Matters that matter

Arshid Malik

Kashmiri-childrenHave you ever wondered how un-democratic our educational systems are while we are a “democratic” nation, believing in and swearing by the ideals of democracy?

This is a very interesting thought that occurred to me the other day. We, modern people of the modern world, love democracy and most of us deem it to be the best form of governance since it is a setup in which we, the people, have our say. We voice our opinions and these opinions are respected, perhaps a little less down here in Kashmir than in other parts of the world. So, the word goes. So, the democratic values we “cherish” are very vital to our loved ones, especially our children who we would never want growing up in autocratic setups where they have no say at all. The prospectus of democracy for our children renders democracy a more than viable option. But in a democratic setup do our children enjoy the privileges of democracy while that are at school. The answer is an absolute no. Schools work on dictatorial principles and the students have almost no say in anything that is planned, decided or accorded to them. The students play a very passive role in these educational institutions, well almost all the schools I know of, lest you have encountered one where children make the rules. The point is while we want a democratic setup for our children we send them to schools that are actually undemocratic and to make matters worse quite dictatorial too. Does it make sense? Not to me.

Back in the warmth of our homes, do we offer democratic setups for our children? Well homes, as described by a random kid, are traps laid by parents to contain the innermost desires and wants of children. That is true, and I figure all of you adults out there agree. Homes are again dictatorial as far as children are concerned. We, the adults, make the rules and the children have to follow them. I am not saying that kids should not have rules to follow, all I am saying is that they should have a say in the framing of these rules and that is where our society really turns democratic which is not happening for the time being and the children are left out of democratic folds while we gasp for democracy. So what is the whole hullabaloo about? Is democracy just chitter chatter, or is a reality that works on the ground. I am speaking of Kashmir and to extend it a bit further, the whole of India. I am also given to understand that children in Western countries enjoy lots of liberties in the name of democracy itself. They make the rules with their parents and have a good say in all matters howsoever small they are. Their opinions, out there are respected. Same holds true about schools in the West. The schools practice a collaborative approach where the students alongside the teachers frame the rules, and even if there are certain repository rules, they are constituted after consulting the students and their parents as well and these rules are not malleable as per the satisfaction of the children and that is what I call democracy.

So, what is it that our children down here have in the name of democracy? When we voted in the recent elections, I know some of us did, what were we voting for? Democracy, is the answer. We meant to elect our representatives and we did this by exercising our power to vote, the ballot. We voted and we do not have an elected government till date. What became of our ballot, the power to elect our own governments – the core principle of democracy? Aren’t we the same as our children, deprived and desolate even though we bear allegiance to an illusory principle of democracy? It seems we are in a very big school where no one listens to what we have to say. The people at the top, the elected members of various political parties are like obstinate teachers who will have it their way and their very own way only. Nothing else seems to matter. This is not limited to the issue of generating consensus over the formation of a democratically elected government but the very issue of polls itself. How many of us are not aware that polls are rigged in one way or the other, to a lesser or more extent, by subterfuge or by mere callousness. It is a truth which has generated a lot of debate across the country. So why should the common individual, the voter, take the heat for what the political elite want for themselves. Why should we, the citizens, bear with a hiatus which we did not vote for?

So, in all actuality, we are no better off than our “suffering” children who have to bear with the cross-bow attitude of schools, since we seemingly have no say in a matter that matters most to us, democracy and the process of electing a government. We, the adults, are captive to a bigger home which runs under the rules formulated and implemented by the other, so like our children we are also ostensibly caught up in the rut even though we like to believe otherwise. While we fulfil our duties to a democratic society consistently by respecting the freedoms of others, respecting identities and cooperating towards a more successful democratic state, the other half which is supposed to deliver itself is missing.

So, we as people are not faltering, then who is?

Democracy, in its better spirit (not the connived versions we have feed our children and the connived versions we ourselves feed on) is like a good game of football or cricket. There are two opposite sides playing against each other, two teams so to say. The players of both the teams think their goal is to score and thereof win but what they actually believe is that it is the playing that matters the most, playing in a decent manner, following the rules and this is where losing or winning turns meaningless. If it had not been like that we would not see the players, or the teams who had played against each other in a previous game playing yet again to lose or win. This is how democratic politics ought to work and not in the way it is done these days down here which is immensely sordid and each player is out to cut the throat of the other. So democracy in its principles has failed us, or should I say the people who actually run the democratic process have failed democracy.

We as grownups can make do with almost everything since we have “outlets”. Let us at-least start thinking about our little ones who don’t know a quarter from a dime.


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