The Concealed Wound: The Inheritance of Hate
Perhaps when Hindu and Muslim children are encouraged to work together to resolve common communal problems, then we can truly say that we have prevented the inheritance of hate. Our media platforms would then have stories of harmony and peace to report.
National and international media has widely reported riots, killings, and communal violence across India in the last few months and more so in the last few weeks with Hindutva charged mobs attacking peaceful Muslims which has, expectedly, lead to retaliatory violence as well. As a former teacher and keen observer of youth development, I am forced to reflect on the origins and the daily life of these youth. Are these educated people with strong opinions about religion and society, are these youth with strong political affiliations and motivation, or are these waylaid youth looking to channel their aggression stemming from deeper unresolved issues such as the absence of employment opportunities?
However, it has been rightly identified that the membership of most militantly aggressive religious groups is born from unemployed youth or those without a steady job or income. On analyzing further, it is fairly clear that the continuous recruitment of youth to incite violence is symptomatic of the failure of the education system of the country: A system that has failed to sensitize its students to respect the choices of others, to live harmoniously in civilized society, and lastly (like all macroeconomists would prefer) to be productive, contributing citizens of society.
In the last eight years of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government, multiple national policies have been implemented in the right direction. This includes the NIPUN Bharat scheme, a focus on early childhood development in the latest National Education Policy, and the ambitious POSHAN Abhiyan nutrition program. All of these attack problems that crippled Indian education over the last seven decades. However, these fail to address a key question; How do you teach conflict resolution skills and sensitize one to be a productive citizen and add value to society?
Recently, an Indian and a Pakistani duo made an eloquent and logical case to catch children at an early age to spread the message of peace and stem the growth of hate. This makes absolute sense to instill a sense of togetherness and mutual respect before they even begin running the gauntlet of life. However, India has done precious little to inculcate this in our students at a young age. The onset of the pandemic and the solitude that it brought for children as a result only exacerbates the problem. Before the pandemic, the Aam Aadmi Party— a fairly new political party that opposes the two main traditional national parties and holds the reins of the Delhi state government—introduced the seemingly novel Happiness curriculum, which focuses on building critical thinking and problem-solving skills, as a part of its school education restructuring program.
Based on some of the fundamental principles laid by the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), the Happiness curriculum aims to teach students about learning to live together, “expose individuals to the values implicit within human rights, democratic principles, and develop intercultural understanding.” Although an impressive first step towards the larger objective of engendering a more aware and stimulated youth, its goals seem too lofty to be achieved in a virtual learning environment which most schools experienced during the pandemic.
Secondly, the implementation of the Happiness curriculum by 1000+ schools run by the Delhi government is negligible when compared to the nearly 1.5 million public schools across the country catering to students numbering the population of the United States. Thirdly, the creation of such a curriculum cannot be completed solely with the inputs from reports from international organizations and Ivory Tower academics sitting in New Delhi. A more robust intellectual exercise would be trying to understand the emotions and challenges of people across the country in partnership with civil society organizations to devise the internationally-recommended curriculum. Thus, a seemingly small fix can go a long way to properly balm and heal the deep wound of deepening divisions. A wound that has festered and manifested in the religious bigotry and violence we have seen over the decades.
Until the Ministry of Education, along with the support of key stakeholders, implements a similar and preferably a more comprehensive version of this curriculum in the coming years, India will tacitly ensure that our future generations inherit this hatred which will continue to propel the cycle of aggressive, unemployed youth engaging in mob violence.
As future policymakers, we must look to challenge the status quo of how we are nurturing our children and youth to shoulder the future of our society. Perhaps when Hindu and Muslim children are encouraged to work together to resolve common communal problems, then we can truly say that we have prevented the inheritance of hate. Our media platforms would then have stories of harmony and peace to report.
DISCLAIMER: All views expressed are those of the writers and do not necessarily represent that of the IWAB platform.