Tuesday, January 31, 2023
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More reading, less WhatsApp forwards is the solution to increasing intolerance in India

Campus Voice is an initiative by ThePrint where young Indians get an opportunity to express their opinions on a prevalent issue.

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Earlier this month, 10 Muslim men were publicly flogged for allegedly pelting stone at a garba function, while a crowd cheered. While many were appalled, there were others who cheered on.

At first like others I tried moving on, thinking it’s just another assault on Muslims in an India that has grown increasingly hostile to them. I sat down to read a collection of French philosopher Albert Camus’ speeches. In the speeches, Camus argues passionately for art, intelligence and freedom. I was struck by how relevant the speeches are in India’s socio-political and religious climate today.

We have lost our respect for education that that enables us to disagree, and one that comes from diverse reading. Those who disagree are seen as ‘woke’ and being woke today is laughed at. We have forgotten that disagreements bring out new ideas which advance human civilisation. Ironically, disagreements lead to consensus on the best ideas. Those best ideas cannot come to the fore if there is no diversity of opinions. Disagreements are a sign of a healthy democracy. By shunning ‘disagreements’, we have limited our growth and shunned democracy. Still some argue that there is ‘too much’ democracy in India. No doubt we are falling on every democratic index.

What causes this disrespect for education? One that I can think of is how our minds have been infiltrated by social media. Posts telling that Nehru was a womaniser, decrying modern medicine because it’s western and benefits of cow urine are abundant. The mere fact that these posts aren’t substantiated by any referencing whatsoever should be enough to arise our suspicion, but many still believe them. This trend has even reached our textbooks. Our alienation from education is fuelled by these posts and at the same time, our alienation from education fuels these posts.

The hatred for education in some quarters is so deep that intellectuals are labelled ‘urban naxals’, their arguments seen as impediments to achieving ‘glory’ and ‘too much intelligence’ is decried.

Indians have surrendered their freedom, saying that economic growth warrants discipline and a loss of freedom is inevitable. The argument in essence entrusts our freedom in the hands of governments. But governments are not fans of freedom.

Discipline is falsely equated with laying down liberties. The economic growth argument is equally flawed. Ask any economist and they’ll tell that the most economically advanced countries are ones with strong protection for civil liberties. Also, if the argument were true then the most well-off people would have been slaves.

Also read: Press mute for Indian Muslims — how Gujarat flogging shows up ‘secular’ silence of Indian politics

Muslims in India today find themselves in a vicious cycle. They’re accused of being appeased even though they are educationally and economically weaker than most Hindus and are ghettoised-the same ‘appeasement’ has emboldened the most conservative and orthodox elements of the community, which hampers their growth. The situation is such that Muslims have almost no representation in government.

There are extremists who say that the persecution of Indian Muslims is justified because Pakistan persecutes its Hindus. Camus would have found this bidding of the value of people’s freedom idiotic. The occurrence of public floggings in a democracy is shameful. Rule of law is what separates us from the Taliban. But an ordinary Indian won’t understand this because he has bid his farewell to education.

What is the solution? One has to acknowledge that this attitude is problematic not only on an individual level but also for the health of our institutions. Getting hold of a good library is the simplest way to get out of this shadow of ignorance-big problems often have simple solutions. One has to realise the reason why civil liberties exist in a democracy. Alternate sources to TV news need to arise. Remember King when he said that injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. One can also read Camus.

The author is a student at University of Delhi. Views are personal

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