State engaging people in senseless debates, fuelling xenophobic tendencies and communal ideas: Siddharth Vardarajan

BeyondHeadlines News Desk

New Delhi: To bring together likeminded and concerned citizens including activists, journalists, historians, academics, students and other civil society members, a three day Citizens’ Conclave which was inaugurated on May 25th came to end on Sunday, May 27th.

India Inclusive as a platform was born out of the urgency to defend the diversity, pluralism, democracy, constitutional values and justice during the current state of chaos that the country is going through.

One of the few who built the India Inclusive platform, Dr. Harshvardhan Hegde (Senior Orthopaedic Surgeon) opened the conclave by acknowledging the anger and frustration of the citizens of the country. “We as thinkers need to get together, settle our differences and think of a larger solution to the conditions we live in,” he said.

Shabnam Hashmi, fellow founder of India Inclusive and social activist also urged everyone to forge their solidarities to build a more cohesive and peaceful country.

The first session of the day was titled, “Democracy and Dissent”, it was chaired by senior journalist, Om Thanvi. The session was addressed by Iftikar Ahmad Khan (Associate Professor), Jagmati Sangwan (Women’s Rights Activist, Former AIDWA Gen. Sec), Kanhaiya Kumar (Student Activist, AISF, CPI), Meeran Chadha Borwankar (Former IPS Officer), Rajdeep Sardesai (Senior Journalist), Saba Dewan (Documentary Filmmaker), Siddharth Vardarajan (Journalist) and Usha Ramnathan (Academician).

Speaking about the current scenario of the country, Iftikar Ahmad Khan talked about the rising disenchantment from the state that people were feeling. He urged for all citizens to start shedding these various illusions and to “realize the falsity of the paths that we have been led on and break our complicit silence to encourage democracy.”

Jagmati Sangwan and Saba Dewan both presented the need for the unification of various struggles, resistances, movements and communities. By referring to recent incidences of honour killing, xenophobic clashes and religious intolerance, Jagamati Sangwan called for a collective realization, “It is important to observe and learn from the events of the last four years in the country. The marginalised of this nation have been forced to live without their rights and freedom while the oppressors have been overcompensated with the same” she said.

While talking about the changing political and social currents in the country, Meera Chadha Borwankar and Siddharth Vardarajan reiterated that the Indian society needs to recognise that the state gets away scot free by pitting one community against another. When the clashes occur and dissent is born out of it, those who see through the fog of manipulation are penalised and labelled as anti-national. “The State engages us in senseless debates, it fuels xenophobic tendencies and communal ideas and we need to rise above those illusions and stop ourselves from getting disengaged with democratic processes,” said Siddharth Vardarajan.

Usha Ramnathan spoke at length about how the Aadhaar is nothing but a tool for the State to control and monitor its population. “Through certain technologies the State can identify and penalise those who dissent. Technology, now, is a tool in the hands of the government to destabilise democracy and to enforce social compliance and then call it good governance.”

She urged the audience present to look beyond the promise of technology and to question it at every step.

Rajdeep Sardesai made a passionate request to the people of the country to do away with neutrality and diplomacy. He specifically spoke about journalists by saying, “The way the society is being divided on the lines of anti-nationalist and nationalist, we are being treated to the same discrimination. Our jobs as journalists is to show the state a mirror and make it answerable for the warped political and social conditions they create. It is time for our moral vocabularies to attack the system unconditionally”. His call for Left spaces to leave their echo-chambers and engage with the larger society was reiterated by Kanhaiya Kumar who said, “We need to take our debates, dissent and discussions to the roads, to the communities that are present beyond our platforms. India Inclusive should spread to the furthest corners of the country to really be inclusive.”

The second session titled, “Education for Inclusive India” was chaired by Professor, Miranda House, Abha Dev Habib. The session was addressed by Fahad Ahmad (Gen Sec. TISS SU), Kawalpreet Kaur (President AISA, DU), Manasi Thapliyal (Assistant Professor, AUD), Pooja Shukla (Student Leader, Lucknow University), Richa Singh (Student Leader, Allahbad University) and Munna Sunaki (Student at HCU).

Abha Dev Habib opened the session by talking about the threat to educational spaces through the declining numbers of SC/ST students in Universities, and the condition of women students. “Students have risked their lives, their voices and their opportunities to question the wrong doings within their Universities.”

Fahad Ahmad added to this conversation by talking about the threat of privatization.

“By privatising education, the State is washing its hands off of its responsibilities. This will lead to the tailoring of education to satisfy the oppressors.”

Fahad charged through a passionate dialogue and promised that as long as perverse forces threaten the country, students will keep rising in protest. He ended his note with a few lines addressing the fascist forces, “Yeh baazi bhookh ki baazi hain, Yeh baazi tum hi haroge. Har ghar se bhookha niklega, tum kitne bhookhe maroge?”

Kawalpreet Kaur and Manasi Thapliyal both talked about the need to keep the outrage and dissent alive in classroom spaces. Kawalpreet added, “The State’s goal of attacking Universities is to make sure these classrooms only produce robots, unscientific students who are regressive, feudal and patriarchal.”

She also said that looking at the conditions of women across universities in the country, it is time to first ensure the survival of the woman and then her education. They both also reiterated that as long as there are classrooms in the universities, educators and students will breed critical thinking.

Munna Sunaki spoke at length about the need to replace the current education system and replace it with Ambedkar’s model of Inclusive Education. He reiterated Ambedkar’s principles of Education, Organisation and Agitation. He also brought attention to the fact that the infrastructure and education being provided in most universities is severely inadequate. It has led to students committing suicides and that has to addressed urgently.

Pooja Shukla and Richa Singh both spoke about the discrimination being faced by SC/ST and OBC students, the limited opportunities that are given to Muslim students and women. “They don’t want the poor to be educated because if they rise in station through education, they will transform the system for good” Pooja said. “This government is trying to make sure that history is re-written by traitors and this new India that is being built, we will reclaim it.” She said. Richa Singh talked about the threat dissenting students face in Universities, “Being labelled as seditionists and traitors, we are being demonized and our ideas of freedom and democracy are being delegitimized,” she concluded.


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