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Behold The Grapes of Wrath

Last year, when I was in Prague, I saw across this huge statue standing in the middle of Wencelas Square.

Statue of King Wencelas, Prague

I was on a walking tour and the guide started narrating me a very interesting story.

In 1960s, when the Soviet Union's Warsaw Pact army had occupied Czechoslovakia (now Czech Republic), there was a growing anti-communist sentiment throughout the nation. However, the resentment against the oppressors was sort of blunt. There was a cold apathy among the people. It seemed as if no one cared about anything anymore and were gradually getting accustomed to the tyrannical communist regime. Right then, a horrifying yet fascinating event took place at Prague's Wencelas Square. A 20 year old young man, and a student of philosophy at Charles University did something which later turned out to be the turning point in the history of freedom of Czechoslovakia.

On 16 January, 1969, Jan Palach stood atop Wencelas Square, doused in petrol and set himself on fire, to protest against the Soviet occupation of Czechoslovakia. An act that was bound to send shivers down the spine of every living human being of that nation. He succumbed to his burn injuries a couple of days later and his unfortunate death shook the entire nation. His funeral turned into a major anti-communist protest.

A young Jan Palach (source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jan_Palach)


This was a very brutal act for a mere 20 year old student. But this very act lit up the embers of the fire of freedom and revolution, in the cold hearts of the people. A couple of months later, two more students Evzen Plocek and Jan Zajic also immolated themselves in protest against the communist invasion. This then led to the Velvet Revolution of 1989, which was primarily led by students and eventually succeeded in ending the communist regime that had lasted for 41 years.

Just when the tour guide finished his story, I was left awestruck about what I had just heard.

And now, when I read about the current protests against NRC and CAA happening in India, I can't help but think about how it's always the students who have been the ones to raise their voice, whenever it has mattered the most. And it absolutely shatters my heart when I hear and read up about the atrocities committed on them, during the protests.

We as a society are often cynical towards the younger generation, judging them for their views and ideals and reprimanding them from time to time. And it scares me when we, time and again, make the mistake of underestimating the impact of their collective voice and fail to understand what they're trying to say. It's the students and the youth who form the backbone and the future of any nation. They have the power to build our future or perhaps destroy it too. Violence, tear gas, lathis and bullets can never suppress ideas. It was John F. Kennedy had said that those who make peaceful revolution impossible will make violent revolution inevitable. And I believe his words to be true.

It's said that history repeats itself. Maybe because we never learn from our mistakes and overlook them. And now, when everyday it seems like history is repeating itself, it's you who'll get to decide what side you want to be on. Whichever side you choose, as human beings, one should never forget that nothing stands above love and humanity. Nothing ever will.

I'll now leave you here with the words of the man who wrote our national anthem;

"I will not buy glass for the price of diamonds, and I will never allow patriotism to triumph over humanity, as long as I live."  
~ Rabindranath Tagore

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