What happens to a dream deferred?

Some days back, Rajeev Rajeshuni and Harish Reddy, two UG4 students, presented their experiences of summer internships with culturally/socially active groups sponsored by SPICMACAY. Rajeev spent a month with Tibetan monks in Dharmashala and Harish was with Aruna Roy’s MKSS in Rajasthan.

Rajeev’s talk was about the serenity of Tibetan Buddhist monks and moments spent with The Dalai Lama. Harish was an angry young man telling us about how miserable the caste, gender and class realities are in rural India.
Both talked about people who are not free and who are struggling for freedom. In one case, the Tibetans, they could run away to India and were provided shelter. In the other case, the people have nowhere to go.

In both the cases, there is a logic that the oppressors present to perpetuate the atrocities. The oppressors do not believe that they are doing anything wrong and they do not accept the logic of the oppressed, who seek freedom and dignity. It is easy for us who are distant from the China-Tibet issue to understand why China is wrong in its logic. But it is not easy for us to see how wrong we are in dealing with our own oppressed.

China has made schools, hospitals, roads, etc., and provided a better quality of life in the modern sense, in Tibet, that may not have happened if it was not under Chinese occupation. The Tibetan society was feudal to the core and most of the people lived like slaves, serving the monks or the traders who form the majority of those who escaped. Not everything about the Tibetan society in India is laudable. But this does not make China right in doing what it did. China is an imperial power that has colonised Tibet. We must raise our voice in support of the Tibetan people, who have been fighting a non-violent struggle against the military might of China.

The struggle of the oppressed castes in India is also non-violent. This is surprising, because the intensity of oppression remains high and wide. The constitutional path has provided a solution, not necessarily the best, but one well supported by those who have studied the problem for years. This is the idea of reservation for access to quality education, in employment, etc. For a long time, the policy was not even implemented to an extent that could be called significant. When finally it started looking like a reality and the percentages in jobs started showing, the country went for massive privatisation. In a private educational institute, there is no reservation policy. It is apparent that privatisation of education is a policy that makes quality education inaccessible to disadvantaged sections.

Ordinarily one expects the youth to question the structure of lies and disinformation that sustains the otherwise untenable institutions of oppression. Our institute provides mechanisms for students to study and question the present. Counterculture is promoted and yet we remain content with extreme underrepresentation of large sections of our people in our community. Naturally, the feeling of being a hypocrite is intense in me. In six years of being here, I have motivated only a small number of students to look at real data published in credible journals and inevitably their opinions have changed after a thorough reading. But most of us choose to remain happily gullible because it serves our interests. The arrogance that goes with it is notable. In a more equal society, most of us will not be where we are. With such undeserving power and privileges, how can we be so arrogant?

Insensitivity to issues of social justice indicates a severe crisis of values. The pain of exclusion that a large majority experiences in our country is not going to subside. It will, as Langston Hughes said in his poem ‘What happens to a dream deferred’, explode one day.

-Dr. Harjinder Singh

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