I had never heard of Disha Ravi, till now. Young leaders like Greta Thunberg and Malala Yousafzai make it to the headlines, but there are thousands of others, lesser known, who are as young, passionate and committed to a cause. Disha Ravi is one of them.
Youth activism is nothing new. History is full of examples where the young have been catalysts of change. Tiananmen square, Vietnam protests, Arab Spring, Greta’s Fridays for Future, and our very own freedom struggle are some of the big movements that come to mind. There are so many other stories too, in local communities, colleges, remote villages and tribes, of young individuals who are trying to change the world, in their own small way, one at a time.
However not everyone believes in them. Aristotle, in his time said that idealistic youth was the reason behind much of the violence, volatility and misery of human history. Even in the modern age the new generation is often typecast and vilified as ‘irresponsible’. They are discredited, and their voices are denied because of long held bias and beliefs. Yet time and again, young activists have proved everyone wrong. They have challenged the corridors of power, questioned existing norms, and spoken against injustice with immense courage, forcing the world to sit up and take note. Bhagat Singh was only 23 when he hung from the gallows, forever immortalised in our stories. Hopefully the young leaders of today need not make that kind of a sacrifice to make a point.
The arrest of Disha on whatever technical grounds, will have far reaching implications. When ordinary 21 year olds are hauled off by the police with serious charges slapped on them, even the toughest crusader can begin to have doubts. Fear is natural. The prospect of jail is daunting. Regressive laws, misinformation campaigns, frivolous lawsuits and threats can all smother the best intentions. Criminalisation and disinformation are common strategies to weaken or repress activists. It also dissuades others from speaking out. But their voices are crucial.
Any hope for the future lies with the young, for ‘they shall inherit the earth’. The new generation must belong to the present, wholly and completely immersed in the issues surrounding society today. History has shown us that they have the power to bring change. The idealism of youth sparks hope of a better world. Age brings with it experience, perhaps even wisdom. But sometimes, it is accompanied by a sense of weariness. Youth passionately holds onto its beliefs. It has a certain recklessness that is appealing, and inspiring. It is what we need.
Views expressed above are the author’s own.
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