As an organisation working with youth from excluded communities, Prantakatha faces its share of conflicts from various strands and sections quite frequently, mostly around the rights of minorities. These are rights in relation to ones sexuality, religion, gender, or for rights of economically weaker sections.
Prantakatha, works towards pushing the boundaries set by society and community for individuals, especially young people and through that liberate themselves. Therefore for us, empowerment comes with a regular interaction and struggle against encroachment of rights for the youth groups we work for.
Given this reality, Prantakatha entrenches conflict resolution as a tool within a democratic framework. This approach ensures that learning is embedded in whatever programme or campaign we undertake. Samvidhan Live for Prantakatha opened up a much needed gateway to discuss on conflict resolution in India within a democratic structure.
Samvidhan LIVE is a game and a process of preparing a young person’s report card of performing on the expectations set out in the constitution. Through this the project hopes that not only the participating youth but all those, including judiciary, legislative, executive and media, will hear about these experiences and the participants will be transformed forever into alert citizens or Jagriks.
Some of the amazing change stories that have come through inspire us even more. In each case, the game became a pivot in terms of their understanding of conflict and that resolution of it within a democratic and Constitutional framework.
Be it the story of our Jagrik pair from first season of the programme – Anondo and Sayantani. Anando by birth is a dwarf and Sayantani a young girl from an orthodox middle class family from Howrah; to Sourav and Ankita, a young boy from slum settlement and a young girl from a conservative upper class Bengali Hindu family.
This year also has seen some of the amazing pairs – Ibran and Siraj from a Muslim dominated industrial belt in Titagarh, Sayantan and Swarnali, an upper middle class boy and girl from interior districts of Bengal.
Ankita for the first time in her life spent a whole winter night under one of the busiest flyovers in the city with Sourav and a community of pavement dwellers. For Ankita, it was life changing in terms of understanding the realities of the lesser privileged people – their vulnerabilities, challenges, fears and above all the abuses that girls sleeping on the road face every day. It helped her understand through experience the right to equality and the fact that unless everyone is an active citizen of this country and pushes the boundaries set by power structures, no domain of equality will be opened automatically. This experience of Ankita, lead to her actively engaging with local municipal authorities for opening up of ladies toilets in various places of Kolkata. Similarly, as part of Saurav’s experiencing the constitution, he initiated the process through which two girls from that slum got admitted to a nearby school under the Right to Education.
The second pair, Swarnali and Sayantan were assigned to promote fraternity across religions, like Biswajit and Niloy last year. All four as part of their task visited various religious places, spoke to the religious heads of those places. It gave them a better understanding of each religion and how preachers of religions are mostly believer of humanism. However when religion is abused for social or political power, orthodox practices and animosity comes in. This experience led the four jagriks to create a network for harmony with different faith group. This network included many religious leaders of the senior order who believe in harmony.
As a whole these experiences led each of participants to use both rights and duties enshrined in the constitution through experiential learning and challenging the status quo maintained by society and community. It also was organised in a way that would be fun as well as challenging.
In Prantakatha’s experience of over a decade, dealing with issues of excluded and marginalised communities, Samvidhan Live proved to be one of the most innovative, engaging and organic way of conflict resolution within a democratic and constitutional frame work. Samvidhan Live gave the opportunity to make the Samvidhan (Constitution of India) come alive in their lives not just as a rule book but as a sum of values that are the foundation of India.
About Samvidhan Live
Com-Mutiny – The Youth Collective’s latest public initiative, Samvidhan LIVE – The Jagrik Project, builds young people’s capacities to experience their rights and duties through refl-act (reflect+act) in the real world. Using their experiential discoveries provided by a fun filled game, played over six weeks in their own area, our young Jagriks (participants) will develop a Jagrik report card (the citizens performance rating on keeping the Samvidhan alive), as well as recommendations which they will share through nationwide public events. These will then also be shared with Governors’ and President’s offices, with activists, civil society representatives, media practitioners, policy makers and politicians. The hope is to start a two way dialogue between state and young citizens, on improving and sustaining the health of the constitution.
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Prantakatha is all about “Power of Storytelling towards social change”! While its one component is development of self, the other component is story or Katha! This has two pronged approaches “youth active citizenship development” and also “creating spaces of youth dialogue on marginalized issues with the mainstream of life”!
The name “Prantakatha” holds both the parts together. The core is Pranta or Margin. The understanding of Margin is as a dynamic position of “Self” which is floating across age and over physical, social, economic, cultural domains! So in a way each one of us has a margin, does not matter whether we are aware of it or not! It could be as a child, as a woman, as a seniour person, could be as one classical music lover in a family of rock music lovers either! It is the “space-inside” where we feel the pain most, excitement and also creation!
And then comes Katha or Stories! So the social experiment Prantakatha is doing consists of how a) these pranta or margins are given a loving and non judging space where they could transform their pain into power, therefore “katha” or a meaningful life and also b) how pranta or margin establishes a loving and engaging dialogue or Katha with the mainstream! Therefore Prantakatha is a youth development space internally but externally it is a Dialogue space between young persons from margins with mainstream of lives!
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The writer, Bappaditya, is Founder of Prantaktha and board member of ComMutny – The Youth Collective