Many jittery after Disha arrest

Many jittery after Disha arrest

With the government going after the young climate activist, parents are telling children to keep their heads down

After Disha Ravi’s arrest, historian Ramchandra Guha said the government was sending out a message not just to the youth but also to their parents.

A cross-section of young people and their parents say the incident has instilled fear in them when it comes to expressing their political views.

When parents of Shireen Noushad, marketing professional, moved to Kerala, leaving her in Bengaluru, they gave her the number of a lawyer, ‘just
in case’.

“I’m very vocal online and offline about my ideals and my parents fear I have a chance of being arrested,” she says.

“Which parent wouldn’t be concerned with the current situation,” says Shireen’s mother. “I am proud of her but I want her to be more cautious about where, when and how she speaks up.”

Shireen says it took her some time to realise her activism was putting not just her but also her parents at risk.

“My mother has attended protests with me so I know this is a complex space for them to navigate as well. I’m still as opinionated as ever but my tone has changed. I approach people with differing views more rationally and try to calmly explain my point of view,” she says.

Sre Ratha, student, says her mother is fine with her attending protests with friends in Bengaluru. “But I was in my hometown of Hyderabad when the CAA-NRC protests took place and she stopped me from going because I would have gone alone,” she says.

Her mother has told her it is okay to be vocal on social media and talk to friends and family about politics, but draws the line at physical protests.

“There is also an added fear of us lacking a social support system and her being a single mother,” Sre says.

Some taunt young people engaged in protests and demonstrations. “Go protest, it’ll look good on your resume”, was what Mirika Rayaprolu, political researcher, was told by a family member. “It was said on a family Whatsapp group,” she says.

After confrontations with family members she has learnt to arm herself with facts and figures that can’t be refuted.

Recent graduate Alankrita Shetty (name changed) is told she is too young to have opinions. “Relatives say I’ve been brainwashed,” she says.

Political discussions in the family turn to ugly fights. “Their opinions don’t affect me but we have stopped talking to each other about politics completely,” she says.

Manasvi Nag, founder of a youth organisation, was told the Christian college she attends has turned her into a ‘communist.’ 

“That is untrue but that’s the way they think,” she says.

She doesn’t inform her parents when she goes for protests. “I actively took part in CAA-NRC protests because I was away from my parents,” she says.

 Alice Diaz (name changed) is in her mid 20s. Her parents are concerned when she attends protests. “They tell me not to attend protests outside of Kerala, even though I live in Bengaluru,” she says.

The arrest of Disha has changed many things in her circles. “She wasn’t a famous activist, she’s just like us and that has freaked our folks out,” she

Samara Alex (name changed), student, climate activist and illustrator, says her parents told her to keep my head down, and remain anonymous.

“While I don’t step out for protests as I live with my grandparents, I try to stay active by making illustrations about what is happening,” she says.

Things vocal young people have been told by their parents

* Don’t be vocal on a public platform. It can bite you back.

* Don’t attend a university with political activity.

* Protests might turn violent, stay away from them.

* Spend all your time studying.

* Don’t attend protests in BJP-led states.

Parents talk about ‘disquiet and foreboding’

About 200 parents across the country have signed a letter demanding that the government ensure the freedom and safety of children.

Initiated in Bengaluru, the letter says parents are “filled with a sense of disquiet and foreboding — any of our children could be taken from us in this manner.”

The letter adds: “We are dismayed at the exhortations to youth to ‘keep their heads down’ and ‘focus on their studies’.”

Sudha N, activist and one of the parents who initiated this letter, has been taking her daughter to protests since she was two years old.

“She is now 11 and she still comes with me. I try to speak to her about everything,” she says.

Vidya Narayan is another parent who has signed the letter. “As a parent when you see someone like Disha get arrested, it’s confusing. Do I tell my kids also to stop speaking out?” she says. She observes a level of self-censorship in her children. “Earlier they were open to discussing a variety of things in their friends’ circle. Of late they are shying away from political topics.”

Zara Masood (name changed), a parent who signed the letter says that while she is worried she would never tell her children not to speak up. “I just have to shift my mindset and be prepared for the worst to happen,” she says.

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