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Op-ed

You Cannot Be Apolitical Anymore: An Open Letter to the Youth of India

TRIGGER WARNING: Mentions of rape and violence.

Imagine someone gets so brutally sexually assaulted that they die as a result of it. Imagine the police then covering it up because the men who did it are upper caste men and therefore need to be protected. Imagine the police cremating the victim’s body in secret without even letting her family see it.

And then them having the gall to say that what happened was also the victim’s family’s fault. Imagine the government of that state not acknowledging the incident, even going so far as to say it is fake news. Imagine them sealing the victim’s house, not letting the media or any other person gain access to them. And now imagine you staying silent through all of that.

You don’t need to imagine, because this story is as real as it gets. And it has happened not once, but twice– and all in the span of 24 hours, within the same state. The first person is a 19-year-old Dalit girl from the Hathras district of Uttar Pradesh in India. She was gang-raped by 4 upper-caste men and died in a hospital in Delhi after fighting for her life for two weeks. The second, just over 500km away from the first case, is a 22-year-old Dalit girl from Balrampur, who died on the way to the hospital.

Dalits used to be categorized as “untouchables” in a caste-based hierarchy plaguing this country for centuries. And even to this day, they are treated horribly by the “upper caste” masses. And while there is a lot of outrage over these cases, there are also a countless amount of people who choose to stay silent, or “neutral.”

This excuse would have worked a few years ago. But not anymore.

Here’s the problem with us. We think that since we are progressive and we’re surrounded by progressive people, that the entire country thinks like we do, and that our nation as a whole is moving towards being progressive. To some extent, it’s true. Some instances show us that we indeed are moving towards being a progressive nation.

But for every good thing, there are 100 bad things, that take us right back into the past. The progressive people are a minority in this country. The majority are the bigots and the brainwashed masses who religiously tune into propaganda media.

India is not a country for women. Caste-based violence is a norm here. And journalism is pretty much dead. And as much as we blame the government, we are at fault too. Because the government doesn’t fear us anymore. Because so many people are brainwashed into believing regressive values. Because people like the goddamn ex Supreme Court justice of India believe that unemployment is the cause of rape. Because we have let stuff like this slide for way too long. Because our police and government cover-up caste-based violence and then have the gall to say that the victim’s family were also at fault. Because the country cares more about actresses smoking weed than a girl getting raped. 

Markanday Katju was the former judge at the Supreme Court of India. And in a statement he released post this incident, he cited that “sex is a natural urge in men” and that “after food, the next requirement is sex.”

Well, sir, with all due respect, sex is a natural urge in all genders, not just men. You don’t see us going around sexually harassing people left right and center just to fulfill our sexual urges, do you? He also went on to justify that unemployment was the cause of rape with his whole chest. I’m sorry, but last I checked, rapists are the cause of rape.

If this is the mentality of the judge of the Supreme Court, a highly educated individual who you would normally trust to make sound decisions, what do you think is the mentality of those who are not so fortunate?

Our Prime Minister hasn’t said a word. He has not held a single press conference since he came into power in 2015. We used to call Manmohan Singh the silent Prime Minister, look how wrong we were. When Congress leader Rahul Gandhi tried to go to meet the victim’s family, he was mobbed by the police and arrested. Do you think they will treat you well if this is how they’re treating one of the most privileged people in this country?

Our prime minister is silent. Our media is too busy crying about unnecessary drugs and we are tired. Tired of fighting. Tired of begging for basic human rights. Tired of fearing for our lives with no one to turn to. And if you choose to be apolitical even during this time. Even when people are dying every day. Even when we desperately need you to answer our cries, then something is wrong in the very depths of your soul.

We, the educated masses, are in a position of privilege. We have resources at our disposal, we have gained knowledge that the less fortunate do not possess. Most of the country is still very rural, and they don’t have it in them to be fighting misinformation and injustice when they’re fighting every day to be able to bring some food to the table at the end of the day. They rely heavily on Whatsapp forwards and believe that to be gospel. We know most of it is fake news– they don’t. And it is up to us to be able to stand up and fight it. We have the power to combat caste based violence, and if we truly assert that power, we might even abolish the caste system as a whole.

As the youth of the nation, this is our fight. Those who came before us fought for our freedom, and by choosing to stay silent, whether it is on caste-based violence and crimes against women, or climate change, or monopolization of digital media, or literally any other matter that requires us to raise our voices, you are erasing everything our predecessors fought for.

People tend to see being political as a bad thing. They believe being apolitical is a position of moral ascendancy and not just about their apathy. That is not true. Deciding not to speak up because you have adopted a self-serving cynicism is the highest form of ignorant privilege. Believing that there is no point in speaking up because nothing will change is wrong.

But there is always someone listening. Always. They may not act on it, but they are listening, and even if they don’t act, at least they are absorbing information and maybe getting influenced by it.

If you choose not to speak up and stay silent just because you think things won’t change, then they most definitely will not change. If you want to see change, you have to work for it yourself. You cannot expect someone else to fight that fight for you. And by fighting or speaking up I don’t mean going out into the front lines to protest or putting yourself in danger. Speaking up can be something as simple as sharing information on your social media platforms or sending emails and signing petitions.

Just do something to show that you care. Sitting on your privileged pedestal in your imaginary sanitized world and simply calling politics dirty isn’t enough. This fight is our fight, not our parents or our grandparents’. Ours. We are in a position to fight and bring about real change. The government does not fear anybody but the youth. Because they know that if the fire is lit, then we can be very dangerous.

Chilean President and politician Salvador Allende once said, “To be young and not a revolutionary is a biological contradiction.”

We have the power to bring about some real change. And unless the people with opportunity and resources don’t stop being cynics and actually speak up, we won’t see real change. Do you really think you can just ignore these problems and escape them? Do you realize how dire the consequences of us not speaking up are? We are already making leaps towards becoming an authoritarian government. It won’t be long before the government tries to regulate our social media too.

Just sitting there and saying you are apolitical won’t cut it anymore. How can you stay apolitical when your silence is literally killing people? What will you say when your children ask you what you did when these atrocities were happening? If you are being a cynic and believe that everything sucks, then that is all the more reason to be political. There many ways to be responsible, but there is only one way to be irresponsible, and that is by being apolitical.

The bottom line is, if you are apolitical, you are just being lazy. By choosing not to speak up, you are running away from responsibility and taking accountability. You are being a coward, plain and simple. You are choosing to serve your own self-interest instead of trying to be a part of society and working towards making your country a better place. You are choosing to hide behind that word because you don’t want to take the responsibility that comes with it. In this day and age, you absolutely cannot stay apolitical anymore.

We are at the age that can bring about the changes we want to see, and unless people get off their high horse and fight, even by doing something as simple as sharing verified information, then we can do something good. One voice will turn into a hundred voices, and so on. They can silence one, but not thousand.

But if you choose to stay silent, you are enabling the system that is currently in place, and you will never see real change. And by silently enabling them, you are essentially being a part of the wrong side of history. Choosing to be apolitical is essentially choosing to support and benefit from the system. So now is not the time to be “neutral”. Speak up, fight back, demand justice. Because if privileged people like Rahul Gandhi can be pushed into the ground with zero shame or fear of consequences, there’s no way we even have a chance at protection. The government doesn’t care, it’s about time we show them that we do.

 

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Written By

I’m a 19 year old Journalism student from Mumbai currently studying in the United Kingdom. A certified feminist, I’m not afraid to express my opinions. I stand up for what I believe in and fight for the voices that cannot. I love to read books and binge watch movies and tv shows and keep up to date with pop culture. Listening to music is my go-to comfort idea. I’m also an avid cricket fan and love a good game of badminton.

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