A few days back, I was reminiscing about my school days and swiping through old pictures on my laptop. I came up with a folder filled with farewell pictures. But that ecstasy disturbed me by a guilt ride from the iniquity of the past. I scrutinized the image to know what made me feel so embarrassed, so I started meandering through my thoughts. After speculation hours, I remember the incident where my other classmates bullied a girl from my class; she was disabled and used a wheelchair for better mobility. My contribution to this sinful act was that I kept quiet and never protested against the bullies; this act of doing nothing still haunts me. I never tried to talk to that bullied girl or be her friend because I didn’t want to get excommunicated from my class groups and friends. This incident took place almost six to seven years ago when I was a teenager. Since I didn’t want to get frozen out by my friends, I used the bandwagon strategy and kept quiet against the bullies. Till today I repent of my actions of doing nothing. There I learned a lesson of being together
Now that I am a grown-up woman, I have learned and experienced that this culture of bullying the minor is not confined to school. But the culture of discrimination and bullying is very much a part of our patriarchal society. The small episode discussed above happened in school, and we choose to pay no attention to such atrocities because we think it’s kids’ stuff. And that’s where we go completely wrong. We forget that school is a miniature of society; whatever happens in school will continue outside the school. Women getting raped, Dalits being beaten up, or PWD (Person With Disability) not getting the necessary facilities are all the product of our ignorance.
Why such nefarious actions against minorities?
We see such barbaric and monstrous actions against minorities because it is a part of our culture. Such activities are not novel to the contemporary world because such horror took place in the past. Historical records show shocking episodes of villainous crimes against the minority because they were not a conventional society. They were different from the mainstream group or were less in numbers! They are different in gender, caste, class, religion, race, or having some deformities in the body due to which they are considered the subordinate of the mainstream society.
In ancient times women were asked to take care of family and complete all the household work. If any woman who became a widow at an early age were either sold off or were asked to become sati. People who belonged to the lower caste were forced to do menial and odd jobs like manual scavenging or corpses cremation. The basic human necessities like water and food were also denied. Other than this, the most vulnerable section of society was the disabled people. In the medieval era, disability was considered a punishment from God for one’s sin or misbehavior or that one’s ancestors. Disability was viewed as a work of the devil. As a result of myths about disability, people with disabilities were feared and often stigmatized, abused, and shunned. People with a visible disability were often used for entertainment. Children and adults with severe disabilities were kept at home isolated and hidden from public view as they were an object of embarrassment. They were denied what others were getting like education, employment, and place in family and society. They were considered as different, and their differences are counted as unfavorable! Adults and children were forced to beg on the streets. Most women, lower caste people, and the disabled were powerless people and could not change their conditions.
How to stop such atrocities?
As I mentioned, such an enormity against the minority is not a novel concept to the contemporary world. It happened in ancient times, and its repercussion is visible in the 21st century. Maybe the severity of enormity has reduced, but it is extensively present in the current world. We have to understand that these minor communities are a part of society. We should accept and include them in all the critical decisions. That’s why we need more institutions that promote inclusive education. Unless and until children won’t learn together, they won’t live together. Schools and colleges should welcome students from diverse cultures. Schoolteacher should teach that it includes all genders, religions, and castes; for example, a history teacher can give more women-oriented examples. An English teacher should narrate motivating stories of great personalities who were differently-able. They should infuse inclusivity in their teaching subject! There should be weekly lectures on morals and values. And if a teacher recognizes a child who’s a bit different from other students and stays aloof, the teacher should take necessary measures like peer tutoring and the Buddy system to promote friendship. Children who witness the bullying culture should straight away complain to teachers or school counselors. Parents, too, are the stakeholders in inclusive education, so they should teach their children about helping others be friends and report others’ wrong actions! People from the minor community should stay aware of the rights and provisions granted to them by The Constitution of India. As I mentioned before, school is a miniature of society. So that’s why we should work at the grassroots level. We should make our schools more inclusive because they are the future of India. They should learn to live together peacefully without any prejudices!
by Kumkum Jairam