The sun shone through the green leaves. It was a bright Tuesday morning. The bell rang. It was time for the school assembly. We walked to the ground in neat lines, arranged height-wise.
The school captain read out the pledge “India is my country. All Indians are my brothers and sisters….” And the school choir came up to the stage and led us all in singing the national anthem. We sang with full force, understanding each and every word.
For our school had taught us the meaning of Jana Gana Mana. Every student sang the lines, standing straight with stretched shoulders. Not an eyelid would bat. Not a finger would move. We didn’t care about the religion or caste of the fellow student standing next to us. We didn’t care about the economic status of their parents. We didn’t care about their beliefs. We were all school students singing the anthem of our beloved country.
It’s been 12 years since I attended my last school assembly ever. And I have never seen such unity and serenity in the places I have lived, studied or worked. Yes, people loved their country. But there were too many divisions that weren’t ignored.
As we all grew up, maybe we let disunity creep into our minds. Maybe we started to recognise our neighbours or colleagues by their religion, caste and economic status. A 2014 study by The India Human Development Survey, conducted by the National Council for Applied Economic Research (NCAER) and Maryland University showed 27% of households self-reported engaging in untouchability.
As per an India Today report, “Since Brahmins come on the top of the caste chart, 52% of them still practice untouchability.” This means they don’t allow a person from the so-called lower caste community to use their vessels.
In this current environment, can we forget discrimination on the basis of religion? Having studied in Jamia Millia Islamia, I was asked by my neighbours or colleagues, “Par waha pe bahot jyaada Musalman honge na?” (aren’t there too many Muslims there?)
In a certain situation, I had to explain how I never faced any ill treatment of any sort on the campus and that a majority of my friends are Muslims. But this makes one wonder, why have we reached a place where we have to explain that people from the Muslim community are just like us? Isn’t it the truth that all of us are the same by blood and by flesh? We only have a different set of traditions and beliefs. But, is that supposed to divide us?
I studied in a convent school, grew up with neighbours who were largely Hindus, went to my church every Sunday and had a lot of Muslim friends in college. And this explains the idea of India to me, that we mingle with our fellow citizens not on their religion or caste, but because they are just like us – all around us. A lot of times, the hatred perpetrated on social media and by politicians makes me cringe. This is not the India I have known.
This Republic Day, I am inspired by the anti-CAA protests across the country, for many showed they won’t bow down to divisive politics and hatred. They show us their love and respect for each other, based on humanity. They show us the true idea of India. Because वन्दे मातरम् |