New winds are blowing, and the politicians just don’t know how to react.

The ongoing student or youth unrest Does Not belong to an opposition party, it transcends ideologies, institutions and partisan beliefs. Instead it belongs to all of ‘us’, and all efforts by politicians to paint us to one side or the other have failed.

While we lack a leader, a party or even organisational cohesion, we certainly have an abundance of well-meant concern for the future, as you have never known or delivered.

In some ways this is ‘anti-politics’, as young people are appalled with conventional ways of politicking where one thing is said and the complete opposite is implied. Your running with the hare and hunting with the hound is so obvious to us.

Do you know why? It’s because we are a generation with an accompanying instinct that you haven't cracked in your calculations, it’s called Gen Z, born towards the end of the nineties.

The bulk of street angst today is being expressed by Gen Z who in India are the post-90s ‘liberalisation’ generation, the 500 million strong ‘bloc’ that will shape the results of the 2024 general election.

Contrary to popular belief, we are not all quoting Jordan Belfort from The Wolf of Wall Street as the philosophy of winner-take-all is not about us. Surprise surprise, we are actually rediscovering Gandhi, the Constitution, Faiz, Ambedkar, Bhagat Singh and many others, and try as you might to even diminish even these holy cows with your twisted insinuations, we are reading, re-reading and constantly reminding you of your Constitution, our Constitution, the Indian Constitution!

This rote ‘go to Pakistan’ at the drop of a dissenting hat is so boorishly and unintelligently, you. When we should have been celebrating our societal and civilisational values – liberal, intellectual, secular, democratic – you mock them with spiteful counters like libtard, pseudointellectual, sickular etc.

The joy, smirk and condescension writ on the faces of politicians when they spout such inanities shocks us into galvansing ourselves for fear of being governed by you and your notions of the past, your hateful and revisionist thinking.

Our idea of ‘youth’ is not forcibly retiring ministers older than 75. Read the ironic writing on the political walls in the United States: the man who owns the youth imagination is the Democrat Bernie Sanders, almost 80 years of age and a Jew!

Sanders is not even the favourite boy of Israel or Wall Street for he speaks of democracy, economic equality, labour rights, international cooperation (sound familiar from the India of a few decades ago?) and for us especially, he passionately advocates free tertiary education, a green new deal and much more. He truly speaks our language, fears and aspirations, and perhaps like 2016 even 2020 is too soon for him to tilt the scales – but 2024?

Greta Thunberg stormed into our collective conscience in 2019 – and what are the lessons for you? We are outraged at the societal impasse, and are willing to show it by dissent and protest. We take responsibility and feel empowered to be the change – remember Gandhi? We feel increasingly unrepresented by our politicians, their causes, their campaigns and above all, their true agenda.

This is an aware generation that constantly questions and seeks answers (blind-faithful, please excuse). We are also more accommodative, liberal and open to contrarian ideas, we call it perspective. We do not wish to be defined by religion, caste or political parties as it is suffocating and regressive.

We do not like binaries: if I oppose the ‘Right’ that does not make me an obvious ‘Leftist’ or even ‘Centerist’, for I can happily subscribe to various sides of the scale on different issues without necessarily ‘belonging to’ the BJP, Congress, AAP, Left or anything else.

Size no longer impresses us and it is the inherent values and agenda of a political party, media house, newspapers, corporations, celebrities etc. that we bear in mind before making our personal preferences. We want to know what each entity and brand stands for, as we readily call out the offensive expressions, biases and deliberate distortions.

I even consume my toothpaste for what it simply is: it only needs to be an effective, safe and quality product from a ‘responsible’ organisation, whether it is swadeshi or multinational – ‘responsible’ covers it all and isn’t just glib talk, period.

Above all, we find majoritarianism as a concept against the proverbial ‘other’ instinctively distasteful. We feel very responsible to hold the ‘other’ and not allow their concerns and tribulations to be only theirs, as we make it about ‘us’ in the collective sense.

Reality check: look carefully at the clothes of the protestors, and you may actually be surprised by their unity in diversity.

Our biggest fear is our future – talk to us about that in your agendas and allay that fear. We know history is important, but it does not need to be reinvented. Tell us your plans for protecting the planet, creating incomes and socio-economic development, reducing inequities and catalysing societal evolution. So can you spare us the talk on Aurangzeb, Jai Chand and Macaulay!

You see the recent phenomenon of fear-mongering and polarisation is actually having the opposite impact on us. You may have weaponised the language of your core constituents like never before, but you have also woken up and riled the common man on the street who may not share the hate-part of your agenda or bloodlust. Our uprising may still seem small but there is an unmistakable groundswell and the fence-sitters are looking at us haplessly and empathetically.

The signs were there in the recent electoral results, where no one really won – all the politicians and political parties lost face in Maharashtra for it showed that there really was no party with any difference.

Needless to say, our grouse is not directed exclusively to any one party, but if it seemed so to the reader then that party must be more obsessed with the politics of the past, rather than talking about the future.

Today Gen Z is only reacting on the streets; by 2024 it will no longer react but act, assert and determine the future of politics, and our country.

Cover photo: Shoaib Mir