It was the year 2004. I had just enrolled in a post graduate programme in Journalism. At first when I came to know that a classmate of mine was from Kashmir, I was curious.
Because I, having lived in a big metropolis like New Delhi, had never 'encountered' someone from the troubled state of Jammu and Kashmir till then. The only thing I knew was what I read in the newspapers or saw on news channels – that Kashmiri Muslims hated India, wanted to be part of the 'enemy' state and were behind most terror attacks.
So basically I was looking for a classmate who would be a devil incarnate. Instead I found a young man who had the same dreams as me, the same ambitions and a will to live a 'normal' life.
I was generally told that the old stereotype holds true - all Muslims hate Hindus and want to 'take over' my beloved country, are radical, multiply rapidly and forcibly convert everyone to Islam. Instead I found a person, who was apprehensive of me because I was the larger majority who thought like this! Me? I would never harm an insect let alone think of harming someone.
He seemed quite defensive in the beginning and I took an instant dislike to him. Our interactions were limited only to professional discussions. With time, I felt he started becoming less defensive and I failed to spot horns on his head.
The uneasiness gave way to exchange of ideas and passionate discussions and debates as the walls and the barriers started to melt away. I realized that this person was neither a fanatic nor believed in multiplying and taking over the country. He just wanted to be a treated as a citizen and a part of the country.
In this case, a healthy interaction ensued and our mindsets started to change. We were able to identify truth from make believe stories and were able to overcome the fear of the unknown. We necessarily do not agree on everything and our political and socio political ideas sometimes differ, after all we are distinct individuals, we have changed. The journey has been eventful and interesting.
And I came to the conclusion that we build up prejudices largely because of two reasons. The first is the fear of the unknown. The second is the subtle and overt propaganda spread by people around us, the media and politics.
There are many people who we interact with, who don't just keep the prejudices in their hearts but systematically spread them too. Only if they were given the power to see what lies on the other side, were given unbiased information, they would be able to decide what they want to believe in and discard propaganda.
The more I thought about it, the more I felt there was a need to bridge the gap between the 'real' and the 'assumed'. Thus, a germ of an idea started in my head. This idea is now being put into paper (actually virtual paper).
Words like secularism, polarization, communalism, terrorism are bandied about. But what do they really mean? How does it affect the people when they are given a certain tag? Why should they be given a tag? Why should we have notions without really seeing for ourselves what the truth is?
The movement 'anti-tags' stems from that idea. We are anti-communalism, anti-extremism and anti-polarization and pro-information. Some might also call us secular, liberal or even pseudo-secular-liberal. As I said, tags don't matter.
Check out a social movement called Anti-Tags here.
Tell us your story. Did you face communal backlash? Did an incident change you? What do you think of propaganda in media and politics? How is it ruining our social fabric? Share it on Anti-Tags.
Age no bar, gender no bar, religion no bar, caste no bar. Leave you name or send it anonymously. Our email is anti.tagsATgmailDOTcom
Cross posted on Anti-Tags