Experiments in Secular Democratic Education
After independence, Indian society has sporadically experienced low and high intensity violence. However, in the recent past, there has been a spurt in both frequency and intensity of hostility towards minorities, dalits and other marginalised sections. The level of brutality, the involvement of otherwise peaceful sections of society and the speed with which the violence engulfed large geographical areas shows that on the one hand resolving issues through physical force has been accepted as legitimate by a large segment of Indian masses and on the other those who believe in the ideology and politics of hate have achieved a high level of organisation and impact.
Anhad believes that in order to counter the hate propaganda, a sustained campaign among the grass root activists and political workers is required. Most of these activists who are working in with various NGOs on diverse issues ranging from health to gender inequality to untouchability and so forth, are secular and believe in non-violence. Put together, they constitute a large force, geographically spread all over the country. Though these present day young grassroot workers have a very high degree of idealism, since they have not gone through the grinding mill of the independence movement that tempered generations of youth, they find themselves ill equipped to counter the onslaught of the recent hate campaign.
Anhad decided to develop a package for holding a five-day camp for young activists. A series of consultations with the most respected and renowned historians, social scientists, educationists who have worked on such issues were undertaken. It was decided that the hate propaganda could not be fought in an adhoc piecemeal manner. A curriculum for five-day residential camps was developed. Experts were asked to prepare lectures on about 20 aspects related to sectarian violence, hate, anti-democratic forces, fascism, pluralism, the legacy of the freedom struggle etc. As a pilot, the first residential political education camp was held in Rajasthan in the month of May 2003. The methodology was fine tuned and implemented during the camps that followed.
Anhad has been able to mobilise the best minds of the country to interact with youth and the local grass root activists. The main aim of these camps is to sensitise the participants around the issues related to communalism, to counter prejudices, to plan actions and strategies for building an atmosphere of peace and justice. This is a very slow and long term process of educating people but we feel that there is no alternative in front of us. If we have to change the political discourse in this country, if we have to remove hatred, we will have to educate more and more people.This is our major concern area, whatever we do we consider this as the most important exercise in building secular cadre and getting people into the secular fold who have otherwise not been a part of the secular network, as well as equipping the secular cadre with enough knowledge to counter hate propaganda and also to provide a much wider vision of the contemporary situation.
In the past 16 years Anhad has organised over 300 camps (each camp has approx. 100-150 young activists, students etc.), discussion sessions and film screenings in colleges, schools and at Anhad offices which has yielded quite encouraging results. The results are not only because of our direct intervention but also because of the ripple effect that our camps create. After attending our camps a large number of individuals and organisations started organising similar training camps. These camps have been organised in Delhi, Gujarat, UP, MP, Rajasthan, Kerala, Bihar, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Odissa, Goa, Maharashtra, MP, J & K, Haryana and Karnataka.
Planning New Workshops
Anhad can help you in designing and organizing workshops/ camps.