India Elections 2014 is under the watch of everyone. There would rarely be a soul in this country today which would be unaware of ongoing elections in the country – and most of them also have strong opinions, preferences, choices and biases in this process. The towns and cities have the television, the newspapers, the huge hoardings and the ads from every form of transmitting medium. The villages have the flags, the middlemen and the saheb’s agents (of the people who own and control the land, as they called un-fondly) who influence voters. It is the election season, after all. After a few more weeks all of this will die down and people will resume their lives, having realised that not everything and all of the ‘change’ they were expecting to actually happen, eventually transpired.
They will then start finding out things, one at a time, of what will be wrong with the government of the time; a new scandal will somewhere spring up, the era of breaking news will resume to its old habit of exaggerated sensationalisation, the prime time media trials will entertain the politically committed janta who wants to keep in touch with what is happening in the country after returning from their offices. The others not fortunate enough to have offices will continue to struggle to make ends meet. The onion, or the oil or the salt or the potato will once a year make headlines. A few killings and rapes will get the attention of the media, the police, the politicians, the NGOs, and the concerned drawing rooms of the country. Many of them in other parts of the country will never be reported, and never be acted or reacted upon. Young boys and girls will continue to be killed and raped and in the meantime; some of them will be branded as maoists and some as terrorists because identifying their real killers would put many of our esteemed leaders (of the bureaucracy, administration, judiciary, sacred democratic law-making institutions, political goons, mining giants, industrialists – and all those who run the country) under the scanner. The real culprits of inciting violence against innocent people will continue to roam free, and continue to treat justice with contempt and manipulation.
Some people will care, while most will not. All of this will not change. Not unless a few things are done.
This is not a hopeless and cynical account/rant. I say this situation will not change because we have still not started asking the right questions. We have traded too many things off; respect and dignity is one of them.
Society is a reflection of the politics and vice versa. Irrespective of the electoral results, we have all already lost. We have grown impatient and intolerant, we have lost our claimed ‘common culture’ of respect of various cultures, religion, diversity of opinion, and of democracy. Expressing opinions has never before faced the scathing attacks that it faces today. Chai stalls a few decades back could see the best of friends arguing voraciously with their difference of opinions over politics of the country – today it is all occupied with stern supporters who do not stand with their leaders, rather they follow/worship them. We no longer shake hands at the end of a heated debate, we throw eggs and stones at people who disagree with us. We stoop to the levels of bringing out the most intimate details of personal lives to prove a point – of being the better because the other is worst. Is that really a justification?
Where have we reached in society? Towards progress and growth! But we have resorted to name calling rather than agreeing to the fact that there can be diversity of opinion – and although we might not necessarily agree to people, it is always human to lend an ear – see what it is that makes them believe so. We have sadly compromised on that core principle and value, and we have forced others, both young and old, to believe what we believe. We will no longer have parents and children in the family belonging to the opposite spectrum of political beliefs – we might like to believe that the choice is still there, but is it really?
I will share something to make you feel closer to what I am attempting to do. I was encouraged to truly choose; and I made choices to stand up for values that I believe in. I can today sense the feeling of pride I see in people who have seen me transform from someone who could not differentiate right from wrong, or could not take a stand. All I have done is attempted to say out loud what a lot of us have been thinking. It has taken innumerable emotions – courage, anger, rage, hatred and love to name a few to do it. It was never easy. And it came with the realisation that once you have felt all this, there is really no going back.
I grew up witnessing all forms of violence against women. I could not act then for I was too young to interpret its meaning when I first witnessed it. Gradually it became an accepted part of the psyche – it became normal, if not acceptable. It grew on, influencing many more people in the family, both men and women who built justifications around it, and deemed it normal. It was something everyone saw, but nobody did anything to really see it. Somehow it was always the woman who was to be blamed – when they forgot to add salt in the food, when the children made too much noise, when families went through financial instability, when they were not available to fulfill sexual devouring, every single time. And it was of course wrong when they wanted to get out of failed marriages, or try raising a voice, or harm the dignity and reputation of the family in any way. Such dignified behaviour indeed!
It is spine-chilling to think and write of it today. It is uncomfortable, but it needs to be said. All of us have grown up seeing this somewhere or the other, it is merely about recognising the various forms of it. Today I will take a stand against violence of all forms and push all women as well as men in my family to recognise violence the way I can see it now. I do not care if I am called names or it brings me in any of kind of conflict with anyone – because I know it is right thing to do. I cannot wait for the world to change its attitudes towards wrong, so that it is becomes easier to fight.
It is the same emotion which makes me stand up against the practice of caste, and not dismiss it as non-existent. I will continue to protest if you compare dirt and filth with caste names, or refuse to marry, dine, or respect people from other castes. I will point out casteist behaviour if you claim higher intellectual status because you were born in a particular caste, or if you refuse to see what facts and figures have shown. It is the same position of power which allows you to blame the poor for being poor as it reflects in blaming the woman for not speaking up. This blaming is happening because the ones who can much more easily speak up and do something about it have long back given away their ability and the will to speak up – and act.
We are running away from the responsibilities of making better societies, of living in fear-less families, and of having the comfort to think, discuss and make better choices for the world we live in, politics and governments being one of them.
It is time we realise that we indeed have taken away the space to disagree with mutual respect, both online and offline. It is time to give ourselves better choices, and not choose to do the wrong because there is no right. True, we shall continue to enjoy our freedom to elect governments and people in power, as we deem fit. But it is equally important to take stands and fight battles which are worth fighting for. Let us make better societies, and not expect solutions unless we are ready to fight when will essentially have to – friends, family, society and the world.
At the end of the day, we choose our own battles. It is just important to know which side are you really on.
And to my dear friends who feel it is a lot to do, here is some faith.
As the legend John Lennon famously says during Imagine–
“You may say I’m a dreamer. But I’m not the only one
I hope someday you will join us. And the world will live us one”