IN THE INDIAN EXPRESS
There comes a time in life, when an inner voice urges you to give back. One can either stand up at that point and decide to act, or carry on with life’s pursuits. The question is, when you do decide to stand up for what you think is right, is your spine strong enough to bear the weight of your beliefs and convictions?
I have always been an idealist, always made an attempt to speak out, but there was a time when one just couldn’t be heard. Fortunately, social media platforms like Twitter and the media have changed all that, empowering the average citizen with a voice. And it’s this voice that is beginning to make a difference.Being from a third generation armed forces family, I have been raised with a strong sense of discipline, integrity and a very clear value system. The army is an organisation that to me represents the highest order of ethics and morality. The principles and ideals I live by are a result of my upbringing in the armed forces’ environment of justice, integrity and propriety. These principles took a hit when the institution that gave me all I have appeared to be shaky on integrity.
What sets the armed forces apart from the rest of society is not that nothing wrong can happen within its confines: after all it’s made up of elements from society, but that justice and retribution is swift, when such wrong comes to light. When this differentiating factor doesn’t hold good, my conscience goads me to speak up.
The Sena war cry of Mumbai for Marathis is also a violation of an ethical and moral code of conduct. Denying an Indian citizen a right that is guaranteed by the Constitution is against the law and just not acceptable. Sure, the Mumbai infrastructure is overburdened (not just due to the influx of migrants) but so is the case with a city like Delhi. One doesn’t find such madness there.
The Shiv Sena’s use of the “Marathi Manoos” agenda to exhort violence and hatred cannot be exonerated. Sadly, the state’s record in protecting its people (read common man) against such acts of intimidation, violence and hooliganism is dismal. How can anybody deny a constitutional right and get away with it? How can anybody break the law? Again and again?
Shah Rukh Khan is an Indian citizen and has the right to free expression. How can that be questioned, debated or even politicised? And yet it’s become a huge issue with reams of newsprint and prime time being dedicated to it. Kudos to him for not bowing down to the powers that be. Perhaps, the fact that the fate of his film is in question is incidental.
The film industry so far has not taken a united stand. That’s because the state government’s past record, once again, is abysmal as far as providing security to the industry in such matters is concerned.
The issue however is much larger than a film. It’s about upholding the Constitution of India. Are the thousands of migrants living and working in “unsecure” (when compared to Mannat, Khan’s house) areas expendable? Do their battles not deserve our support? Where is the justice of it all?
I was brought up to speak up and stand up for what is right, even if it’s unpopular. I am fortunate indeed to be where I am today, but what good would that be if I didn’t raise my voice against issues that bother me, bother us? I might as well be an uneducated, unaware woman living in my village in Punjab! Which I might have been were it not for an accident of birth.
Being honourable and upright is not an accident but a choice. A choice we all can make to collectively alter the course of our nation. No issue is too small to stand up for and certainly no issue too big. If a million issues found a million voices, how could it not make a difference? Being upright is no longer the prerogative of our elders; with the majority of our population being “young”, the mantle is now on us. Because we the young, the youth, are the future of India. Are we going to allow this glorious future to be derailed by lapses of our collective conscience? It’s time to stop being on the sidelines. It’s time to stand up for what is right. It’s time to get involved.
The writer is a Mumbai-based actor