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This isn't the India they taught us about in school
This isn't the India they taught us about in school
The Goan Everyday on 19/12/2019,
The morning of the protest at Azad Maidan, I woke up completely disoriented. I could not place where I was, and as I opened my eyes, I was conscious of waking up with a fear, which I couldn't place. In a minute I had registered what was happening : I was in my country, in India, and I was afraid because the fascist government has put the burden of "proving" my identity as an Indian on me.
I went through the day, gathering my thoughts for the protest to be : would people show up? Having attended "protests" as a journalist before, I have experienced that people don't spontaneously show up for anything that is not given a push for by opposition political parties.
While approaching the Azad Maidan at 4:30, I was taken aback by the large police force deployed all around the garden, fully armed, and ready. Just doing their job I suppose. But for once, I was not at the Maidan to fulfill my duty as a reporter but in my capacity as an Indian, who is fiercely against the Citizenship Amendment Act and the National Register for Citizens (NRC).
When I found a comfortable spot amidst the multitude, it hit me that for once, a protest at Azad Maidan did not bear the political hue of a particular party, but I could see people from all walks of life assembling, fully prepared with placards and their dissenting vocal chords.
I almost cried at the beginning as I watched a young Muslim girl, younger than me, trying to find a place to sit, with a baby in her arms. I thought to myself, if she can't "prove that she is Indian" with documents, will she be sent to a detention camp with her baby? Or worse, without?
This isn't the India they taught us about in school. This isn't the India my teachers kept on harping about for years on end. I remember them literally shoving secularism down our throats at Fatima Convent High School.
"Unity in Diversity" was drummed into our minds and hearts and just to make sure we had truly understood the concept, the teachers made us do posters, and drawings and skits and everything you could think of so that we "learned" the concept well and truly.
Over the past few weeks, a lot of people have compared India to Nazi-occupied Germany in the early 20th century. So I won't do that. But I'll remind you instead of America, and how the Europeans stole the land from the natives.
The very often poor and uneducated native Americans are now relegated to "reservations" across a country that was once theirs. The burden to "prove that they were American" once the Europeans "discovered America", now lay on the illiterate native Americans, for the Europeans had "documents" to show that they owned the land, while the natives had none. And so the land they loved and tended to was snatched away from them and now owned by the "we have the documents" whites.
What will happen to the poor and illiterate in India's rural who don't have "documents to prove that they are Indian" now? Will they be relegated to detention camps? And then what?
The fascist Indian government is not counting on the pro-Hindu rashtra people in India to make their atrocities against humanity a success. Like Hitler's government, it is counting on the silence and the fence-sitting of the lakhs of educated people who are not standing up to oppose them. The many, many educated young people from the Hindu community, and other minority communities, who are choosing to either feign ignorance of the situation, or prefer to live in denial of the fascist government and policies and the extent to which it will go. (Because clearly the Godhra riots are not proof enough.)
I went for the protest and raised my voice as a citizen, and not a journalist, because the time for neutrality, or fence-sitting has passed. In journalism, as in life, most people do not express their hearts because they fear judgement for their political views. They fear people will look at them as belonging to "this" or "that" political ideology.
As I danced like a zombie at Zumba class today, my mind was numb. I simply cannot understand how the world and life is going on as it is when we're in the middle of a very frightening humanitarian crisis. Why aren't people storming the Secretariat and the streets, or at the very least, dissenting on social media?
This is no longer about politics. This is about humanity. This is about letting those who are living in fear right now know that they are not alone. Secular India stands with them, and for them.
In a world where the right-wing is so organised, it becomes hard to know who's secular, and which people are for you. It is easy to be afraid of how many youth are right-wing because of how organised and well thought-out even their social media posts are.
So this is to let you know that you are not alone. This is to let you know, the next time you wonder who's on your side, that this girl, writing from India's tiniest state, stands with you, stands for you, and stands for the secular India she knows, she loves, and is fighting for.