As we welcome a brand new year, the anti-CAA protests seamlessly transition into it, with brave idealism. As an armchair cynic who has mostly watched from the sidelines, it’s been inspiring to see the youth’s passion as it fills the streets, much like for the rest of India.
But, where were they all along? Hiding in plain sight, really. We saw them be ‘woke’ on Twitter, calling out so-called offenders and generally dismissed them as an opinionated generation with no real social skill beyond their laptops. As one banner read, “It’s so bad, even the introverts are here”, which pretty much sums it up. All the insouciance that is summoned up online is now there for the world to see, with a smack-in-the-face focus. What makes it stand out? The irreverence, the complete dedication to speaking truth to power in a millennial lingo that’s rarely been heard in mainstream politics. It must surely be brutal to be dismissed as “Okay, boomer!”
And while it’s not the best idea to refer to millennials as a homogenous group (exposing myself to being called out!), there are certain factors that one identifies them with. For one, they have been referred to as “digital natives” who may appear extroverted on social media, but offline “may actually prefer solitude to socialising. Further, our analysis shows that millennials are often more likely to read more deeply into issues and situations, versus simply taking them at face value,” according to Kelly Monahan, PhD, Deloitte’s Center for Integrated Research, quoted as part of a 2017 study.
Introverts hold great power, as Susan Cain, author of Quiet, The Power Of Introverts In A World That Can’t Stop Talking has pointed out in an interview to Harvard Business review. “…they show a kind of persistence, and a kind of level of concentration that extroverts have sometimes more trouble with. …You will find that the introverts spend more time analysing the problem before they delve into it than extroverts do. And then they spend more time working at it, and they work at it longer before they give up. That is huge, that kind of persistence.” They also prefer to talk about “values and morality” rather than discuss the weather.
So, hurray! The introverts are here…introducing an unknown factor into the equation for the ruling establishment, so far used to only attacking political opponents and vice versa. But this is not a problem that can be wished away; they’re persistent, remember? These are also not paid rally-ists, but middle-class self-starters who are driven by idealism and an idea of India worth fighting for.
They relate more to celebrities like Swara Bhasker, who after a rousing speech turns around to show a raised middle finger printed on her jacket, than political cliches. Or to leaders like Chandra Shekhar Azad, who jumps into the fray with the public.
Their power lies in not being afraid to be who they are. At the Shaheen Bagh protest in New Delhi, a young student took the stage to say, “You attack us as Muslims, we will react as Muslims. We will continue to dress the way we do and chant Vande Mataram.” Another young girl told me on the sidelines, “You think it will stop at Muslims? Next, it will be India divided along caste-lines.”
They are clear-headed and by choosing to emerge from behind their social media accounts onto the streets, they are demanding answers and reminding us that half-truths won’t cut it anymore.
Written by Anuradha Varma
Illustration by Sephin Alexander