Needed a pledge to fight against the 'colonial mindset' that wants to destroy the India we knew

We must invest our youth with a renewed sense of purpose and idealism so that they can build a better India; and we must take a pledge to prevent colonial mindsets from criminalising their conduct

Jawaharlal Nehru
Jawaharlal Nehru

Rakesh Batabyal

The lack of dignity which Indians faced in their life and deaths during the pandemic, demonstrated the various ways by which the State has decimated the spirit of civic life and institutions to the detriment of the welfare and well-being of people.

On the 57th death anniversary of Jawaharlal Nehru, who nurtured the foundation of a modern and democratic India, we must take a pledge for national reconstruction.

Our first pledge must be to re-establish our commitment to a society based on civilised existence, where life, death and disease are treated with dignity and compassion for all irrespective of their social and economic station. Such approach to life comes from the societal and political ethos which does not treat human beings as friends and foes or differentiates between 'them and us; an ethos which abhors making use of human beings as instruments to achieve narrow political ends.

India is increasingly emerging as a place where the individual’s dignity and rights are violated by the state, by vigilante groups and the unseen hands of organisations that are determined to pursue their narrow and sectarian political goals. It has been long established that if we devalue human life in trying to attain some narrow sectarian aims and commit violence with impunity, the degradation does not stop there. It enters into our consciousness and becomes a social bone marrow. We must restore to our society that healing touch of ‘being’ human once again.

We must also take a pledge to bring back to our public consciousness the basic foundations of the journey of India towards a modern society. We began by contesting a colonial rule and its ways of subjugating humans along racial lines.

But today we see the same colonial minds operating, who want to subjugate our own people in ways reminiscent of colonial arrogance of the Dalhousies or Warren Hastingses from the British Raj. The recent attacks on regional parties and cultures are pointers in this same direction. India is made of congeries of local, regional and sub-regional cultures, languages and customs. Recent attempts at Hinduisation smacks of a colonial mindset. We make a pledge not to allow India and Indians to become prisoners of the ideology and the system against which it fought its valiant freedom struggle.

Our third pledge must be to allow the thousands of cultural experiments happening at the caste, gender, community and institutional levels which are a reflection of the space our democracy has created in the past several decades. We must help Indian children imbibe the spirit of Rammohun Ray to become citizens of the world by acquiring cosmopolitan values, the ideas of Periyar, Phule, Gandhi and Ambedkar to see that society changes ceaselessly, and cease to become prisoners of the past, moribund systems and rituals.

Fourthly, the disdain for knowledge has been actively promoted in the past several years and it is this which is at the root of our present institutional predicament. The incessant communal depredations on our universities, colleges and schools through curriculum changes, replacement of history by myths and showing complete disdain for knowledge and the processes of knowledge-formation have led schools to produce ideological zombies of the future and at the same time will denude the respect that Indian scholars and scientists have acquired through their rigorous work through the last century and a half.

Any force which destroys institutions engaged in building Modern India are truly anti-national. It is but logical that when our own leadership delegitmises and defames its universities, institutions, scholars and historians, humiliates the rigours of scientists, the rest of the world finds no reason to extend their respect to our scholars and our institutions either. In the post pandemic situation, we shall be pledging ourselves to help them regain their sense of dignity, institutional support and freedom they require to reflect and build a better tomorrow.

Another pledge will be to get our youth a fresh sense of freedom which in recent years has increasingly been snatched away from them. They were intimidated, harassed and in many cases incarcerated for absolutely false reasons or even minor lapses. Many of them acted with an ethic of voluntary act that comes so naturally to youth of all kinds and of all nations.

It is the most beautiful expression of human desire to be with other human beings and the underdog in their moments of crises and vulnerability. This is why young minds have for centuries found their most inner expression through service. By criminalising all voluntary acts which are not the acts committed under the rubric of a communally defined ‘nationalism’, the state and agencies have scared the youth away from giving their best to the society in such times of crisis.

The dehumanising experience of the Pandemic makes us realise that for a dignified roadmap to its social, economic and cultural future, we must provide the Indian youth with an atmosphere which is not bent on criminalising their youthful association with voluntary help and assistance at times of vulnerability.

Finally, for Nehru, the word ‘enemy’ was not a civilised or a cultured term. The world also should not be viewed through the prism of perpetual enmity. It reduces the human being and their self- expression. That is why generations of people have fought against war and violence.

The time has come for us, and the pandemic has shown it so clearly, that if ever there has been an enemy which has killed more, it exists in our minds rather than outside. We therefore must take a pledge to oust the metaphor of enemy from within our minds so as to make the world a beautiful place again for our children, for the children of those who passed away due to Covid, and for all those successive generations which will demand explanation from us for our role during such a crisis.

We must dedicate ourselves on this day to serve humanity and strive for peace. We must stand with the struggling people across the world for their rights and rightful place in the human society.

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