Monday, January 26, 2015

Happy Republic Day?

WE, THE PEOPLE OF INDIA, having solemnly resolved to constitute India into a SOVEREIGN SOCIALIST SECULAR DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC…” thus begins the preamble of the Constitution of India.

Last night, when I read the results of a survey (link here) recently conducted with high school and college students from 11 cities across India, I couldn’t figure out what exactly I felt – scared, angry, sad or guilty?

If we would want, we can always debate on the validity of the survey, the degree of scientific nature of the method, the political and economic will and intentions behind it and so on. However, my work with adolescents in last couple of years somehow brings me to believe in the results to an extent. And for once if we believe that the institution was fair and honest in conducting this research, let’s explore the findings a bit:

“about half of them would prefer military rule over a democracy”

“65 percent 'agree' that boys and girls from different religions should not mingle”

“more than half of the students surveyed believed that women 'provoke' men with the way they dress, close to half of them say women have no choice but to accept violence”

Today, when I asked my students that in face these results, what do they think is the future our country. There was a complete silence. Some were embarrassed as they represent this age group. And others were shocked as at SLP we have been talking about how the youth is going to change the face of India. Well indeed, the youth will change the face of India. But whether they are going make it look uglier or better, the survey gives us a hint.

Now, to feel scared, angry or sad is understandable. But guilty? Why?

Remember, the survey was conducted with high schoolers and college students. Which means a generation just after me. It clearly speaks of the aspirations, expectations and notions we have passed on to them as parents, teachers and society. We have given them a world of hopelessness. A world of ghettoised and fragmented communities. A world of disillusioned and corrupt power systems such as gender, religion, caste and class. A world where our children choose to be ruled over and given directives with rather than being part of a critical democratic process (I experience so many times in my class where my students hesitate from the ‘time-taking’ democratic decision making process and want me to decide for them). A world where we care to provide every child with a tablet or a laptop but not an experience where she/he could engage in critical and meaningful thinking process.

The results of this survey points at us on how well have we used last 68 years in building a country for whose freedom we so desperately fought for. And at that reflection I feel guilt and shame for what we have done to our children and generations to come. We have brought them to a point where as they celebrate their Republic Day, they have given up on appreciating what a democratic republic could mean. Today, as I read this, I seek forgiveness, for not doing something, not doing enough, as a teacher, a brother, an uncle or for that matter, just an adult in a young one’s life to show him/her that it was possible for us to create an India that the writers of our constitution envisioned.

I am sorry, children. I can only hope that some magic happens and you be able to fix your views - of self and the world - and be able to re-envision the hope for a sovereign, socialist, secular and democratic republic that India, once upon a time, set out to be.

Happy Republic Day, anyway.