By Ashima Makhija
In the backdrop of increasing unemployment, a dreadful silence over the rising atrocities against Dalits, Muslims and other marginalised communities, and extreme and violent right-wing populism in our country, the young political figures have decided to amass the public and raise their voices against the current NDA regime. As India transits into a new year, a new face of the opposition seems to be emerging. Surprisingly, it does not endorse the typical leaders of the Congress and the Left parties. Rather, at the forefront of this revolution to reinstate an effective Opposition in the nation are student leaders like Umar Khalid and Shehla Rashid, human rights activists Akhil Gogoi and Bezwada Wilson and Dalit leader and Gujarat legislator, Jignesh Mevani.
The lost Opposition in India
The opposition in our country has, for long, assumed an unnatural and eerie silence. In the wake of a strong and violent ‘Hindu nationalism’, the opposition parties have remained quiet on mob lynches and murders of minorities in bovine killings. Similarly, the liberal opposition leaders have not raised their voices adequately on issues like the murder of journalist Gauri Lankesh.
The Indian democracy has a void, where there ought to be a stringent and principled opposition. The absence of an opposition has not only strengthened the saffron agenda of the right-wing groups but also, threatened the core and basis of our democracy. The ‘Yuva Hunkar’ Rally aims to fill this void. Through a series of demonstrations and protests, the leaders of the youth wish to generate awareness about the several problems that our country faces.
By emphasising on the weaknesses and failures of the current BJP-led Union government, they are bringing about a new wave of opposition. If they are successful in their objectives, then they will be able to create a strong anti-BJP sentiment in the young minds of our nation. This will be a new and fresh idea of opposition. So far, the opposition has primarily focused on election propaganda and dislodging the incumbent party from power. But a strong front of youth leaders, who represent not only political but social, economic and even moral interests, can change not only the election results but the political perceptions and ideologies that govern the institutions and citizens of our country.
Parliament Street: A defining moment
Amid heavy police presence on the Parliament Street in New Delhi, Dalit leader Jignesh Mevani convened the ‘Yuva Hunkar’ Rally. Mevani asserts that he will fight for justice for Dalits and Adivasis in the Gujarat Assembly as well as on the streets. The movement’s primary motive was to extend support to another Dalit leader, Chandrashekhar ‘Ravan’ Azad. Mevani demanded that he be released from prison in Uttar Pradesh. Azad’s contentious arrest in a state ruled by the BJP is seen as another attack against Dalit assertion. Various other student leaders spoke against the Modi government and demanded justice for icons like Rohit Vemula, Najeeb Ahmed along with the release of Bhim Army founder Chandrashekhar Azad.
Vocal demand for a dignified life
The movement launched scathing attacks against multiple aspects of ring-wing populism and rising cultural chauvinism of the Hindus. Ideologies of organisations affiliated to the Sangh Parivar were brought under intense scrutiny. Leaders like Kanhaiya Kumar and Shehla Rashid spoke of the need to strengthen democracy, ensure social justice, increase employment opportunities in the country and ensure the right to a dignified life, in practice.
RTI activist Akhil Gogoi says a national programme is needed to get rid of the BJP-RSS government. “Twelve States in India had special status after the BJP government came into being; the autonomy of these States was compromised. Our voices are silenced because we speak against BJP and RSS. We fight the fight on the streets,” he contended.
Senior Supreme Court lawyer Prashant Bhushan was present along with students from JNU, Delhi University, Lucknow University and Allahabad University, among others. Bhushan said that his generation had failed to bring social equality in the nation. “It is now time for the youth to fight the battle,” he added.
What does the movement stand for?
Although the march and protests on the streets had only a moderate turnout, it signifies a change in the attitudes of the youth. It has identified the flaws in the saffron functioning of the central government and has the desire to stand up against it. It is not merely opposition in a conventional sense that aims to wrest political power. Its larger ideological agenda is that people should realise the social, economic and cultural costs of the ring-wing populism, which has surfaced in our country. It stands to fill the large void of principled opposition in our country and to preserve the democratic character of the Indian state.
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