Looking at all the students and youth out in the streets right now, protesting against Citizenship Amendment Act, my heart ebbs with hope for the future of this country. Women and men breaking barriers of caste, class, religion and gender; shouting slogans, holding banners. Such is the idealism, energy and conviction of youth. You still believe that you can make a difference. But somewhere as we lose ourselves to adulting, this activism takes back seat. There are bills to pay and mouths to feed. Moreover, we lose the inclination to resist and dissent. But at all costs, we must keep the activist in us alive.
- A lot of adults stay away from protests and activism thinking that it is for the youth and students.
- Why is it that as we grow old, we end up burying the activist within us?
- Activism brings us closer to like-minded people and be ushers of change.
- Why must the burden of bringing in change and dissent fall only on the youth? Why mustn’t we share it with them?
Women and men breaking barriers of cast, class, religion, and gender; shouting slogans, holding banners. Such is the idealism, energy, and conviction of youth. You still believe that you can make a difference.
When we were in school we were often taken out on rallies and marches to stage protests on social issues. I do see that happening even today, school kids walking in a single or double file on footpaths, holding placards and being led by their teachers. Their marches aren’t political, but more about social causes like road safety, crimes against women etc. Somewhere these marches sow the seed of activism in us, which blooms in college. But what happens afterward? Why do we let go of the activist in us once we “settle down” in life? Why does it take a CAA or Nirbhaya case to shake us out of our slumber, and then wonder how did the state of affairs in our society go so haywire? Is it because we largely see activism as taking to streets and opposing administration?
However, activism doesn’t just mean raising your voice against government policies or holding candlelight vigils and protests. To put it simply, it means taking a stand for what you believe is right. To raise your voice, and campaign for change of any kind. In the modern age, all you need is the Internet and your voice to be an activist, and I don’t mean that sarcastically.
Raising pertinent questions about various political issues on the internet is also activism. So is educating your neighbourhood about the importance of separate “dry” and “wet” waste.
You can be an everyday activist, raising questions and taking a stand. Speaking up against sexism that your female colleagues face in office is activism, so is calling out a relative or friend for telling a regressive joke. Raising pertinent questions about various political issues on the Internet is also activism. So is educating your neighbourhood about the importance of separating “dry” and “wet” waste. This doesn’t require you to take to the streets and it may not have the immediate effect that morchas, dharnas and hartals have, but in the longer run, it is this everyday activism which will herald in a more permanent and positive change in our society.
But why must one bother? Shouldn’t activism be left to politicians, seasoned activists, and students? “I did what I could in my youth, now I do not have much to gain from it,” one may think. But that isn’t exactly right. If positive change and a chance at leaving behind a better society isn’t enough, then you must consider how it could also change your life on a personal level.
Activism makes us patient and empathetic. It brings us in the vicinity of like-minded people. You realise the power of solidarity and you learn to be restless and patient at the same time. Activism is a great conversation starter and it leaves you with lifelong lessons. The sheer process of protesting the right way takes a lot of prep and effort and those things do help you grow as a person, citizen and member of society.
So, let your inner activist loose again. The times that we live in, there are so many issues to be taken care of, that we need all hands on deck.
Photo by Lucia on Unsplash
Yamini Pustake Bhalerao is a writer with the SheThePeople team, in the Opinions section. The views expressed are the author’s own.