“You will make what you want of this country,” was Leila Seth’s message to the youth as she fielded a volley of questions on delay in justice to students demanding death penalty for rapists.
What started as an interactive session, a part of the Apeejay Kolkata Literary Festival 2013, with school students on her book We the Children of India: A Preamble to our Constitution soon veered towards the Delhi rape as the house was thrown open for questions.
The next 40 minutes had the students gathered at the Apeejay House lawns looking for answers to questions gnawing at their minds. And Seth was only too happy to oblige.
“The government has sat up not because it wants to but because the youth are taking a stand and making themselves heard,” she said, condemning the authorities for throwing tear gas at protesters.
“Because those young people went out and stood there and fought for the rights of the girl who was raped that today the government has sat up. They are sitting up in Delhi, they are changing the police laws….They are afraid of the young people who are out on the streets and who are forcing them to do it….You are those young people. You will make what you want of this country,” Seth said.
The first woman judge of Delhi High Court admitted that the judicial system was slow in India and there were many many committee reports gathering dust. “It’s so slow that people lose faith. If decisions are taken quickly, sometimes even the wrong decisions do not matter. If there are no decisions, then people get fed up and want to do other things.”
As Seth spoke about the Indian Constitution, some students asked whether their rights were being compromised. “Our country is democratic. But are we getting our fundamental rights?” demanded Kaushiki Roychowdhury.
“You must first think whether you are doing your fundamental duties….Duty and right are always two sides of the same coin. Right is what you can do and duty is what you should do….You must always think that am I doing my duty and you will find you are getting your right.”
The change has to come from within, Seth stressed, whether it’s refusing to bribe a policeman on violating a traffic signal or paying a tout to buy a train ticket. “Those who don’t do it are known as stupid Indians. But the stupid Indians will eventually prevail. The stupid Indians will have to become a larger number.”
The session was attended by students from the Apeejay Schools, Park Street and Salt Lake, Laksmipat Singhania Academy, Kalyani Central Model School and others.