The last month of 2019 witnessed protests all over India led mainly by the university students against the divisive, discriminatory and anti-constitutional Citizenship (Amendment) Act (CAA), the proposed National Register of Citizens (NRC) and National Population Register (NPR). By and large the protests were peaceful, using Gandhian method; but the protests turned violent in the BJP-ruled states where the brute force of the state was used to stifle dissent.
It appears that the role of the Opposition is taken over by the youth of India. Students of universities like Jamia Millia Islamia, Aligarh Muslim University and JNU took the lead and the students of the elite educational institutions like IIT, IIM and TISS joined the protests against the sinister move to destroy the idea of India as envisaged in the Indian Constitution.
Even though the Bhartiya Janata Party may continue to accuse the Congress party, the “urban naxalites” and the “tukda tukda gang” of instigating the youth, the Central government seems to be rattled by the protests from the unexpected quarters. The BJP was under the impression that the youth are brainwashed by its propaganda of narrow and exclusive nationalism.
The decision to put on hold the proposed NRC indicates the realization by the BJP that its assessment of the nation’s mood has gone wrong. The protests indicate that the youth are concerned with the Constitution, and its Preamble, with its promise of liberty, equality and fraternity for all. The bold response of the youth brings a lot of hope to the people in the New Year 2020.
The enthusiasm of the youth for an inclusive India based on the core values of the Constitution was reflected in the Knit India organized by the Universal Solidarity Movement (USM) Indore from December 28 to 31 at Prerana Sadan, Indore. Students, teachers, parents and principals of 14 schools from different parts of India participated in the 52nd Knit India, sacrificing their Christmas vacation. On the concluding day of the four-day programme, the participants devoted one hour for inter-religious prayer for peace on December 31 at midnight. At the dawn of the New Year 2020 they stood in a large circle with lighted candles and took a pledge to build a progressive, pluralistic, harmonious and inclusive India.
A theme that ran through the four days of Knit India programme was “Youth taking charge now” to respond boldly and creatively to the challenges, adhering to non-violence. During the inaugural session, Fr. Joby Anand, the Chief Guest, appealed to the youth to stand up and fight non-violently for safeguarding the core values of Indian Constitution.
He appreciated the University students for coming forward to protest against Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) that is discriminatory and to protect the core constitutional value of equality. He specifically pointed out that the students were protesting by and large using non-violent methods. In fact, some of them were offering rose flowers to the police officials. “Mahatma Gandhi is returning to India,” he said. He reminded the youth that dissent is the soul of democracy, but the expression of dissent should be fully non-violent.
Supreme Court Advocate, Dr. M P Raju, enlightened the participants on the “Universal Values of the Indian Constitution”. In his talk he emphasized two core values: dignity of the individual and brotherhood. He said that the right to privacy emanated from the dignity of the individual. India did not kill Ajmal Kasab as soon as he was captured, although there was enough proof that he was responsible for killing many innocent Indians during the 2008 Mumbai terrorist attack. He was allowed to make use of all legal options as per the Indian laws. This happened because the Constitution of India emphasizes the dignity of the individual irrespective of his/her religion, caste, nationality etc.
While highlighting the importance of the value of ‘brotherhood’ he said that it is all inclusive and it transcends all borders. He said we have to extend brotherhood not only to all sections of the Indian society but also to our neighbouring countries like Pakistan and China which are considered by many as adversaries of India. Any law that excludes a particular section of the society is against the spirit of the Indian Constitution, he said. In fact, the concept of brotherhood is in tune with the civilizational heritage of India, Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam.
Dr. Raju advised the participants of Knit India, particularly the students, to grasp the universal values of the Constitution and promote them. He also appreciated the initiative of the youth to protect the values of the Constitution by protesting against the law that violates its letter and spirit.
Dr. Bharat Chhaparwal, former Vice Chancellor of Devi Ahaliya Vishwavidyalaya, in his address referred to the protests against CAA and NRC by the youth. He appreciated the youth for voicing forcefully against dishonest and divisive policies being implemented in the country by the ruling party. He said the old generation has failed to fulfil their responsibility to the nation. That is why the youth have come forward to save the country. He appealed to the youth to be honest to the legacy of the freedom fighters and to the values enshrined in the Constitution and to safeguard them at any cost.
The focus of the address of Fr. Varghese Alengaden was ‘youth taking charge now’. He told the students, “You are not only the future but also the present. Hence don’t wait for the future to take action”. Showing the example of the 16-year-old Greta Thunberg, the young environmental activist, he motivated the students to ask questions.
He presented before them 20 questions to the rulers, political leaders, religious leaders, bureaucrats, educationists, journalists, businessmen, celebrities, etc. starting with ‘HOW DARE YOU’. “How dare you political leaders hijack and enslave the whole nation for your vested interests and divide the people in the name of religion, caste and region?” “How dare you religious leaders betray the teachings of saints and sages and drug the innocent people with superstitions, blind faith, fear and guilt and make religion a business by using God as a commodity for sale?”
Chinmay Mishra, a Gandhian social activist and writer, enlightened the students about the relevance of the Gandhian values. By citing examples from history, he said that often revolutions in the world were initiated by the youth that led to the change of governments. Hence the governments are afraid of the youth and wary of their protest. The university students have the right to think about their future and dream of the kind of nation they want to have. They are questioning the hypocrisy of the leaders who speak about Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam and at the same time deny citizenship to a particular community from three neighbouring countries.
He referred to Article 14 of the Indian Constitution which does not mention about nationality, but states, "The State shall not deny to any person equality before the law or the equal protection of the laws within the territory of India." He condemned lathi-charge by the Delhi police inside the hostel and library of the Jamia Millia Islamia. He appreciated the youth of the universities for taking charge by demanding an inclusive, pluralistic and harmonious India.
USM has been organizing Knit India for the last 25 years for building bond among students, teachers and principals through various activities. Knit India 2019 included parents also within its folds. The participants shared the personal transformation that has taken place in them because of the practice of the values promoted by USM; listened to inspiring and motivating talks by individuals who have made a difference in their lives and made their unique contribution to the society; prepared and put up cultural programmes in groups based on current social issues; and reflected and discussed issues affecting India and the world. Participation in inter-religious prayer for peace motivated them to respect and appreciate different faiths. Honouring 11 students from 11 schools with Honesty Award for 2019 was a great encouragement to the participants to practice honesty in their lives.
The whole process of Knit India 2019 was oriented towards motivating the participants to have a broad and inclusive vision for life, imbibe human and ethical values, experience solidarity and unity in diversity and build friendship in view of rebuilding a peaceful, harmonious and inclusive India. In short, the participants had the experience of Vasudaiva Kutumbakam.
“I have imbibed many values from Knit India. I learned how to work in a team of persons from different States with fun and coordination. I learned not only from the motivational speeches but also from my room-mates and friends the value of love, care and respect,” said Abhishek Singh. “During the process of Knit India, I could experience national integration taking place when all the participants were accepted and appreciated by one another,” said Aakrati Singh, another participant.
The revolution started by the youth to safeguard the Constitution of India and rebuild India based on the core values of the Constitution is to be taken forward. Programmes like Knit India will definitely motivate and encourage the youth not only to continue their protest against narrowing the idea of Indianness but also to transform themselves and thereby transform India into a truly pluralistic democracy. The political leaders in collusion with communal forces have distorted and disfigured our democracy. The youth have a major role in redeeming the pluralistic India.
(firstname.lastname@example.org)(Published on 06th January 2020, Volume XXXII, Issue 02)