I really do not know if I should divert all this energy and time with which I am trying to write this piece. Maybe I should, maybe not. But as I have chosen not to stay silent on something which bothers, I will indeed try and give it a thought.
I just read something which brought real disturbance to my mind. Not only because I disagree with what is written in it but also because I disagree with the intention with which it is written. And I will also write in a plain simple language so that there is no ambiguity in the message I want to present here.
I will share with the reader my own experience. I came from a middle class, upper caste and small town background with specific pre-conditioned notions in mind, all of us do.(I learnt here its called socialisation) I was told on the very first day that the aim of the course and the institute is to develop critical thinking, to engage with oneself and to deconstruct one’s own notions. I did not know what all that meant but still clapped as it appealed to me a lot. I made several friends who were from different caste-class backgrounds, never intending to think or bother what their identity was. I did everything what normal friends do- hang out, dine and share food from the same plate.
Of course, I am a human being right…and I am in TISS, the place where everyone is equal and all that…so obviously I did not even sub-consciously did anything discriminatory with anyone!!
Then came a time, soon enough to make me realise that I am wrong. My inability to recognise discrimination and considering this place as sacrosanct does not mean that everything is jolly good. When the same friends were shocked to know that I am from an upper caste, they thought I was an exception, way too nice for what I was supposed to be, and I thought they were all cynics and idiots. That they had unnecessarily created barriers among themselves and were isolating themselves on purpose. Such levels of my humanistic and naïve approach made me think it was their problem that they were doing such a thing, that they cant simply understand that oppression and injustice was a thing of the past and everything was just simply good around, especially in this esteemed institution.
But then I was also brave enough to put forward these confusions in my mind, to say out loud that dalits are not as oppressed as they feel, that women are so empowered in this campus, that capitalism is the dominant way of life and you should take up CSR jobs and go change the system by being a part of the system. I was ready to say out loud that this has been my socialisation and my belief systems.
But thankfully this was a thing of the past, it did not last for more than 2 months of my campus life I guess. By then I had been able to engage, to discuss and to actually understand that what I was saying was because I was somebody, I had an identity and that identity made me believe certain things; and all that had to be questioned. I could no longer claim that what I understand about people who have gone through the oppression were wrong in what they believed in. I could no longer say that reservation policy is discriminating on the upper castes, that the women were so free that they could exercise choice and agency without any problem, and I could no longer say that my beloved campus is non-discriminatory. That was the moment I realised that I am a person who needs to be more than humane and liberal in understanding the issues that I deal with on a regular basis. That was the time when I realised that I have developed my own politics, before that I was just a fool.
So to read and hear a lot of times that caste and gender do not operate here, that we are all a big happy family and that we are so great that we allow everyone to hold their views with respect brings me back to the same memories I had a long time back. But then at least I tried my best to be open about understanding issues which I do not find in many of the people who hold similar opinions which I once had. As a result, they have developed a very antagonistic and surprisingly hostile atmosphere in which they justify their injustice in the name of humanism. It somehow irks me to see people crying hue over issues then do not try to engage with, to critically examine themselves, to understand what the word ‘politics’ even mean. Here I am not claiming to say that I am an enlightened person and everyone else is a fool.
You can continue to disagree with what stands I take as long as your arguments take into account the existing reality. If you conveniently close your eyes to injustice, if you fail to recognise what the injustice is then I really think you have not made the effort to deconstruct your own self (which was asked to be done on the very first day on this campus!). And then you have not only reinforced your oppressive ideals in your everyday life, but also started attacking people who tried to do it. You spread nothing but oppression in the process. And then you believe that you are so human, so moralistic, so good that you never practice any form of injustice on anyone. If you can identify with what I am saying here, then at least start discussing with people who do not share the same belief systems that you have, you will understand what injustice means and hopefully at least be able to critique it, and not be cynical and defensive about other opinions. It is not an easy process – I can guarantee that. But then with the humanistic skills which you claim to have – now is the time to put it to good use.