The “Clean India Mission” is a country-wide campaign initiated by the Government of India in 2014. The Swachh Bharat Mission (SBM), Swachh Bharat Abhiyan (SBA), or Clean India Mission is meant to eliminate open defecation and improve solid waste management.

I applaud the campaign and what it stands for, I really do. Unfortunately, their cleansing mission in other aspects of life is scary and bizarre. This ‘cleaning’ process of the present government leaves much to be desired especially since it seems to be focussing on eliminating the good aspects of this secular country…. Err, not cleaning but wiping out democracy, dissent and silencing those that dare to speak against the government or question their actions.

You know this is exactly when your country is in trouble and the hatred simmering within it is reaching a boiling point. And then it gets worse when brave contrarian voices are silenced. A 21-year-old young woman, who wanted to volunteer on climate change, edited two lines on an online document. Like many online Google documents, this document was an effort to raise voices in favour of a cause. We as parents, do want our kids to care about issues, and especially issues like climate change, equality, gender rights etc.

What do we do when our children actually start caring about the causes and feel the need to act on them. What are we supposed to do when they start feeling about causes? Should we ask them to not think, to not volunteer, to not act? To become robots and only do what the government of the day wants them to do?

Just when things started to go wrong and you thought it couldn’t get worse, the Delhi Police went and arrested her. She has been given five days of custodial interrogation and is now facing a sedition charge and of criminal conspiracy for editing two lines in an online Google document.

A society thrives and grows only when different views and ideologies are respected and heard. You don’t have to agree to everything but you can certainly give it a patient hearing. Agree to disagree but don’t take it to another level that only leaves everyone in a state of flux and thereafter leads to dangerous levels of despair. This is another level of hatred and venom that is indigestible. I for one cannot accept it. It is actually sickening to see so-called educated people writing filth and using gutter language against a young girl whose only fault lies in being brave, bright, independent, articulate and strong enough to having her own opinions and voicing them without getting side-tracked.

As parents and as citizens, the days are getting darker. This is what the Indian state has now become and all our Constitutional freedoms are now mere meaningless words. We are all in danger. Social media unfortunately is now mostly full of trolls that think they know best and are the best and pass judgement with their holier than thou attitude without understanding a particular situation or ideology.

On the contrary they know nothing and are the worst forms of low-life that are unaccepting of anything other than what their closed minds have been told.

Every individual has the right to exercise an opinion. This is called democracy. India is a democratic nation still even with all the wrong that is happening in the last few years and people being pushed to be conformists rather than thinkers. We all have to stand up for what we believe in – we cannot please everybody and we don’t have to agree to another’s opinion but yes, we do have a right to voice our thoughts, fight for our rights, for what we have faith in and together we can all be upholders of just causes.

I believe, regardless of the consequences… The fight must go on! You cannot silence democracy – you just cannot! Each one of us has to fight the communalism, religious intolerance, discrimination and hatred that is being spread in our beautiful country.

We as a society have to decide whether we are going to allow people to openly exchange views and ideas or allow extremists and gun-wielding thugs to thrive. There is a growing culture of intolerance and hate. Politics of division on the basis of identity, ideology, religion and caste should not be allowed to come in the way of liberal values and individual rights and freedom.

Why is that citizens these days are openly speaking of a feeling of unease and that a sense of insecurity is creeping in? India as a liberal democracy has to compete with itself and has to once again shine. The right to live with human dignity is so fundamental that it permeates the core of all fundamental rights. This right to dignity means individual autonomy and includes the right to take vital decisions. Privacy too was held as a facet of dignity and everyone is free to decide what to eat, what to wear, which religion to follow and, of course, what to write or speak etc.

We Indians are blessed with diversity. In the dissonance of the debate between communalism and secularism we have forgotten a crucial element that binds us all together- Our Diversity.

India is one of the most diverse lands found anywhere else in the world. From language to dressing-style, the country has been hailed as one of the most complex amalgamation of various cultural identities.

India’s diversity has always been celebrated, but it seems that some people still have a long way to go to accept others who are different and the fact that they’re living in a country where people are free to express these differences. However, there are highly inconsiderate, narrow-minded, self-absorbed people who are trying to disrupt the peace with their attempts at provoking religious communities. It’s highly unlikely they’ll succeed in the end.

But incidents like these are concerning because they show how close-minded and intolerant people are in a nation that’s fairly progressive and liberal.

Freedom of speech is the right of a person to express thoughts, ideas, and personal opinions through a desired media without any restrictions, just so long that these actions do not infringe on the rights of another person or national security. Therefore, we have a right to exercise it without being silenced or crushed.

Wake up India before it is too late and fight back against the disintegration and breakdown of what our country has stood for!

Protest against the arrest of climate activist Disha Ravi on 15 February 2021 | Twitter/@YourAnonCentral