Justice, Liberty and Equality
Based solely on my views, today millions of Indians will call me an anti-national. They will say I have no love for my country. They will say that I don’t deserve to live here. They will ask me to lie in bed with terrorists. They will ridicule me for being a ‘sickularist’ and a ‘pseudo-liberal’. And they will ask me to pack my bags and leave this country and go to Pakistan.
But India is my nation. This is my home.
However, today I am anti-national. I don’t deserve to be here according to my own country people.
Justice, Liberty and Equality
I read the Preamble of the Indian Constitution as part of my school’s curriculum as a child but I didn’t understand it and nor did I particularly care; I just wanted to pass my final exams. It was many years later, in a much different classroom, I read those words again and fell violently in love with the idea behind it. I was absolutely flummoxed by its beauty and its simplicity. The people of this great nation – those who drafted this Constitution and those who fought for its freedom against its colonial oppressors – promised every single Indian equality of status and opportunity; social, economic and political justice; and liberty of thought, expression, belief, faith and worship.
The Constitution simply put is breathtakingly brilliant in its ideation. But India has struggled quite a bit to hold to its initial promise.
Growing up, I saw my grandmother keep a ‘separate plate’ for our maid because she didn’t want the maid to taint ‘our’ Brahmin food (a practice that my mother rightly and forcibly put an end to). I saw poverty in every corner tucked right next to palatial mansions. I saw men and women maimed and broken grabbing my feet as they begged for a few alms. I saw child laborers serving at local restaurants. I saw one corrupt politician after another get voted into power and break promises they made to their constituents as they greedily filled their own deep pockets. I saw my own body and the bodies of millions of women around me policed by people who had no right to an opinion on these matters.
Everywhere I looked I saw inequality and injustice. And it chilled me to my core because I sat and wondered about the horrors that lurked beyond what I saw from own my own rather protected ‘middle class’ existence.
How can anyone be tolerant towards such pain and rampant disparity?
In the recent times, the word tolerance has been thrown around a lot in nearly every discussion about equality or lack thereof present in India. It has become a punchline; a reprimand, a hashtag. As of this week, to point out intolerance means a jail sentence. Intolerance has also become synonymous with ‘anti-national’.
The definition has become rather skewered. To voice dissent towards the established status quo is anti-national. If you aren’t toeing the party line that claims everything is perfect, then you are anti-national. You are definitely anti-national if you criticize those who allow caste discrimination, gender discrimination, Islamophobia, homophobia and so much more atrocities to exist in plain sight. You are anti-national even if you peacefully protest against the government and demand it to give every single person their claim to justice as citizens of the nation.
So today, I must confess that I am an anti-national and I am also very intolerant. But I think that’s the point of our democracy and our constitution. I think that’s the point of India itself.
We aren’t meant to tolerate it when that which is our birthright is denied to us.
We aren’t meant to tolerate it when a woman is raped in a hospital hours after giving birth to a child. We aren’t meant to tolerate when consenting adults are slapped, beaten and dragged away from private spaces for daring to have or to want sex.
We aren’t meant to tolerate it when children are forced into wedlock against their will.
We aren’t meant to tolerate it when so, so many of our classmates, neighbours, colleagues, friends, and countrymen are still being denied their right to love freely.
We aren’t meant to tolerate it when we are still a young nation learning how to deal with poverty. When we are still somehow letting the rich become more prosperous while millions of families continue to exist within the tyrannies of hunger.
We aren’t meant to tolerate it when trans* people are still denied jobs and even basic education because they are ‘different’.
We aren’t meant to tolerate it if a law as discriminatory in nature as Section 377 even exists.
As citizens of this unlikely, unrelenting, beautiful democracy, we’re born with rights to equality, justice, and liberty. And when that birthright is denied to any one of us, it is all of our duty to raise our collective voices and fight for it.
We are not meant to be tolerant towards inequality and injustice.
And if that makes us ‘anti-national’, then so be it.
Let’s be patriots.
Featured Image Credit: Scroll.in