By Aritro Sarkar, UG’21 Content Warning – This article has mentions of sexual harassment/abuse, CASH, victim-blaming.
This is not a rhetorical question, and definitely not a call-out. This time, it is about introspection. Hopefully, we will become more woke and sensitive to other people’s lives by the end of this. Yes, we still need to be more sensitive – the faulty woke culture at Ashoka is taking away from us more than it gives.
While the woke culture at Ashoka allows us to be sensitive to some communities, we often tend to sideline others – be it consciously or subconsciously. Worse, at times we find ourselves making fun of these “others” who are part of our community. Other times, we do not realise but we enforce decisions that harm different people at Ashoka. All this takes place even when we try so hard to be inclusive and actively aware of different people’s circumstances at Ashoka. In being woke, more often than not we end up creating more barriers than we intended to destroy.
The most recent example of insensitivity came with the email thread titled ‘Open letter to all those who disrespect the servicemen.’ The sender’s sentiments are understandable, given the immediate circumstances. However, it was a bit confusing since nobody had outrightly disrespected any serving personnel till then. The mail that followed, provided a nuanced argument of why the army as an institution faces criticism for their violations in Jammu and Kashmir. Both sides’ sentiments were valid and will continue to be. However, what followed on the UGs Facebook group was nothing but distasteful.
Many members of the Ashokan community who have family members in the army and CRPF*, such as myself, found ourselves looking at exclusionary, hurtful and offensive comments. Mostly, these comments were spewed by people who only viewed our parents in binaries. It is important to note here that neither is every serving personnel a hero nor are they all evil. Largely, they are ill-guided by false heroism- a rhetoric institutionalised in our state to let politicians play them like pawns. They also tend to join the forces due to the financial security offered. In most cases, they believe in the cause they fight for and are willing to lay down their lives for their people. However, some of them end up taking this rhetoric too far, and the power granted to them by law ends up hurting those most vulnerable.
Thus, we tend to have a skewed perception of servicemen. Moreover, we even tend to act vehemently towards Ashokans who are simply related to them. Hatred is made evident in our conversations. It is also made evident in our insensitivity towards their psychological wellbeing when Facebook comments make a joke out of their recent loss. Thus, it becomes important that we realise that Ashoka should be a safe space for all. This does not indicate any support for military brutality but for children who did not choose the families they were born into. Since that includes all of us, it may be worth considering to not exclude anyone simply on that basis.
Having said that, it will always be important for us to raise our voices against what is wrong. We need to have conversations around military brutality in Kashmir and the North East. Even so, choosing the right time to speak up is also important for two main reasons. First, we need to be sensitive to the mental health of others closely affected by the situation. Furthermore, we also tend to have more impact when people are actually willing to talk. Otherwise, we might just be headed for another hateful discussion wherein either side is unwilling to listen. Worst of all, we might be looking at another comment thread full of people trying to make a joke out of the thread’s topic just to gain likes. That is where meme culture and making fun of each other’s arguments betrays us and our “woke”-ness.
Another instance that showed us how we have to be more sensitive and think through our actions was the Nation with NaMo email. While nobody denied the fact that the whole organisation is a propaganda-spinning machine, some Ashokans were definitely denied the opportunity towards better living standards. It is absolutely correct for one to stand up against such organisations, but it is also important for one to know that their actions may have drastic consequences for someone else. In this case, it was made evident by the anonymous email sent on April 4, 2020 (12:29 am). As always, this sparked a discussion on Facebook and what I found quite aptly put forth in someone’s post was: “People’s priorities are different. Yours may be talking about 17th century Mughal art and Renaissance poetry, somebody else’s may be three meals instead of two. When people are already fighting for survival, please don’t make their choices look black and white.”
Needless to say, it becomes important for us to be sensitive to the differences that exist in our own community, and work to make Ashoka a safe space for all. It may not be the best idea to make light of a serious situation or an opponent’s words knowing it may have implications on someone else’s wellbeing. It is also not ideal for us to command actions that do not bear consequences on us. While change is important, know that there still exist people who are born into families that are victims to our society’s inequalities and often get stuck in morally questionable positions. It is these people who bear the brunt of it, not the majority of us who sit and comment about their actions on social media platforms.
All I am saying is, it is time we identify the faults in our woke behaviour and work towards a more inclusive culture. Be woke, but in doing so, don’t take things so far that you end up becoming exclusionary in your ways. After all, nobody can ever be truly woke with a myopic vision.
*Note : The Indian Armed Forces consists of 4 services, namely, Army, Navy, Airforce and Coast Guard. The Central Armed Police forces (CAPFS) consist of the Central Reserve Police Force (CRP), Central Industrial Security Force (CIFS), Border Security Force (BSF), Sashatra Seema Bal (SSB), Indo-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP) and National Security Guard (NSG). The Indian Armed forces serve under the Ministry of Defence and the CAPFS serves under the Ministry of Home Affairs.
About the Author :
Aayra Angrish is a second year History and IR major. She is clumsy but fierce in her opinions. Her interests include talking to gain perspectives, reading non-fiction, and spending time with her dogs.