The young will have to take the lead in achieving generational attitudinal transformation, in spreading empathy, compassion, consideration and cohesion.
India recalled the Nirbhaya case of 2012 recently. New rules were framed with provisions of harsher punishment. A Nirbhaya Fund was created. But nothing changed on the ground level, neither in the societal attitude nor in the insensitivity of the establishment. The delay that occurred in meting out justice even in this case was inordinate. The brutalities became more inhuman; regular reports on rape, murder and burning of the body of the victim appear rather at regular intervals. Recently; a heinous crime was committed in Hathras. Brutally assaulted, the ravaged girl lost her life. The politicians had their hey-day. Most of them treated it as an opportunity to settle their political scores, and fulfill their Utopian ambitions. Their presence acted as glue to the media that got its stories! Alongside, reports of rape came from Azamgarh, Balrampur; a priest was burnt alive in Rajasthan and after a week or so a teenager boy was murdered by the family of the girl whom he loved. The fact is, Hathras received maximum media coverage and attention from politicians. Other instances were quietly dealt with both by media and politicians for their own reasons. People know these reasons. Even Hathras would be remembered only for a few more months. Rest assured, the suspended officers shall be reinstated, and all of us shall busy ourselves with our regular routines. We do so every time, leaving the total responsibility on the shoulders of the government of the day. It is so simple and satisfying to put blame on someone else, limiting one’s own role or that of the civil society to a protest followed by total detachment! Our conscience would be aroused only when some other equally disgusting and tragic case attracts media attention, and leads to visits by leaders, and maybe a couple of demonstrations and candlelight marches. How did we become so insensitive to our fellow human beings? Why should families, villages and societies not be penalized and boycotted if they fail to inculcate basic human values? How long shall India tolerate heinous attacks on women without rising as a nation to eradicate the crime once and for all? Instead of depending solely on a sick and corrupt establishment, why can’t the young of India come forward to educate, and when it fails, isolate the unsocial elements?
The National Education Policy (NEP 2020) envisages “recognizing, identifying, and fostering the unique capabilities of each student, by sensitizing teachers as well as parents to promote each student’s holistic development in both academic and non-academic spheres”. One could clearly visualize; under such a proviso, a clear comprehensive role for students, teachers and parents in shaping the personality of the learner around community culture, social responsibility, respect for otherness and gender sensitivity. What is education without character formation? What is education without compassion, empathy and kindness? One sincerely wishes the programme of action being developed for NEP 2020 would strongly focus on these aspects, to ensure inculcation and nurturance of humanistic, moral and ethical values. A sense of pride in being Indian, in realisation as being an inheritor of a great tradition of knowledge quest, and philosophy of “World is but one Family” could really help in getting ready to lead a pure and value-based life. With what face could India talk of truth, peace, non-violence and universal brotherhood when reports on atrocities on women are emerging on a daily basis?
Formally, the year-long celebrations of the 150th birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi are over. During this period, a considerable number of deliberations organized at various levels have succeeded in arousing the curiosity of a large section of young persons to know more about Gandhi and understand his contemporary relevance. On umpteen occasions, I was amazed to see their interest in “Hind Swaraj”, written in 1909; which many of them find prophetic particularly in its vision of modern civilization including industrialization, and use of machinery. Amongst numerous instances from the life of the Mahatma, I personally observed how the one at Pieter Marietzburg attracts young idealistic minds. It transformed the young barrister, fully conscious of his education and status, from a “person to a personality”. We need a transformation at that level amongst young persons, who could restore sanity, tranquility, respect for others; and otherness, which could save the country from an unbearable ignominy. Pieter Marietzburg must be analyzed in institutions by students, parents and teachers together.
At a later stage, Gandhi accepted it as the most creative moment of his life. That day, the empathetic heart of the young barrister extended its outreach to the suffering sections of the downtrodden, deprived and destitute. And that remained his mission throughout his life. He fought on several fronts that could give human dignity to the last man in the line. The manner he describes the Pieter Marietzburg in his My Experiments with Truth deserves umpteen repetitions: “I began to think of my duty. Should I fight for my rights or go back to India, or should I go to Pretoria without minding the insults, and return to India after finishing the case. It would be cowardice to run back to India without fulfilling my obligation. The hardship to which I was subjected was superficial – only a symptom of deep disease of colour prejudice. I should try, if possible to root out the disease and suffer the hardships in the process. Redress for wrongs I should seek only to the extent that would be necessary to the extent for the removal of the colour prejudice.” This incident offers a great revelation in what is character, what is compassion, and how one could take decision even in most provocative conditions without losing his cool; maintaining his buddhi and vivek.
Why recall Pieter Marietzburg when the point under discussion is the disgusting absence of gender sensitivity? Gandhi could transform millions, and we all lament the erosion of Gandhian values in the post-Independence era. Lack of sanity in approach towards women and girls requires serious action not only in education but also on the home front. The Dalai Lama pleads for “fostering the qualities of a good heart”. Every mother is the first teacher of every human being; every living being! Everyone is born in love, experiences it immediately on arrival on planet Earth in mother’s love. And it is selfless love. Love is natural; hatred is taught! That must be prevented. The universal remedy is to realize how the mother, family and father could really make a difference. Dalai Lama writes: “I often think of my mother as my first teacher of compassion. She was simple, uneducated, just a village farmer, but so kind-hearted—and her kindness was unconditional. It is the love with which she nurtured me that is the core of compassion I can find in myself and feel for others.” Religions could really play a wonderful part in nurturing love and compassion, but unfortunately, religious leaders have abandoned this responsibility altogether. On the contrary, most of the violence and wars that humanity suffers today trace their origin to religions; in one way or the other! Even in the 21st century, there is no global acceptance of the equality of all religions; young persons are guided to establish the supremacy of their religion, that theirs is the only true religion, that all others must be converted to their own! Where is the time and inclination to sit together, think of miseries being inflicted on girls and women, humiliation being thrust on families and near and dear ones, and above all, about humanity being put to shame?
Let me reiterate that young persons shall have to take a lead in achieving generational attitudinal transformation, in spreading empathy, compassion, consideration, cohesion, and above all, educating people on “learning to live together”. Integrity, honesty, and selfless service of the weak would give them a fulsome personality. Once the kindness permeates individual persona, it would radiate all around, to all living beings, and to nature! Kindness kindles a ray of hope before the suffering humanity, it opens up the possibility of appropriate human action to restore not only the man-man relationship but also the sensitive man-human relationship, which; we must admit; stands greatly damaged. Let kindness spread all around, and let it extend to all loving beings and to nature as well. No peace, no progress, no development is possible without strict adherence to the divine law of morality. It would make every man realise his eternal debt to girls and women.
Professor J.S. Rajput works in education and social cohesion.