technological overhaul, India still faces critical issues which are at the heart of a throbbing society. For starters, the very notion of considering India as a monolithic and standardised entity is flawed beyond measure. India is a melting pot of differences, and a multitude of societal patterns stare us in the eye. Society in a remote village on the outskirts of Alappuzha is radically different from that in a bustling urban setting of the central business district of Mumbai. These individual societies have their own needs which not only need to be recognised but also need to be addressed and all their grievances redressed.
Sadly enough, we live in a time when a person’s caste still determines his capability, in some parts of the country, and colour prejudice is at a shameful high. The grotesque caste cauldron in of parts of North India is plaguing the societal ethos and is leading to unsolicited tussles between communities, thus disrupting the stability and balance which are so intrinsic to any progressive society. Seven decades after extricating ourselves from the vice-grip of the colonisers, it seems we are yet again yielding space to bigotry and perverse notions of division.
From asserting religious fervour to fueling the caste hierarchy, from hideously discriminating against women to not recognising the existence of the third gender, from Rohith Vemula to Nirbhaya, from Babri to Dadri ; it is unimaginable that such abominable incidents have taken place in India, a country which is setting global milestones in the start-up sector with Flipkart and Ola, alongside admirable advances in space technology. If all these information seems too heavy to digest, we could just contemplate how a country boasts of honing women athletes who have made us proud in the recently concluded Commonwealth Games, as well as have an 8-year girl atrociously raped and murdered to send out vengeance signals to a particular community.
India is an absolute potpourri of social aberrations. The common people, who are the foremost constituents of any society, need to come forward to address these devious occurrences. The Mahatma had advocated for being the change we want to see in society. We have to bridge the gulf between personal and public, and break away from the aloofness analogous to the theatrical ‘Brechtian alienation’. Sensitisation, correction and progression are the only ways by which India can raise its head from the muck. Censorship is thriving, while amendment of regressive patterns is not. A country where Dalits get flogged by vigilantes, has no credit in joining the Nuclear Suppliers’ Group, a country where people from the South are always prejudiced against because of their darker skin colour and general non-adherence to a standardized image of India, cannot claim to be inclusive and tolerant, a country where the microcosmic identity is fundamentally flawed cannot massage its macrocosmic identity and claim greatness.
Unless there is a radical overhaul in the minds of the people, ushering in genuine societal changes is impossible. The Government can facilitate non-discriminatory schemes like the MGNREGA and PMAY available for all and sundry, but is a society whose well-being is contingent on State intervention, even desirable? The onus of peaceful co-existence in society is undoubtedly on the people. Therefore, it is the people who have to assume a role of greater significance, rather than merely being passive receptors of tradition. Blatantly blaming the Government will yield no fruit, neither will dispassionate demonstrations for justice in college campuses; the pressing need of the hour is to become an active agent of change, to be inquisitive and sceptical about the society, to question the unquestioned, to raise voices so that the voiceless be heard, to ultimately evolve as a human being and let benevolence do the talking.