“This is all wrong. I shouldn’t be up here. I should be back in school on the other side of the ocean. Yet you all come to us young people for hope. How dare you. You have stolen my dreams and my childhood with your empty words,” Climate change activist Greta Thunberg berated world leaders attending the United Nations climate action summit in New York last September.
Albeit, lesser in turnout and in impact, a glimpse of youth activism mainly propelled by an issue they genuinely felt pertinent was seen recently at Dimapur’s Supermarket on January 18, when young people, mostly college students, turn up in hordes to attend the “Nagaland Against CAA” peaceful rally.
Many were quick to criticise low turnout, which even an organiser admitted was satisfying but below expectation, while others were sceptic about youngster familiarity with the polarising issue.
One thing, however, was noticeably clear about the rally, unlike in other events where turnout is often guaranteed by default due to various affiliations of the organiser.
The clarity of thoughts in their arguments and their genuine concerns that the Constitution of India, which most of them are currently studying - that it is under strains and the contentious Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) was against its ethos and philosophy - peals largely at the rally.
Most speakers, described as a congregation of like-minded individuals, were au courant to the topical issues infolding in their midst.
When a speaker wondered whether Nagaland sleeping when people across the country were protesting, they retorted, “We came out today,” asserting they were aware as well as stand in solidarity with protestors in rest of India against what was termed as “divisive act” by different speakers throughout the day. Indeed, an eye-opener for the leaders of Nagaland, whether from political parties, civil societies or other organisations, the questioner gave in.
Throughout the day, conscientious citizens, as well as curious onlookers, drop in and out, but speakers, pre-dominantly youth and college students unequivocally have one voice: CAA is against the values and ethos enshrined in the Constitution of India.
The Preamble of the Indian Constitution was read out by different speakers and many declared that they will no longer be fooled by divisionary tactics and divisive policies, while asserting their solemn affirmation of Indian Constitution and its secular credentials. Persons of political colours conspicuously did not take the stage.
An awakening of political consciousness was also discernable as many raised topical issues surrounding the country, particularly violence in campuses as well as decreasing space for dissent. The chants of ‘Azaadi’ (freedom)from hunger, caste and so on, or rendering of topical poem like ‘Hum Kagez Nahi Dekhayeni (I will not show my papers), makes the rally a truly singular.
But the most important undercurrent of the day was the deep sense of alienation the young people were experiencing due to deafining silence of their elders and leaders over an issue, they consider was hugely detrimental for their future.
According to the United Nations, while there are 1.8 billion people between the ages of 10-24 years today, and their numbers are expected to grow - between 2015 and 2030 alone, about 1.9 billion young people are projected to turn 15 years old.
Recognizing the young people’s agency, resilience and their positive contributions as agents of change, the UN its Youth Strategy has envisaged several roles for them, particularly in the context of sustainable goals (SDGs).
They should be moulded into critical thinkers, change-makers, innovators, communicators and leaders, the UN noted.
At the UN summit, Thunberg, the 16-year old Swedish student cautioned: “The eyes of all future generations are upon you. And if you choose to fail us I say we will never forgive you. We will not let you get away with this. Right here, right now is where we draw the line.”
In reminiscent of Thunberg speech, one a speaker at the rally remarked, ‘I will be watching.’
Such reminders need to be taken seriously. Activism by young people has increased manifold in recent times. The future is theirs and they are expectedly apprehensive; but are politicians and elders listening?