People in India are growing more and more intolerant of each other, and the majority is using its heft to silence those who are not in agreement with the more prevalent view. The exact reason for growing intolerance is still unknown, but what is clear is that there is no room for it in a democratic republic and that it's high time to bring stability in what has become a highly volatile environment.
We speak of empowerment for minorities and lowering the crime rate, but this is just lip service. While there are bound to be some eruptions in a country as diverse as India, it is essential that we stay united at least on matters that concern the principle of universal humanity. I truly follow the philosophy that "a country is defined by the people, the people are not defined by the country."
I believe in the fact that if the people are united, the country will be strong. If the people cannot band together, the country will also splinter into a million tiny pieces. The people of a nation define its core values, the true essence of it. The people are the true strength of the country. Yet, some fear within us seems to prevent us from speaking up even when there is a sense of urgency. Many of us are aware of the problems that face this country, but we somehow seem to find it difficult to act.
"During the beginning, during the cessation
Whether it's hate or a feeling of affection
Everything turns out to be a revelation
All we need is direction!"
Awareness is of no use until it is put it into action. I have seen far too many people stay silent when it was important to speak up. Perhaps it has something to do with our cultural conditioning - we've been trained to defer to our parents and to societal norms for everything from our stream of study to choice of marriage partner. Does it make us all conditioned to ignore our own inner voices? I would say, yes! And this is causing so much damage, not only to ourselves but to the country as a whole.
But now, there is a growing debate on the limited freedom given to us and the fact that many of us are not allowed to speak up. Musician Anoushka Shankar articulated this very well recently: "Heritage and culture are wonderful, important things, but when they are held up in the name of sexism, casteism, racism and bigotry, then they should be allowed to be questioned and changed... [but] how can we progress if we aren't even allowed to speak?" If the people in our country don't speak up, their voices will soon disappear for good. Time is running out, and if something needs to be done, it's now!
Here I will add that I don't think gestures of protest like the "award wapsi" by an elite few are enough, and would go as far as to say that all this accomplishes is to insult an honour. These kind of acts only demonstrate the silent egotism of the doers. They have earned their awards with their efforts, returning them is not required at all. If anything it adds fuel to the fire and does nothing to bring about change. What's needed is for all of us to come together and solve the problem by speaking out collectively. We are secular people, and now it's time to show this to the world! We have and we will stay united as a country. To reiterate what Anoushka Shankar said, how can India progress if we can't speak up?