Youth is supposed to be the vehicle of change for any country. Their unblemished minds and unconcreted ideas are what makes them so valuable to a nation. However, they are also the most impressionable and influence can be both messianic and devious. As a young person of twenty-three, I have always had a strong love for this great nation. It is saddening however, that this love has persisted despite the prevailing circumstances and not because of a conducive environment. Before the word “Indic” became known to me, the world was split between those who were ashamed of their nation and its indigenous ideas versus those that valiantly, and most often at great public opprobrium, decided to make their voices heard.
For a long time, I was afraid of voicing my opinions or the hurt I felt at seeing my country being pilloried no matter what, because a flawed education system and a selective media had made me doubt my genuine emotions as perhaps some self-aggrandizing bias. It was only when, out of my own interest, I started reading beyond the picture-perfect words of ICSE textbooks and one single English daily a day, that the realization of having been deliberately kept in the dark dawned on me. I realized that as a student, I, along with countless others, had been fed a whitewashed version of history to our complete ignorance. Although it was not exactly a damning of what I now know to be “Indic” ideas, it was essentially a subtle message driven home repeatedly, that there was no original idea to begin with.
Everything good was either borrowed or learned. While it is not in any way embarrassing to learn from others, it is criminal to be told that you have no value or ideas that are perhaps older and wiser and something that the world could learn from as well. While I am grateful for the History that I know, I am more saddened by the history that has been hidden from me because it is simply uncomfortable. No one can have a monopoly on the truth but that is exactly what has happened. It is indeed difficult to unlearn what one has learnt all their lives, but recognition of ignorance is perhaps the first step towards eradication of the same.
Through the recent media discourse towards a multitude of ideas, I have noticed a subliminal shame instilled by a flawed education system that constantly manifests itself as relentless self-flagellation and a blind, visceral desire to not only ape but seek validation from the west. The highest level of compliment remains one that comes from someone who had once (and perhaps still does) consider us to be unwashed miscreants who needed to be “civilized”. There is a deep sense of insecurity that has systematically been instilled in generations of Indians and that shows in the way we react when someone decides to defend the nation’s history or its culture.
We cling to ideas such as democracy, free speech, feminism, or tolerance as if they are doles by the west, are idea that we were always unfamiliar with. The constant lie that India did not exist prior to the British colonizers decided to “unite” us is peddled to defend every unfounded criticism that is flung at India. While I am in no way advocating blindness to the flaws of culture or civilization that India must have had, I cannot simply accept a pretense that flaws are all we ever had.
There are many issues that are places where one must not go simply because they are uncomfortable. An even worse turn of events is the lack of knowledge that certain things happened and the absolute resoluteness in never accepting the reasons behind them. I never knew about the exodus of Kashmiri pandits or the reason behind them. I had no idea that India’s temples were controlled by the government. I had no clue about forced conversions either. All these have become issues non-gratia. They are simply unmentionable because mentioning them or mentioning India’s civilizational values or defending its indigenous leaders is seen as “regression”. There have been times when simply telling the logical truth, devoid of any intention of demonizing anything or anyone, becomes an act of “parochialism”.
Supporting the Indian surgical strikes in Uri and later Balakot, earned me the distinct moniker of being “a hyper nationalist warmonger”. Simply asking what was wrong with the implementation of the CAA was swiftly shunted by a throwaway accusation of me being a “bhakt”, “a communal sanghi”. Having no interest in Politics and never having supported a party, I simply did not understand why defending the nation or questioning the selective outrage or thinking that wing commander Abhinandan was a hero or voicing an opinion that was not stylish enough to earn me Instagram points was instead earning me so many personal attacks. There is a noxious conflation of the political with the national and a dangerous trend of silencing every opinion that is contrary to the popular as being politically motivated. Free speech is allowed only when the speech is palatable and does not ask questions that have uncomfortable answers or ask to explain the logic behind mass outrage.
The most prolific activists of free speech advocate cancellation or gagging. The blatantly demonizing narrative that once seen becomes impossible to unsee; a lie is repeated so often that it becomes the truth. Hyperbolic and catastrophizing language is showered like confetti on detractors of “liberal” ideas. “Fascist”, “illiterate”, “intolerant”, “patriarchal”- words with serious, heavy meanings are flung with a wanton casualness to drown out any voice that simply desires to present a contrary opinion. “How is CAA against secularism in India?”
“Oh, aren’t you ashamed of being such an Islamophobe?”
“Why is a terrorist being humanized by the media by narrating stories of his childhood or his school-teacher father?
“Can’t you see the injuries from the pellet guns?’
There is a maddeningly undefeatable ‘whataboutery’ where any logical question can be stifled by the greatest amount of outrage (selective) and linguistic grandstanding.
Speaking or even wondering about illegal immigration makes one against “human rights”. Asking if secularism only allows the criticism of one community becomes “Hindutva”. It seems simply like an unwinnable fight where falling in line earns you social media adulation and questioning cozy narratives makes you “intolerant”.
Ignorance becomes dangerous to the point of self-annihilation and self-denial. If this is allowed to sustain, the nation is being deliberately pushed in front of an oncoming train that would run down self-hate and flatten it into servility. No amount of economic progress can reinstate self-respect that has been willfully discarded.
Through my exploration of ways to describe myself, the closest term that has ever resonated with my mindset was “Indic”. A term that simply values the nation as its innate civilizational values surely deserve. A term that beautifully and succinctly sums up love and reverence for the country and not for any ideology or any politics.
Standards are not standards if they are not uniformly applied. A difference of opinion should be welcomed and even celebrated and not excoriated through the most extreme of criticisms possible. A generation that detests labels, whether on individuals or on relationships, holds on to that very lifeline to stamp on those who do not subscribe to their ideas. This is the most duplicitous, the most pernicious hypocrisy that today’s youth embodies, better yet proudly flaunts. As long as this continues, as long as I am unable to speak my mind because bona-fide questions are tagged as “hate speech’, this country will remain floundering in the dark, waiting for the hand of those who were supposed to lead the way forward but decided to be politically correct instead: the youth.