In keeping with the turbulent times our country is facing, the words of Nelson Mandela really struck me.
“There can be no keener revelation of a society’s soul than the way in which it treats its children.”
Have we forgotten the attack on the students of Jawaharlal Nehru University on December 5, 2019, or the arrests of young student activists? They were detained for protesting and speaking their mind and asking questions.
While the former is the most unexpected and brutal attack that our country has faced since 26/11, the latter shows how tolerant we have become towards injustices and violent draconian laws being imposed on the youth of the world’s largest democracy. Given the current political situation, the irony of that phrase is laughable. Instead of reducing the caste, gender and religious divide existent in our country, we are encouraging regressive social behavior — by trying to justify our silence on social media.
What I am most concerned about today is the lack of transparency and accountability from our elected representatives. As MP Mohua Moitra pointed out very accurately in the Parliament, “This is a democracy, not an elected autocracy.”
We fought our way out of colonialism, economic depression and social divide to crawl right back into it, thanks to a few extremists. When half the world is striving towards clean energy, sustainable environmental practices and preservation of human life and technology, we are turning our backs and walking back to the same chaotic and authoritarian regime that we gained independence from in 1947.
In order to understand what the current government wants, allow me to paint a picture of what I believe are the most important features of a democratic country. The ideal liberal free-thinking government that is being carelessly referred to as anti-nationalist.
An ideal government would have immediately stopped the implementation of the farm bills that are being passed arbitrarily without any debate and deliberation, the very essence of democracy. They would have recognised the thousands of citizens on the street who are uncomfortable with a policy. More so, because if its implementation is creating inexplicable violence and terror in the minds of people, such a policy should not be carried forward — not without a proper explanation and accountability on behalf of the government.
In this new day and age, if your intentions are clear and pure, it shouldn’t be too hard to provide a reasonable argument or explanation for it. This should ideally be the head of the State, who could articulate the intention of the current government and address the grievance of the masses. Whether it is CAA or the farm bills, the problem does not lie with the policies so much as with the way they are being executed.
Why do politicians forget that while some people trusted and believed in them enough to hand them the position of power they hold today by voting for them, there were others who did not agree and voted otherwise? That unless they are fascists or dictators, they have a responsibility to address each and every section of our society and respect our Constitution, instead of evading it.
As long as we continue to be tolerant, the right-wing politics of the government also continues. If the intention of our government is to ensure safety, security and progress, then why is there so much injustice taking place and why are so many criminals walking free?
A few examples of what the government has failed to address or give answers for are:
Laws being passed that have the potential to widen the gap between the rich and the poor and will have a cross-cultural impact. Freedom of speech and expression being curtailed. Students, teachers, authors and journalists being arrested. Domestic violence is on the rise, in some cases by police officers and judges. Amid this, the government has no data of the thousands of daily-wage workers and migrants who died during the lockdown trying to get back home.
To add to that, media houses continue to distract people from the real pressing issues such as economic despair, gender-based violence, building of detention centres, floods and environmental degradation in Assam, lack of transparency of the PM Cares Fund, military tension with foreign states, the crumbling public healthcare system etc.
It is important to understand why so many people are rising up against this system today. No one wants to be held responsible for the mistreatment of certain sections of society based on class, caste, gender, race, religion or occupation, yet here we are.
The reason institutions, students, teachers and people are standing up against the government today is because it is hurting the very soul of our nation, the soul of our nation that is free, secular, socialist. That one laathi, that one rod, that one anti-human quote is hurting the very soul of India in a way that it may not ever be able to recover. And after all these cheap political tactics and hate speeches become another chapter of a history book, we will be the ones who have to answer to that Class 6 history enthusiast why and how we let the soul of India to be in danger.
We must acknowledge that there is a thin line between the issues that need our tolerance and the ones that need us to be intolerant. Let us all be aware of that as India enters a new decade.