Reporting the nationwide agitation against the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) erupted across India ‘The New Indian Express’ named it as ‘Bharatiya Janata Outrage’. Thousands of citizens, writers, prominent personalities, film stars, women’s groups and leaders of political parties joined the protest which was initially started by the university students. Many prominent persons, intellectuals and political leaders were taken into preventive custody. Citizenship rage engulfed the nation.
Though most protests were peaceful, in some places crowds turned violent. Public property was vandalised and police was pelted with stones. To disperse the crowds, police resorted to lathicharge, lobbing teargas shells and even firing. In Mangaluru, two youth were dead in police firing. The UP toll has crossed 20. Police is brutally attacking protesters in the states where BJP is ruling.
Government is blocking internet and mobile communication in many places. It is like imposing media emergency. Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Home Minister Amit Shah and UP Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath are speaking provocative language instead of dialogue and peace. They are exposing their political immaturity and inexperience. Situation in the whole country is going from bad to worse.
It is sad that during the Christmas season which is a festival with message of peace and hope we are witnessing violence and destruction in the country. Similarly, when the Government has declared this year to have special celebrations to mark the 150th birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi it is enacting laws to discriminate and divide people in the name of religion which is against the spirit of Gandhi and against the fundamental principles of Indian Constitution.
Protesters at Jantar Mantar in Delhi resorted to ‘Gandhigiri’ by offering roses to police saying, “they can baton charge as much as they want, but we give love in return for hatred”. This was in the spirit of Gandhi and in keeping with Indian ethos. This example should be multiplied everywhere.
Praising the prophetic and fearless stand the youth have taken against the discriminatory law of the government, The New Indian Express wrote in its editorial on 20th December 2019, “The Youth Are Redeeming India, Not Destroying It”. Truly, the youth of the country are taking charge to protect the values of Indian Constitution. They are waging a war against the manipulation of determining the citizenship based on caste and religion.
Youth had played a significant role in the freedom struggle of India. Responding to the call of Mahatma Gandhi, thousands of youth had left colleges and jumped into the freedom struggle. They were ready to go to jail. The whole nation was led by Gandhi and every one followed his way of non-violence and satyagrha instead of violence. With one word Gandhi could control the violent crowds across the country. He was one-man army and one-man majority. He was led by the power of the spirit gained from truth and non-violence.
Today youth are more dynamic and more resourceful than in the days of freedom struggle. Willingness to sacrifice their lives for a cause is the characteristic of the youth. What we lack today is a charismatic leader with integrity who can guide the youth and people. In the absence of such a leader with vision and integrity, the youth force can be misled and misused by politicians and negative forces for their vested interest. The urgent need of the hour is enlightened leaders with broad, inclusive and lasting vision. We need leaders who are empowered with values of truth, non-violence, courage with forgiving spirit and self-sacrifice. We need leaders who can transcend the boundaries of religion, caste, language, region and power politics. They are available in abundance among the youth. But ‘they are like sheep without shepherd’.
When the whole country was suffering from communal violence and bloodshed after the destruction of the disputed mosque in Ayodhya on 6th December 1992 we had visualized the necessity of training enlightened leaders and responsible citizens from the youth to prevent this nation from disintegration. From my personal experience of working closely with the youth I knew that the youth have the capacity to accomplish this sacred mission. This inner urge became strong conviction after the serial bomb blasts in Bombay on 9th January 1993 which once again took lives of many innocents and created chaos and destruction in the whole city.
The atmosphere of mistrust, prejudice and hatred were increasing among people of different communities across the nation. As a proactive response we launched Universal Solidarity Movement of Value Education for Peace in July 1993. Through this mission, we aimed to rebuild a better India and better world through the youth. We believed that the youth can transform this country provided they are safeguarded from the influence of negative forces.
Motivated by the adage, ‘it is better to light a candle instead of cursing the darkness’, a handful of volunteers crisscrossed the country to spread the message of peace, universal solidarity and values enshrined in the constitution. The young students were enthusiastic to be part of this movement. The unfortunate experience was lack of commitment from the school management and teachers to act as mentors to the young students. Despite all obstacles and lack of resources the mission continues. We experience more and more positive responses. Sustaining the enthusiasm of the youth is the major challenge we face due to lack of committed mentors. Despite adverse situations and lack of resources leadership training for the young students and teachers continue.
Launching National Peace Convention every year to keep up the legacy of Mahatma Gandhi from 30th January to 1st February is another initiative to promote peace and harmony. The participants who come from all parts of India get inspired to go back and organize peace activities in their regions and localities.
What sustains these various initiatives is the total commitment to the values of pluralism, transparency, inclusiveness, team work and insistence of practicing what is preached. Self transformation before transforming the world had been an uncompromising principle of the Movement. USM is a unique mission successfully experimented aimed at creating a moral revolution. Hundreds of young people come from distant parts of India spending their time and money to participate in the various programmes organized throughout the year.
It is time for the principals of educational institutions, teachers and all who are responsible for the education and animation of the youth to inculcate universal values enshrined in the constitution of India. Let us make our educational institutions centres of social change by training enlightened leaders. Then the youth will redeem not only India but the whole humanity. If we fail to do this, the negative forces will instil in them values of violence, hatred and revenge which will be destructive to India and to the whole world. Let us make mentoring the youth our first focus area, our priority mission.
(Published on 06th January 2020, Volume XXXII, Issue 01)