#WhatVotersWant: A student recounts a politically eventful day in her life
April 29, 2019
Image Courtesy: DU Admissions
As a child, I came to believe that every new road construction signalled an upcoming election.
Today, I'm 22 and wonder if the markers of an upcoming election have changed drastically. The lines between the real and absurd have blurred beyond comprehension, and I wonder how we got here? I study at Delhi University. I take an autorickshaw to college. I am alone on most days. Recently on my way to college, the autorickshaw driver struck up a seemingly innocuous conversation. I was alone, but I responded unsuspectingly. What started as an innocent inquiry about my family background quickly turned into “discussion” of the current political scenario, as it often does (in Delhi). The driver, who has been driving an autorickshaw since 1980, for 39 years to be precise, had strong convictions on our current socio-political situation. I will list them one by one.
He tried to convince me that there was no dearth of employment; in fact, there's work aplenty for those who want to work. For instance, jobs for sweepers and cleaners are always available. It was not necessary that everybody had to have a government job. Next, he said that demonetisation was a good thing for the poor as it didn't harm them. In fact, from what he knew, all the “extra” money that was collected was going to benefit the poor in the rural areas. The “Mandir” should be constructed, because “70% of Indians are Hindus” and they must get the choice to do build temples anywhere they want. He warned me that you may be beheaded or harmed if you spoke in support of Modi "in front of Mohammedans in areas near the Jana Masjid". He asserted that Rahul Gandhi can never be the PM because he is badtameez (ill-mannered) and will not know how to conduct himself in foreign countries. He doesn't know how to talk and is like an ill-mannered child. He concluded by saying that Modi was the greatest thing that happened to our country.
During the course of the whole ride, I had no choice but pretend to graciously agree with him because I was afraid of the consequences of arguing with him or questioning him too hard. I was travelling alone through the Kamla Nehru Ridge, which can prove dangerous if one intended it to be so. I was scared to voice my opinion not only because of the difference in our political opinions but also because of my vulnerable position as a woman.
The political happenings of my day did not end there. While in college, my friend and I overheard a group of girls from a different department discussing “the difference between BJP and Congress”, which stopped us midway. We joined them and had a rather healthy discussion. It was all good until the tone and tenor shifted disappointingly towards rather strong support for the likes of Rahul Gandhi and Shashi Tharoor, based on the parameters of “smartness”, "fluency in English", “education” and overall polish of an urban elite. We left disappointed.
I stepped out of the college for a breather, had no clue what would hit me. I saw a man stopping his car in the middle of the road, in front of a cow, only to get off, touch the feet of the cow, pray to it and then drive away. Like a scene from an absurdist novel, the cow went on to chew leaves from a tree on the divider.
At night, I heard on the news that the Chief Justice of India, Ranjan Gogoi was accused of sexual misconduct. His wife allegedly made the accuser rub her nose on her feet.
All these events occurring the same day pushed me into deep contemplation about the state of affairs. It scares me to see how divisive politics has become the opium of our masses. Each self is being broken down, again and again, being stripped down to merely a collection of identities. Are we blind or are we deliberately being so to protect our own inadequacies or shortcomings in producing this vicious situation where debates like poverty, illiteracy, starvation and unemployment have taken a back seat? What about Dalit oppression? What about the rampant sexism and the safety of women? What about LGBTQIA+ rights? What about human life itself? Or are some lives always are and always will be more disposable?
This is a part of a series What Voters Want, where young voters talk about what in their view, is at stake in this General Election.
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