All of us, at some point, have had an opinion about a controversial issue but refrained to express that opinion. This may be due to a host of reasons, be it fear of backlash or societal pressure, but is it right to refrain? Read on to find an answer.

Spiral of silence, is a term extensively used to describe many political and social situations. This term defines the circumstances under which a person refrains from expressing their views on a certain topic, due to the fear of social backlash and societal pressure. This backlash leads to either a forced change of views or silence altogether.If we look around, one will find several instances of this practice take place pretty regularly.

Be it the National Register of Citizens (NRC) – Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) protests, or the Ayodhaya verdict, there was one thing common among all these, a large scale of dissent and assent. Both these factions were pretty rigid in their views and utterly disregarded the other side.

A student of Delhi University (DU), who does not wish to be named, says, “My dramsoc members were adamant to give the society’s official stand on CAA- NRC. When they asked me about my views on the same, I stated that I don’t want to express it, however, I condemn the violence during the protests. This led them to moral school me on the issue, even though they were pretty biased. How is this rational?” On the other hand, Pyare Shyam, a student of Hindu College, says, “Just a week before the elections, my parents wanted me to vote for BJP. But I just won’t. Hence, a series of taunts like “you don’t know anything about politics”, was shot at me.”

The moment we enter DU, one can see the restlessness of many students to find a political identity. In this dilemma, most of us, somehow, find such an identity and defend the same on all grounds, however fallacious we may be. In this process, we also, knowingly and unknowingly, shame others for having a different point of view.

Talking to students, I got to know about the effects of such a backlash. Students pointed out that this exclusion leads to major self-doubt and the adoption of silence as a defence mechanism. Some mentioned that whenever someone doesn’t agree with them, they just tell themselves that, “I know that I am right and that the person isn’t wise enough.” While others were adamant about the fact that, “People have forgotten to find a middle ground and understand that both the view points can be correct in a certain way. Everyone thinks that they are right about everything.”

According to some students, their friends have changed their views to get more social acceptance. “People who don’t even know everything about certain political and social issues, post various IG stories just to get social acceptance. It’s like people have forgotten to differentiate between hate and criticism”, says, Shinata Chauhan, a student of Maharaja Agrasen College.

Due to such extremes, neutrality gets lost and silence prevails. Trisha, a journalism student, says, “I don’t want to express my views anymore, as people won’t change themselves anyway and they are mature enough to understand issues themselves.”

Though the spiral of silence flourishes in the political sphere, it also blooms in common culture. Be it patriarchy, LGBTQ rights, sexism, casteism, etc., a wide generational gap makes the spiral go deeper and deeper.

Umaima, a student from Kamala Nehru College, comments, “I once told my mother that I don’t believe in God and the caste system. She was furious. And she had no facts to counter my arguments; in the end, she just told me that these are beliefs and you have to follow them.”

Martin Luther King Jr. once said, “Nothing in the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity.” It is important for one to realise as individuals, and as students, that despite many external stimuli and agents affecting our decision-making and thinking-both politically and ideologically, we must invest our time and efforts to make balanced and well-informed opinions. Be it the internet or others’ personal experiences, there is only so much that you can adopt from these sources. Beyond this, the judgement of either remaining silent or vocalising one’s views, rests in the individual’s own hands.

Feature Image Credits: DevianArt

Aniket Singh Chauhan

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 The ailing Indian Bureaucratic System needs reforms to counter obstinacy and silence assumed by the officers.

Kannan Gopinathan, Former Indian Civil Servant, told The Hindu in October 2019 that, he was ‘more disturbed by the silence of good people than atrocities committed by the administration’. A few days after the abrogation of Article 370, Gopinathan resigned from the services as a mark of protest. This raises an important question: Why are Indian Bureaucrats silent?

The Civil Services Examination holds the responsibility of assessing these bureaucrats before they become one. To sail through, candidates must be well versed with subjects like polity, history, and geography, among others. Most of the candidates eventually get ‘manufactured’ in order to clear the examination, owing to a humongous syllabus. These candidates, therefore, have become word-perfect in Indian Polity and the holy book which is supposed to steer it, the Constitution of India. The Civil Servants of India have an innate responsibility of guarding the Constitution. But, silence is the weakest weapon in times of crisis. Except for Gopinathan, diplomats of India have assumed utter silence.

Historically, civil servants have been at one with the Government, owing to laws that prevent them from taking a stand. The Central Civil Services (Conduct) Rules, 1964, clearly state that “no Government servant shall resort to or in any way abet any form of strike in connection with any matter pertaining to his service or that of any other government servant. It provides for disciplinary action.”

Silence is one thing, obstinacy is another. Civil servants are known to be inflexible and stubborn when it comes to ideological preferences. They tend not to alter their leanings, and history is a witness to that.

Harsh Mander, Former Civil Servant, who quit after 22 years in Service, told the Outlook India Magazine, “There are two factors that guide the bureaucracy: conscience and obedience. I’ve always believed one’s conscience has a higher value as obedience pushes you to fascism. Bureaucrats are servants of the people and not of the Government. How can one be faithful to partisanship especially when it is part of state policy? Bureaucrats enjoy a lot of power. It is in these moments their services are called to test.”

Harsh Mander protested against many laws enacted by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) Government. So did S. Sasikanth Senthil, a 2009 batch Karnataka cadre IAS officer, who resigned in 2019, when he felt that his fundamental Right to Expression was being hindered by being a part of the Bureaucratic System.

Their ability to dissent lies in resignation. The system is shaped in such a manner that there is no way for a people’s servant to exercise Freedom of Expression. Naresh Chandra Saxena’s book, What Ails The IAS And Why It Fails To Deliver: An Insider’s View explains why the Indian bureaucratic system is flawed.

Structural reforms in the system are required to counter the injustice faced by the officers. It is time for bureaucrats to speak up.

Feature Image credits: The Print

Kuber Bathla

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