Cultural Intolerance - The Young Need To Speak Up!
We've all seen with utter disgust what happened in Mangalore the other day. I was shocked to see 40 goons molesting and physically attacking women in the name of protecting our culture and preventing obscenities! I'm an Indian and a Hindu and I feel ashamed that these people claim to represent my culture and religion. I’m sure that my culture isn’t so fragile that it needs hoodlums to protect it!
This is not a one-off incident. This kind of intolerance is rising across our country. Most times the bogeyman raised by these hoodlums is that of protecting Indian culture and values. But every time the reason for such attacks is political. These groups have, in most cases, tacit support from political parties and, in a few cases, even from the state!
There are a lot of pertinent questions that arise when such incidents keep happening - Why is such intolerance tolerated in our country? Why do such people, their leaders and the organizations they claim to represent always get away without facing any consequences for their actions? What gives them the confidence to break the law repeatedly?
There are many such questions, but I just want to talk about two aspects of this issue. Firstly, the lack of respect for individual rights and secondly, the fact that the youth are always the easy target.
We are a nation whose constitution ensures that we have the right to speech and expression. But every time a few narrow-minded individuals and organisations attack us, they infringe on these rights. These groups do not tolerate any view which runs contrary to their world view. They do not accept the fact that in our democracy, I have just as much right to my views and opinions as they have to theirs. These people are nothing but terrorists in the guise of culture police. They use violence and threats of violence to try and enforce their view of things. Sounds terrifyingly like the Taliban, doesn’t it?
By trying to force their views down our throats, these groups are chipping away the very fabric on which our constitution and our country were built. The civil society of India should not allow such intolerant men to dictate how the people of India should lead their life. We need to stand up to such forces to ensure that the rights which we hold so dearly aren’t taken away from us. We need to take a stand to ensure that we remain free to speak out and express ourselves and have the freedom to have individual thoughts and opinions. The day we lose our fundamental rights, we cease to be a free, liberal society and turn into a country where the Taliban would feel right at home!
Invariably, the victims of such attacks are the young men and women of India. The fundamentalists infringe on our rights, trying to enforce their warped world view on us. No political party has been serious in tackling this menace. Who are the political parties trying to appease by being soft on these internal terrorists? Why is it that the voice of the youth and the rights of the youth do not matter?
The youth today constitute a majority of the population. We are almost 30% of the total electorate. Yet, only a handful of us really go out and exercise our right to vote. For the politicians we are an insignificant majority because we sit out during every election.
The fact that we do not participate in the electoral process makes it a simple decision for the political parties to ignore us. Election after election we remain aloof from the electoral process. And, as long as we continue doing that, our rights and freedoms will be infringed upon. As long as we choose to be silent spectators, our voices won't be heard and our rights will be trampled upon.
Think about it, most such attacks on the youth and the places they frequent often happen in the bigger cities of India. Cities where there are many, many educated young people. If we need our voices to be heard and respected, we need to use this number to our advantage. We need to come out and vote every election and reject such parties which do not respect our rights and such candidates who believe that they can attack us in the name of religion and culture to appease their voting constituents.
We don't need to wait for some politician to take a stand and make a change. The change needs to start from each one of us. We need to use the power of our vote to get the politicians to hear our voices. If we don't, then get ready to lose our rights one by one. Get ready to be attacked again and again in the name of culture. It’s up to us! We need to decide if we want to go to pubs and malls and restaurants or if we want to be scared and stay indoors. You know it and I know it that we don't lose our ‘Indianness’ or our cultural identity by indulging in some harmless fun. It's up to us to drill this into our politician's heads by using the power of our vote!
Our first chance to make our voices heard loud and clear is the upcoming General Elections sometime in April-May. We need to get out and vote and reject those who support such narrow-minded organisations! But first, to vote you need to get your name registered in the electoral or the voters list of your constituency.
The JaagRe! One Billion Votes Campaign website is an excellent place to start the process of registering.
They have created India's first online registration engine. Registering with them is a 5-minute process and the engine takes care of sending you the right form that needs to be submitted. The website also has one of the most comprehensive voting related FAQs. It would be worthwhile to spend time reading those as well. I would strongly urge each one of you to register with the website and start the process of being eligible voters. Also get your friends and family to register and get out on Election Day to cast your vote in favor of free speech and right of expression!
Cultural Intolerance - The Young Need To Speak Up!
- » Published on February 02, 2009
- » Type: Opinion
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