HAQ, The Human Rights Festival: From An Organiser’s Perspective

6 May 2018 4:06 pm

Editor’s Note: Nisha Harish is a student from Christ University who was an intern with Amnesty International India’s human rights education team. In this opinion piece, she shares her experience as an organiser of ‘HAQ’, a week-long inter college human rights festival held in Bangalore with Amnesty International India.

Nisha on day one of the festival

Rome was not built in a day, and nor are college festivals. HAQ was the result of the efforts of many people over several weeks. It began with a meeting, two months prior to the festival,  between student representatives of Sompoorna Montford, SJCC, SJC, Christ University and student groups like The Student Outpost (TSO) at the Amnesty International Office.

In the initial stages of planning, we democratically decided on the theme of the festival, the various events we wanted to host based on the theme and brainstormed on all the many ways we could mobilise the student community. We decided on “Suppression of Dissent”, a theme that we felt was relevant to modern day India.

As citizens of the largest democracy in the world, the onus is on us to ensure that we do not just to remain the largest, but become a country which sets a benchmark for democratic process in every sphere of socio-political engagement; for democracies around the world. The decennial enumeration through Population Census throws up consistent estimates of youth in India.

As per India’s Census 2011, Youth (15-24 years) in India constitutes one-fifth (19.1%) of India’s total population. The share reached its maximum of 35.11% in the year 2010. India is expected to have 34.33% share of youth in total population by 2020.

Considering this trend it is very important that the future of the country is placed in secure hands, in the hands of those who are well informed, have concern for human rights and those who do not compromise on their opinion, their opinion of what they think is right, fearing suppression which has  become more and more common in the current scenario.

Festival posters across at a ‘chai’ shop

As we came close to the festival, we began printing posters of all the events and enthusiastically distributing it to all the colleges, various student groups and also posting it in various public places such as tea shops, bus stops various club buildings etc. the response was tremendous.

On the first day, the screening of the movie ‘Soz’ and interacting with directors of the movie helped understand the unheard story in Kashmir, about how certain sections of the society face a constant threat to life and liberty, irrespective. This helped us introspect and ask ourselves as to whether it was right to assume whatever the media tells us is true, do we have to believe only what we are told to believe? 

This thought became much stronger when we witnessed the performance of Akhu from Imphal Talkies and Oorali, who through music expressed how some laws in the country violate the rights of the citizens how democracy at times is just on paper. 

The next event, was a panel discussion on campus rising and a documentary screening of ‘Ek Minute Ka Maun’ which helped us understand the role every citizen, every youth in being the change that they wanted to see be it in terms of corrective action or initiating something new on the whole.

The street play spread awareness about the importance of human rights and attracted a large section of public to take notice and try in their own possible way to be the change they want to see.

A still from one of the student theatre plays

The culminating event was panel discussion on ‘Nationalism, Militarization and Suppression of Dissent’ which was witnessed by close to 550 students, we as students got to know the ground reality and consequences of the legislations like AFSPA, which was a different narrative to the issue and challenged ideas of nationalism and militarization.

There was lot that one could take away from the week-long event, a lot that if acted upon can take the country and its democracy to newer heights, heights that it deserves