20th October 2018. I received a Facebook message from a long lost friend. We had studied together for a few years; then he left to study in his hometown. We had never been close, but that didn’t deter us from striking up a conversation. We spoke about many things, and 15 minutes later, I put down the phone. I don’t know why at that time, but I cried, for a good long time, I cried. Then, for the next few days, I thought over what had triggered this reaction, and now that I have come to a conclusion, I thought it will be a good idea to share it here.
Our conversation began like any other with pleasantries. I asked him, “So, what have you been doing these days?” He replied, “I have joined politics. Main xyz* party mein hoon aur mere bahut contacts hai politicians se.” ( I have joined xyz* party and I am in contact with many politicians now). I said, “Toh how is politics suiting you?” He replied, “Bahut kaam rehta hai, poora din kisi na kisi se milna.. aur hum toh kuch 50-60 din jail mai bhi nikal chuke hai.” ( There’s a lot of work; meeting so many people… and I have also spent some 50-60 days in jail).”Par kyun?” (But why?) To this, he gave me a proud answer that left me shocked. “Arrey, woh Padmaavat ko lekar jo saare protests hue the na, usme hum bhi involved the. Woh bus vus jalaana, hum woh sab mai help kiye the. Arrey, bahut hungama aur maar peet hua tha!” ( Oh, all those protests due to that film Padmaavat… I was also involved in them. I helped in burning buses and all… There was a lot of controversies and physical violence).
I said to him after a moment’s silence, “But wasn’t that a wrong thing to do? If you want to show your opinion, why use violence and harm innocent people for it?” He chuckled and said, “Toh aur kya karte? Bhai, uss zamaane mai ek Rajput rani itne aadmiyon k saamne naachti thee kya? Nhi na? Toh isse bahut logo ko hurt hua tha. Poora galat dikhaya hai uss mai.” (What else could we have done? Would a Rajput queen from that time dance like this in front of so many people? No. So, many people were hurt because of this. They have depicted everything incorrectly in that film). I said, “Shouldn’t people in the creative fields have that much liberty? Utna freedom of speech and expression toh unko milna chahiye na apne talents dikhane k liye? Otherwise yeh democracy kyun hai?” ( People should have that much freedom of speech and expression to showcase their talent. What’s the point of democracy otherwise?) He insisted that it was wrong and abruptly changed the topic.
I then asked him, “Achcha, what do you think of the MeToo movement?” “Kaunsa movement?” I repeated myself. He replied, “Ab kya sochna hai? Mera isspe koi opinion nhi hai.” (What’s there to think? I have no opinion on this). I asked him if he likes politics. He said, “Haan, bus ab agle election mai MLA toh banna hai chahe uske liye kuch bhi karna pade.” (Yeah, now in the next elections I have to become an MLA no matter what it takes). I suddenly found this very sinister, and I asked him, “Kuch bhi matlab, literally, anything?” “Haan, kuch bhi matlab kuch bhi.” ( Yes, anything means anything). Then I asked, “Agar MLA ban gaye, then what changes will you bring?” “Changes matlab?” “Matlab, development ko lekar ya socially speaking, what improvements will you bring?” He then said the one good thing in the whole conversation, “Ek toh mai ek school banaunga aur ek hospital bhi. Vaise toh abhi bhi ek hospital hai, meri dadi k naam ke peeche but ek aur banega jisme patients ko free mai treatment milega.” ( I will start a school and a hospital. There’s a hospital already named after my grandmother… but I will also start another which will provide free treatment to people).
We spoke for a little while more about random things, but this had formed the crux of the discussion. Now, to be honest, I do not know if I overreacted, but I do know that this conversation asked for a reaction. After putting down the phone, a sudden sense of hopelessness engulfed me. We all know that there are some power holders in the executive whose actions and speeches are not morally correct; but never had I imagined a person I thought I knew, of barely 18 years or so in this developing age, to talk like this. We all hope and propagate the fact that the youth of today will change tomorrow for the better and make the world a good and peaceful place, but what happens if the youth themselves are corrupted with violence and backward thinking?
I know that this is just about one person – but how do we know how many such people exist? These are the individuals in line for titles of power and if a simple conversation with even one of them goes like this, there is something seriously wrong with our system. And the worst part is, what can we even do about this? If beliefs are so deeply embedded at such a young age, what is the solution? I personally believe our education system has to be refined to change this kind of mindset in young people. Politics needs to be more transparent. I also honestly believe that extremist elements must be banned outright. People who are ready to commit acts of violence to get in politics are a serious threat to our democracy.