Dear Politicians, spare the children!
I grew up in a very secular environment. At least from where I saw it. I was one of the very few Muslim kids who went to a school dominated by kids who came from Hindu families, and that never played any role in how I was seen or perceived. The glory of my school life passed in the certainty that I belonged in a place where I was seen and understood as someone no different than the Hindu boy who sat beside me, the Christian girl who mocked me for my taste in movies or the atheist child who said he believed in the idea of god but not in the idea of religion. I hope he now knows that what he believed in is known to be agnosticism. An idea so revealing and inclusive to me that slowly I walked on the path to think and view the world from a very agnostic lens.
After my tenth grade, I shifted to another school that was heavily dominated by people who came from Muslim families. We had a prayer hall wherein all Muslim male students would on all Fridays offer prayers. I hardly ever went. When I did go, I went in with the thought to pray and witness the glory of the power that I somehow felt protected me. Here’s the thing that I’ve always noticed and felt. The power that I prayed to, and from which I sought strength transcended boundaries and areas. It went beyond the idea of religion because I grew up in a setting that never taught me to segregate. That was my childhood. Today, as I stand at the brink of adulthood, I stand beside the state of a nation that seems so broken that I am frightened of the future that it holds for me.
The conflict has always existed in India. Many of the people that lived through these conflicts identify them with a knack for familiarity. They say that such times brought out the best and worst of people, and the worst perished. The best lived on to reproduce a fabric of this nation that is supposed to hold promising ideas of inclusivity, diversity and plurality at the forefront of its sceptre. But what has been happening in the State of Karnataka has not shocked me but has deeply anguished me. It hasn’t shocked me because we all saw this coming. There were signs, there were warnings and trumpets were announcing it. But we stood there, silent in cloaks of privilege. It anguished me because it took away our kids. It anguished me because I believed that I had it in me, and the people around me had in them to fight this territorialism, division and hate that was being pushed onto us. I thought the situation was not that bad, and we had it in control.
It anguished me because while I stood strong on my ground resenting the vicious cycle that they spun around us, I failed to realize that our kids were being taken away from us. They were being strongly coerced and imbibed into this fabric of divisiveness. When I see them today, letting go of their classes, and walking streets, shouting slogans of religious supremacy, I shudder. I fail to imagine a tomorrow while the present has been taken away from us. When the education of kids is being tampered with, I imagine nothing but the worst. Tomorrow, all schools and colleges in Karnataka shut their doors to students to maintain peace and harmony. A place where I learnt what these words meant, and how significant these words are in one’s existence, will be closed for three days to maintain law and order.
The state has seen the worst of all riots and chaos, it has seen political turmoil at all ends, but never has it seen disruption of this level. Kids who are meant to be in their classrooms engaging in discussions on how to establish a better world, on how to be better than those that came before them, are out there fighting each other. Kids who showed their competitive spirit in games and sports are now fighting the battle started by people who think nothing but of the numbers that would help them secure a seat at the table. The divisiveness that I thought is not yet lingering deeply has perforated the minds of the young, it has indoctrinated them and it is driving them against each other.