‘Apolitical’ refers to not being interested or involved in politics. However, to quote the Greek Statesman, Pericles, “Just because you don’t take interest in politics, doesn’t mean politics won’t take interest in you.” Our everyday choices and behaviours are consciously and subconsciously affected by the social and political climate of our times. While we may choose to be apathetic, our actions are invariably responsible for aiding political agenda – being silent very often supports the status quo.
India is a Republic, a Democratic, and a Sovereign country. The fundamental basis of any democracy is that people are required to cast their vote. However, being political is beyond the casting of a vote. Being apolitical is a class privilege that many of us cannot afford to indulge in. Our country is suffering from barbarity induced by caste-based violence, toxic masculinity and misogyny, police brutality, persuaded religious conflicts, corruption and bribery, and more importantly, curbing the right to free speech and peaceful protests. Being apolitical in such situations is siding with the oppressors, even if that is not one’s intention.
The tragic deaths during the Kunan Poshpora occurrence (1991), the Nadimarg massacre (2003), the Gujarat Riots (2006) and in the past decade or so of that of Nirbhaya, the custodial maltreatment and death of Jeyaraj and Bennix, more recently the rape and death of a young Dalit girl in Hathras, UP are very distinctly either politically instigated or politically shielded. While these are only a handful of incidents, I can’t help but run a robust offence against those who choose to remain mute vehemently. It is a misdeed to claim the citizenship of a country and cull to remain aloof from its affairs because of the privilege one has by not being directly affected by these disheartening incidents. Staying indifferent to injustice is a misdemeanour.
Often, people find it suitable to censor themselves not because of their class privilege but due to the fear of being detested or the psychological fatigue that comes with engaging with every vile political comment. People are usually politically indecisive and therefore, no political party represents their true cause or interests. As understandable as one’s stillness can get, completely disengaging oneself from forming a political opinion is not the right remedy. The era of MNCs, celebrities, and influencers being apolitical is over. While their authenticity can be questioned, many organisations have come forward and raised their voices for the oppressed.
Political freedom has never been absolute in any state. You don’t have to align yourself with a political party to assert your political freedom. To be politically engaged seldom refers to actively campaigning for a political party or a faction. It is much simpler than that. Systematically educating oneself with current affairs and forming an informed opinion is to be politically engaged. Casting your vote sensibly is to be politically engaged. Condemning bigotry and fake dialogue is to be politically engaged. Signing petitions and joining digital and offline protests is to be politically engaged. Making conscious consumer choices is to be politically engaged. These are just a minority of non-institutionalised forms through which one can practice politics. Zealous civic participation amplifies the voices of the unheard and the oppressed to provide them with the healing and the freedom they yearn. However, to be disinclined from politics or political affairs is to be apolitical and in all likelihood, being an irresponsible citizen of a country.
As seen in the Black Lives Matter Movement, a historical revolution was organised and witnessed around the globe. 15 to 26 million people in America participated in the non-violent civil disobedience movement to advocate for reform. Such is the power of cultural, social and political dissidents! The Black Lives Matter Movement saw enthusiastic participation from the youth. India is yet to witness such a vigorous awakening. 1/5th of India’s population comprises the youth, that is, 65% of Indians are below the age of 35 years. We are a nation of ‘young leaders’. Despite this, I can’t stress the number of times I’ve heard my peers very proudly state that they ‘don’t have an interest in politics.’ Unfortunately, the way they see it is that politics is only about the BJP and the Congress Party. Ignorance is nothing but lack of knowledge. It is a violent element in society. The kind of change our country needs is higher than a vote or a government. It duly starts with self – assessment.
A country voluntarily devoid of an educated populace will rarely see progression. Abhijit Naskar rightly said, “A nation falls not because of governmental atrocity, but because of the citizen’s indifference to that atrocity.” The future of every country is its people, and being apolitical is simply feigning ignorance whilst a majority of people are being deprived of their birthright.
Simran Naidu writes about art, culture, and politics.