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A Letter to Yogi, Full Marks in Political Science and a Vision for a Democracy: Sufi's Story

Three years ago, angry at the arrest of his activist father as part of Adityanath's crackdown against the anti-CAA protests, a teenager had written to the CM. Now, Sufi has scored full marks in his CBSE political science exam. His opinions haven't changed.
Sufi. Photo: By arrangement.

Three years ago, Sufi, then a 16-year-old teenager from Lucknow wrote an emphatic letter to Adityanath, the chief minister of Uttar Pradesh, following the statewide police crackdown against anti-Citizenship Amendment Act protestors.

The letter was prompted by the arrest of his father, Deepak Kabir, a prominent Lucknow-based activist.

Sufi has now scored a century in his Class 12 political science board exams.

In the letter, Sufi had been scathing. He had asked Adityanath as to why police under him had not arrested those who had been violent and instead targeted innocent people. He also noted that his father had allegedly been tortured in police custody and had been unable to walk when he went to visit him.

“I have never ever experienced such fear in the hearts of people,” he had written, noting how his father – “someone who had promoted harmony and culture around the city for over 20 years” – was arrested as a rioter.

Also read: ‘Can’t Save Those Who Want to Die’: Adityanath on Anti-CAA Protestors

Sufi ended the letter with the hope that when his father is released, Adityanath sits with him for a talk, understand his ideology and the nature of peace he promotes.

The Wire spoke to Sufi recently. These are chosen excerpts from the conversation.

Hi Sufi, congratulations on your CBSE scorecard. How are you feeling right now?

I am happy but I don’t want to think much about it. I think this is just a feeling that should be enjoyed in the moment.

How relevant is your letter today and what would you write if you had to write that letter again?

It has been mentioned in our textbooks that the problem with our country is that the constitution is great but its implementation is often shabby. The recent government has not shown the kind of tolerance that should be shown to dissent in a democracy. Such an approach towards difference of opinion shows a shift towards authoritarianism.

When I wrote the letter, I was protected by the law as a minor. I won’t say that I will not be critical today but if I am to write it now, I will be more cautious. This speaks about the state of our democracy too. I think that I would only remind the state to stick to constitutional values and act democratically. It is not right to use bulldozers against those suspected of crime unless they are pronounced guilty through a procedure set by a court of law.

Also read: Explained | Is the Demolition of Activist Afreen Fatima’s House by UP Authorities Legal?

What do you think of your letter now?

It was very personal for me since it was about my father. I wrote it when for the first time, I was witnessing an attack on rights, the likes of which we have only read about in our books.

As someone who has grown up around protests, how would you respond to the charge that young protestors and students are often not well informed about the cause of their protests?

I have grown up in an environment where I have been taught to question things and understand the system. My own understanding of the world is different from my parents’, so what I am, is influenced by their views but is also an independent creation of its own.

It’s always young people who have to challenge the older norms of the system. Young people today have the burden of thinking about the rapidly changing climate. It affects us directly. We have to save our future. And dissent is part of our education. I think that it is a very elitist view to limit protests to urban educated elites alone. It’s not only students who participate in protests. Many farmers and workers also participate in protests and they are also very opinionated. Being educated is not a mandatory condition to demand rights in a democracy.

What’s next?

I want to get into filmmaking and make content relevant to our times. It may not always be social commentary because I don’t want to limit my creative instincts. But if I choose to get into this genre, I will work with sensitivity. Even if you show the problems in society to people,  properly, you have taken a step in the right direction.

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