As I tried understanding the debates around the burqa especially in the French context here, I received many valid, well thought out, and legitimate replies – all in one way or the other against the “forced veiling”.
In a country like India, it is heartening to see educated people expressing their opinion, which is for humanity and moderation and balance. However, it is greatly disappointing to wake up to news that reads: Forced to wear burqa, teacher quits.
What is most shocking about this news is that the Students’ Union pressurized the university teacher!
What is happening to the supposedly educated youth in our country?
Why are young minds embracing religious fanaticism with such ardor?
Are they in search of a unique identity because they feel their individuality is threatened?
Has Indian politics created a whole generation of confused and misguided youngsters – rebels without any real causes?
I still remember my childhood days when religion and caste were only chapters we read in our Civics books. In school, I did not know which caste my classmates belonged to.
Through my growing up years, I had Sikh neighbors with whom I used to happily pile on for the Sunday langars at the Gurudwara; I had Muslim neighbors who were differentiated only because of the wonderful language they spoke – aap, bhai-jaan, abba-jaan – music to the ears; I had Christian neighbors who shared rich plum cakes on Christmas; and all of us together celebrated the “Hindu” festivals of Diwali and Holi!
Come the late 90s and early 2000s, as college beckoned, caste based reservations became the talk of the day. Quota seats – General seats – SC/ST – OBC – all alien terms began to invade my vocabulary.
I still remember the day I started filling out my entrance test forms - all of them asked the following disturbing questions:
For the first time I was going to define my identity within a religious institution that had not meant much in my life so far.
Hindu, I wrote. In a fraction of a second, differences based on religion were established between neighbors.
And then the final blow that firmly established boundaries and partitions in once-innocent classrooms.
Select one of the following:
SC, ST, OBC, Others
I was baffled. I asked my dad, what I should fill in.
He said in a matter of fact tone, “Others”.