The shift into a new year and decade is being marked by a state of unrest in our country. We are angry and desperate to such an extent that we loathe anyone who chooses to sit on the fence right now. How dare you not take a side? People are claiming to have distanced themselves from friends and acquaintances who aren’t taking a stand today. There is no place for a silent centrist today. But this compulsion to be political, does it lead us to any concrete outcome?
- India is witnessing large-scale protests against CAA and NRC right now.
- There is a lot of pressure to take sides in the debate, which many feel is unfair.
- But is not being political today a matter of privilege?
- Have we clubbed political awareness and political affiliation into one category?
It may seem like a privilege to be apolitical today, considering how a lot of people, in our country, do not have the luxury to do that right now.
Today, it feels as if political awareness and political affiliation, that are two separate entities, have been clubbed together. It isn’t enough to know what is right and what is wrong, you have to say it and condemn and critique the other side too. You must be an active participant in the political dialogue ongoing in the country. For many minorities and politically and socially oppressed communities in our country, a strong and loud political voice is the only way they can resist oppression and draw attention to their grievances. From that perspective, being political or not is a do-or-die situation. And thus, those who do not feel it is essential to be political are at a privilege.
But isn’t privilege subjective to perspective as well? Agreed that many people are politically secure enough to not feel that the current affairs of their country are crucial enough for them to take the streets. But does that apply to everyone who isn’t raising a voice for a cause that you may feel is crucial. What if they connect with a different issue and choose to raise their voice on that? What if they feel spent from having raised their voice time and again? Maybe they were vocal and took to streets for something else, and simply lack the drive to do it all over again at this point of time. Or what if they feel that their knowledge isn’t enough for them to make a sound comment?
Before you shame someone for not being political today, ask yourselves, what is keeping them from speaking up? Is it apathy for the cause or fear of backlash or personal repercussions?
The question we also need to ask ourselves is when we ask someone to be political, do we actually want to listen to what that person has to say, or do we want them to say what we want to hear? As observed in the case of CAA protests and the resultant outrage over social media, a big section of Twitterati pressured movie stars and celebrities to “say something”, although when some actors took a clear pro right-wing stand, the Twitterati felt let down.
Which is why, one feels that not being political while being a privilege, also hints at a dilemma that a lot of people face today - the fear of intense backlash, especially on social media. Besides, the dialogue over any issue has to be two-way, where we try to make the other person see our side while keeping an open mind about their argument too. The idea is to get more people to realise what is right and what isn't on their own, and not shame and insult them for thinking otherwise.
So, before you shame someone for not being political today, ask yourselves, what is it that is keeping them from speaking up. Is it apathy for the cause that you advocate? Is it the fear of online backlash and threats or personal repercussions? Or is it simply the realisation that their voice won't matter unless it sings to a specific tune?
Picture Credit: Danish Siddiqui/Reuters
Yamini Pustake Bhalerao is a writer with the SheThePeople team, in the Opinions section. The views expressed are the author’s own.