POLITICS, ADVOCACY AND YOUNG PEOPLE – PUTTING TWO AND TWO TOGETHER

In thinking about what I’d like to make of my time and talents – in the long run – my interest in public affairs and advocacy is featured in most strokes of my pondering.

I like to ask questions, meet people, engage in conversation, travel (in thought and terrain, alike) and share the whole lot of my gatherings with those who’d do me the pleasure of lending their ears.

I’ve been a curious follower of the media and its ways. I don’t know too much but I spent a brief stint with The Times of India, as an interning journalist, before I started college. Through this I could peep into the works of how the wheels of the media roll – in response to what people would like to know rather than what they ought to know. In saying this, I might sound sanctimonious in claiming to have a sense over what should to be talked about. I definitely don’t mean that. What I’m saying is that it takes a holistic and responsible approach towards an issue before presenting it to the public eye. The media is a powerful agent in our democracy, gauging public opinion in steering policies and public perception, and, in then, crafting the fate of our collective aspirations as a nation.

The media’s handling of the Salman Rushdie incident in the Jaipur Literary Festival last year is a small example of what I mean. A large section of the media chose to talk about whether Rushdie should or should not attend the literary festival in the light of Darul Uloom Deoband’s fatwa and its claim to his head if he stepped on Indian soil. The debate then spiraled into fundamentalist propaganda and whether it is tolerable in a civilized, democratic and secular society. Obviously it has no place in our society! Needles to say. What annoyed me was that this whole pursuit did not culminate into effective action – in specific, by utilizing the power of the media.

A close look into the issue would reveal that the Islamic Seminary heightened the Rushdie issue as a result of a power skirmish within its own organization. An uncle and a nephew were fighting for power and the former, to tickle a section of his vote bank, decided to rake this issue in. If the media was responsible in its assessment, it could have identified the cause of the problem and, instead of entering into semantic debates, exposed the opportunistic motive of a power hungry man and rapidly done away – to a large extent – with what followed later on.

After I joined the Loyola College in Chennai and started pursuing my Bachelors in Economics, I joined an international youth-run organization called AIESEC. I’ve been spending a good deal of my time here, working in and leading teams, pursuing social projects and interacting with scores of people my age across the country.

Something I’m starting to observe and acknowledge increasingly is that young people my age respond to causes far more easily when it is presented to them in their own language. A scholar, politician or activist would have far less sustained success in leading young people than when a young person (or a group of youth) identifies and inspires action towards a cause.

While one may feel that young people may not possess the ripened maturity of an experienced elder – at least in leading a people’s movement – it is undeniable that we are extremely receptive to empty rhetoric and we do appreciate substantive proposals when they come our way. The accessible and relatable factor involved in a youth movement led by the youth is what allows it to sustain itself, given the basic groundwork and objectives are in place.

This summer, I’m spending in Bangalore, interning under a gentleman named Dr. Rajeev Gowda. In addition to being a senior Congressman, he is also Director of the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) and the Chairperson of the Center for Public Policy at the Indian Institute of Management (IIM), Bangalore.

I was introduced to him through a very helpful and accessible politician – Mr. C R Kesavan – who is also Vice-President of the Rajiv Gandhi National Institute for Youth Development (RGNIYD) at Sriperumbudur, Tamil Nadu. Mr. Kesavan happens to be the great-grandson of the legendary C Rajagopalachari (Rajaji). He has written a very nice book on Rajaji called “Unfolding Rajaji”. Mr. Kesavan and I met at a Confederation of Indian Industries (CII) event last year where he was a Keynote Speaker.

I came to Dr. Gowda shortly after the recent Karnataka Assembly Elections. After having worked extensively in campaigning for his party at Bangalore, Dr. Gowda is now starting to build a foundation for his coming election campaign to the Lok Sabha as an elected Member of Parliament. Dr. Gowda seeks to stand from an urban constituency in Bangalore and a chunk of his efforts is focused on tapping into the attention and intelligence of young voters in the city.

It is a fact that the urban youth contribute very sparingly to the overall voters’ turnout in every election. Right now, I’m working with Dr. Gowda in figuring means through which we can effectively gauge youth attention and participation in his campaign.

This leads me to where I am right now.

With the little exposure that I have received so far, I’ve gotten a clearer sense of what I want to do with my life. While my interest in advocacy and public affairs may lead me down the path of law and, later on, possibly, politics, I want to do something credible right now with whatever I have – to start a beginning of sorts.

In putting two and two together, I’m thinking of starting my own organization. I’m not thinking of anything too large, complex or time-consuming (from my immediate priorities as a student). I’m trying to be as humble as I possibly can with this matter.

To condense all that I’ve just shared, the cause I want to pursue is this: ‘Urban Youth Participation in Politics and Governance’.

Especially with the 2014 Lok Sabha Elections around the corner – and given the heightened sense of urban awareness towards corruption and various other issues in government – I thought a platform to raise issues, discuss, understand the various options one would have in choosing a government and, of course, to advocate urban youth participation in elections would be fitting.

The medium of propagation, to start with, could be an online publication with opinion articles, discussions and interviews of and with those who matter (not excluding young people themselves). In further pursuit, I thought of organizing small events and campaigns to propagate ideas and drag the right issues into the public eye.

This is an idea. It’s been giving me sleepless nights. I can’t pursue this alone. I need a team to work with – people who believe in this idea as I do. Needless to say, this is a cause for young people, organized by young people.

So here, I’ve put my thoughts out there. I’m not attaching a timeline to anything. I’ll wait till this thought finds resonance somewhere with somebody.

If you’re interested or think you might know somebody who is, please feel free to get in touch with me on anirudh.belle92@gmail.com.

Till then, Cheers!

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