Personal is politics?

Sakal Times
Thursday, 25 January 2018

On the occasion of India’s 69th Republic Day, we speak to urban and rural youth about their idea of politics and how their involvement is bound to affect nation building

On the occasion of India’s 69th Republic Day, we speak to urban and rural youth about their idea of politics and how their involvement is bound to affect nation building

1950 to 2018 -- 68 years of being a republic. Sixty-eight years of being a sovereign, socialist, secular, democratic, republic, securing for its citizens social, economic and political justice, liberty of thought, expression, belief, faith and worship; equality of status and of opportunity; and to promote fraternity among all, assuring the dignity of the individual and the unity and integrity of the nation. Isn’t this what we all grow up reading in our civics books and rote learning it for our exams? How much of this do we see reflecting in our surroundings as we grow up to be adult citizens of this nation we call home?

While we do have quite a list, if we must show, of our achievements in the last half a decade, doesn’t imply that we have successfully achieved all that the preamble to our Constitution enlists. Social and economic equality is still a far cry and economic and political justice is an ambiguous territory, especially when the definitions are looked at from geographical point of view.

Youth — residing in urban and rural regions of India — often have differing levels of understanding and interest in politics, which has a broader impact on nation building and policy making. The urban youth might be well read and articulate, but the level of participation is not exactly the same.

“What’s your politics? This is a famous question when we speak of liberation and also the medium to understand the significance of politics in our lives,” says Vikas Zutshi, a Mumbai-based communication professional. Today, if the underprivileged and minority-class (gender, caste etc) is successful in even fighting for their rights, it’s because of this very politics, the 29-year-old believes. He credits this to Babasaheb Ambedkar’s teachings. Known as the architect of the Indian Constitution, Ambedkar had given the message of ‘educate, agitate and organise’. This agitation, Zutshi believes, cannot be achieved without politics. “This is the politics of agitation and optimism — for every class of the society, be it gender equality or caste equality, it’s about your identity and recognition. None of this can be achieved without political awareness. That’s why they say that the ‘personal is political’,” he insists.

Another city-based youth Tejas Harad has similar views, but goes on to say that if we desire a better society than the one we have right now, we must take interest in politics. Harad belongs to a village called Budhavali, Wada taluka, in Maharashtra’s Thane district, and has been living in Mumbai for the last eight years now. “I have been reading newspapers since I  learnt to read. I have always taken a keen interest in current affairs and political developments in Maharashtra as well as at the national level. I keep myself updated about key socio-political happenings as well as my areas of interest, which are caste, gender and social movements in general, by keeping a tab on newspapers, magazines, news websites, social media and sometimes YouTube,” he says.

Speaking of daily-life politics, the 28-year-old, who actively participates in political discussions on social platform, says that our life choices are decided to a great extent by what gender and caste we are born into. “We must be aware of the social structures governing our reality to fight problems like poverty, caste discrimination, sexism, heteronormativity, and so on. Karl Marx had said that ‘the philosophers have only interpreted the world, in various ways. The point, however, is to change it’. And this change is possible only through politics,” he seconds Zutshi.

While Harad says that, Mumbai-based Ritika Dange says that she is not sure of the extent the urban youth can be held responsible for the lack of urban planning. “But it’s true that urban youth is not as interested or involved in grassroot politics as one might expect or hope for. They might even be interested in becoming an active part of the political situation around themselves, but if you’re not a politician or don’t have any plans of becoming one, then there really isn’t any feeling of achievement in being involved. The hectic lives-led commuting to and fro work, doesn’t allow for much activism either,” 27-year-old Dange says.

Agreeing to Dange, Tuhin Sinha, BJP’s Mumbai spokesperson, says that the urban youth have many other engagements and options to choose from when it comes to socialising and leisure activities. “Also, you must look at the people influencing the rural youth. They are usually community leaders, with deep community sentiments and political ideologies. Additionally, there is generally a crowd movement kind of behaviour in villages owing to this strong community affinity,” points out Sinha.

He, however, says that this political awareness is not necessarily in the right direction. “The urban youth are mostly more informed but the involvement level is low. Urban parents focus more on high-paying jobs for their children, often advising settling abroad. This needs to change if we have to get the urban youth involved in politics and expect them to work for the betterment of their home country,” Sinha urges.

The recent case of caste-based clashes around the Bhima-Koregaon issue was an example of lack of political awareness and caste-related disparities that still exist in the country. Somnath Waghmare, a PhD student at the Tata Institute of Social Sciences, recently made a documentary on the history of the place and the war that had taken place here centuries ago. Waghmare, who says that he got politicised quite early in life, belongs to Sangli, and says that this is a result of his native itself being a very politicised region. “My political ideology has always been left - Phule-Ambedkar-oriented,” he says, adding, “Our politics is mostly based on our caste. Your birth mostly decided your ideology. Women also tend to subscribe to feminism. That’s just the way it works. Very few individuals go out of their caste, class of birth to adopt a differing ideology,” he states. Waghmare, who is pursuing his doctorate in caste, cinema and cultural politics, says that politics is not just electoral. “It is in arts, cinema, media and everywhere,” he believes, adding that the only reason rural youth seem more involved in it is because the population there is lower and hence involvement becomes inevitable.

Despite that, Dr Abhiraj Patil, belonging to a village named Shrigaon in Alibaug taluka of Raigad district says that he likes to stay away from village politics. “I am aware of the political scenario here but not interested in it, because there’s just too much corruption. It puts me off,” he signs off.


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