As I woke up today, the sound of patriotic songs reached my ears. I kept assuming that the sound was playing inside my head and it had nothing to do with reality. But then, I realised that the school in my locality was having its Republic Day celebration.
As I got up and went to my balcony I could hear the National Anthem. Every time I hear the melancholy tune of the National Anthem I get goosebumps, and the same happened this morning. Then, I started recalling how, in school, we used to celebrate Republic Day with all the patriotic speeches, songs, and music.
As I was lost in nostalgia, something bitter hit me. Ever thought how pure a child’s heart is? When we were kids, we barely cared about the caste, religion or ethnicity of a person. If a kid is ready to play with me, they are my friend. That’s all we cared about.
“Adulthood ruined everything,” is what I thought. But then, a realisation hit me, that it was not the adulthood that ruined things, it’s the ‘mundane’ activities of the society.
We have all been assigned our identities not according to our personalities and capabilities, but according to the religion we believe in, the caste we belong to, and the colour of our skin. The whole world follows this system.
I still remember how students in my school would, very confidently, inquire about each other’s caste.
Often, I fall victim to such inquiries because my name confuses people. They end up asking me about my religion, and sometimes even my caste. One such incident took place in early 2019 when I had gone for an academic interview. The candidate sitting beside me asked my name. Later, we started discussing the Muzaffarnagar riots, as I hail from the town and he was from Meerut.
Under the delusion that I was a Hindu, he started spitting venom about Muslims. I couldn’t even gather the courage to say, “Hello! I belong to the same community you are cussing right now.” I just couldn’t.
However, after a while, he asked me, “Are you a Jaat?” Then, I told him that I follow Islam. It was awkward for him, his face turned pale and he went outside.
This little incident in my life makes me question our ethics. Children don’t learn to hate other people all by themselves, they are subconsciously taught to do so. We see our elders and people around us saying inappropriate things about different communities and that is where a child develops the hatred for others. And this is true for all the religions and communities we live in.
You speak ill about others, and your child will do the same.
Today, we can see this country divided on the basis of religion and caste. There is hatred everywhere. Where has this come from? It has come from us. We have maligned the roots of our families and the country itself.
For me, the idea of ‘New India‘ is to eliminate this hatred. If you are living in a secular country, then behave like you are a responsible citizen. A developing brain can be influenced very easily, and that is why with growing age, a person ends up acquiring absolutely everything they perceive.
The India that I want to see should be free from intolerant mindsets. Citizens must realise that our Constitution-makers called this country secular for a reason. There is a dire need for moral education. Our children should be taught the real meaning of secularism and respect.
These small kids we see around us will form a new India and it is our responsibility to teach them the right thing. Their minds can still be directed towards positivity.
This Republic Day, let’s make a promise to ourselves: to eliminate ethnic-intolerance and give this country a better future.