In today’s over-heated environment, the youth of the country may well be wondering what they should do. Should they follow the words of one well-meaning cricketer who chose to advice then to get back to classes and work for “one India” or are silent protests in various cities and towns the way to make their voice heard on an issue which seem to be causing a deep polarization?
Reading and thinking deeply in an airport lounge in Kolkata, I chanced upon an extract from the amazing address by Swami Vivekananda at the World’s Parliament of Religions in Chicago on September 11 1893. The young sage said, “I am proud to belong to a religion which has taught the world both tolerance and universal acceptance. We believe not only in universal toleration, but we accept all religions as true.” And later “Sectarianism, bigotry, and its horrible descendant, fanaticism, have long possessed the beautiful earth. They have filled the earth with violence, drenched it often and often with human blood, destroyed civilization and sent whole nations to despair. Had it not been for those horrible demons, human society would be far more advanced than it is now.”
Looking back at the shocking acts of violence by masked perpetrators in one of our institutions of national pride, the Jawaharlal Nehru University in New Delhi five days into the new year, one wonders whether Swami Vivekananda would have found anything good to report about divisive people who still walk this land over a hundred years after his much-loved address! For most of us who choose not to take extreme sides in speeches, writings or social media posts, this heinous act was one which brought back chilling memories of carnages one has seen (Bihar in the seventies and Gujarat at the infamous Godhra time) and provoked a collective “not again in my country” sigh of my anguish.
It is natural for every human being to view current affairs from the lens of our own individual upbringing and experiences. In the myriad WhatsApp groups where I participate as well as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and other social media interactions, there are always some who preen with a “serves them right” approach when a segment of the population raises concerns. At the same time, responses and reactions to even innocuous moves are often unresearched and fomented by stray virulent comments to become a tide of negative sentiment.
As a young man studying and growing up in Ranchi in the seventies (then Bihar, now Jharkhand), I have experienced first hand the senseless violence caused by rumors about supposed acts of omission or commission. I had suffered with a six-month engineering program completion delay when a large protest movement in the country caused our college along with many others to be closed sine die for a protracted period. I’ve seen the fear in the eyes of young children and adults when they dreaded targeting because of some nefarious attempts to disturb the equity and brotherhood in the city. We saw it again during the Mumbai riots and it is to the credit of the Government in the last ten years that hateful acts against specific communities or castes have been quelled to a large extent.
Inspiration from the great sage and his love for every human being will surely make this country the land of inclusion
In today’s over-heated environment, the youth of the country may well be wondering what they should do. Should they follow the words of one well-meaning cricketer who chose to advice then to get back to classes and work for “one India” or are silent protests in various cities and towns the way to make their voice heard on an issue which seems to be causing a deep polarization on one hand and substantial unity in polarized thinking at the same time.
This polarization has been predicted by author Ruchir Sharma as a discernible trend across nations during 2020. As a case in point, he mentions the support base of President Donald Trump, which has fluctuated within a very narrow range over the years, almost ignoring the cataclysmic developments including impeachment and the Iran drone attack that one has seen in recent weeks. If this is truly a trend, one has to expect that there is no easy resolution to this war of words and actions in our own country and we all hope that good judgement and a sense of unity for the larger cause of economic growth and the creation of a salubrious environment of development and community building will come back to the top of the agenda – for the Government and the people, including our wonderful youth who will carry their own hopes and the collective hopes of a billion of their countrymen forward!
So, let us not either exult at the passing of a new Act nor succumb in despair, my countrymen. Our Prime Minister is a man of deep insights and sharp listening skills and while his visit to Kolkata may have had multiple purposes, he spent a night at the Belur Math after meditating in the room where Swami Vivekananda breathed his last on July 4th 1902. Inspiration from the great sage and his love for every human being will surely make this country the land of inclusion and love for all sisters and brothers that we all love and continue to work towards. This has to be our search even as we correct the excesses of some and assuage the fears of many. In his immortal words, “Arise, Awake and Stop not until the goal is reached.”