India Untouched: a comprehensive look at Untouchability

urlBy portraying the gravity of discrimination featuring in eight states and four prominent religions, ‘India Untouched–Stories of a People apart’ acts as a wake-up call for all those who deny the existence of untouchability in India today. It critiques the justification of this systematic oppression through the flawed interpretations of Banaras scholars who claim that Dalits have no right to education, and Rajput farmers who proclaim that no Dalit may sit in their presence and that the police must seek their permission prior to pursuing complaints against atrocities.

As long as the notions of ‘pollution’ and ‘purity’ linger in the minds of people, caste-discrimination will prevail in India, the way racism still survives in USA. The film presents a vicious circle of lamentations of the ostracized, with little to say about the historical or present-day political realities of their situation.

With 1.22 billion Indians following multiple cultures, traditions, religions and etiquette, we might not need a revolution to end this social evil of 4000 years. The answer lies in accepting the simple one liner that ‘All Humans are Equal’.

 –Reported by Sajan Tom, I PSEng; Edited by Vidya MG, II CEP

By Centre for Social Action Posted in Samveditha

The Media and the Man: talk by Mr Paranjoy Guha Thakurta

urlMedia is the reflection of our ‘noisy, chaotic and anarchic country’. But do media always portray the truth? Is it corrupt? These questions were addressed by veteran journalist Paranjoy Guha Thakurta in an interactive talk on 22nd February. The talk was organised by Samvedita aiming at spreading awareness about modern media and its facets.

Media often shows the tainted truth. Despite being a democracy, news on radio is still a monopoly of the government of India. Though 72,000 publications are currently registered with The Registrar of Newspapers of India, only less than a hundred cater to more than two-thirds of the population.

Defying conventional norms of capitalism, the intensification of competition in the media has been accompanied by a discernible lowering of ethical standards. The race to grab eyeballs has seen a simultaneous ‘dumbing down’ of content as TV channels have become prisoners of a highly inadequate and flawed system of TRPs (television rating points) to ascertain audience sizes. ‘Dumbing down’, sensationalism, trivialization and an unhealthy obsession with the four Cs—crime, cricket, cinema and celebrities—have become the norm.

The talk, followed by an interactive session, shed light on the audience’s perceptions about media, most of which were misconceptions. In spite of measures being taken by The Press Council of India, an improvement in the content being aired is far from visible. That, certainly, is a propaganda for the future.

–Reported by: Priyanka Chakrabarty, I PSEng; Edited by: Vidya M G, II CEP

By Centre for Social Action Posted in Samveditha

Hazaaron Khwaishein Aisi: with popcorn to the ’70s :)

Hazaaron Khwaishein Aisi, a 2005 Bollywood movie directed by Sudhir Mishra, was screened in the CSA Movie Club on 6th December. Extremely cerebral and thoroughly engaging, its soulful story that juxtaposed contemporary socio-political issues with the eternal reality of man-woman attraction that transcends marital barriers blew our minds away.

The film portrays three university students hailing from varied backgrounds torn between the desire to make it big in their lives and contribute to the world. Violation and subjugation of the dreams of the oppressed—the messy socio-political issues of the 1970’s—form the backdrop of the movie.

The movie sensitized us toward the hypocrisy of a society that laments for change but resists it when the time is due. Social reform, it seems, however positive its moral benefit would be, is dependent on its practicality too.

— Anumathi Malak, I PSEco

By Centre for Social Action Posted in Samveditha

COC discussion: Need for Alternate Education

CoffeeLogoChat Over Coffee (COC) is an intellectual platform where individuals voice their personal opinions in a strong yet innocuous tone. This wonderful venture of CSA aims to sensitize Christites on various social issues.

The topic of discussion for the last COC was ‘Need for Alternate Education’. As the initially lukewarm discussion gathered momentum, participants found themselves in the midst of an intense argument.

The discussion opened with a conversation on what the participants thought alternate education meant. It came down to a unanimous agreement that the term encompasses student-friendly education.

Later the discussion moved on ­­­to why alternate education is not being implemented widely. The views that were put forth shed light on the societal misconception that alternate schooling is meant for children with special needs.

This realization moved the conversation to other spheres, such as perfect life and how alternate schooling does not pose enough academic challenges to its students. Alternate education is often ‘anti-competitive’; thus, when encountered with the real world—a world driven by competition where success is assessed by marks alone—its students find it hard to adapt to it.

This raised questions about the practicality of alternate education. One of its characteristics is the low student-teacher ratio. When there are so many students and so few teachers, how can alternate education be more widely implemented? How can one teacher pay equal attention to so many students?

The session later discussed the special skills alternate education equips its students with. Participants expressed their views about the importance of nurturing and perfecting extra-curricular skills, how alternate education gives these ample importance, and the reasons why these are looked down upon in mainstream education.

The session gave way for an open-ended conclusion, as it is the COC spirit to ‘agree to disagree’. The participants accepted that although alternate education system is advantageous is many ways, it is not pragmatic to be applied on a large scale, making its standardization difficult.

–Raunaq N.S, I CEP

By Centre for Social Action Posted in Samveditha

Coffee n Popcorn! :)

The Chatting Over Coffee sessions of CSA have always been a great platform CSA’s volunteers to put on their thinking caps and share their views on a multitude of topics. These sessions give a person ample food for thought, as the discussions do not always end conclusively.

This semester, the volunteers not only shared their views but also came up with some brilliant ideas. One such idea which was put into practice was the CSA Show-time, a.k.a The Movie Club. They say that pictures speak a thousand words. By this simple logic, motion pictures would be definitely more effective in conveying messages to the masses, as opposed to long winding speeches.

As of now, The Movie Club has screened two movies, both of which have been eye openers, and deal with crucial social issues. ‘Good Morning Vietnam’, a film set in Saigon during Vietnam War, addresses problems that are caused due to cultural differences. It also shows how varied world views can result in major problems. The second movie that was screened, ‘Khuda Ke Liye’, dwells on how the 9/11 attack affected the lives of Non-Residential Pakistanis in USA. It also deals with the mighty perspective of religious fundamentalism that has been brewing in the Afghan-Pakistan border for decades.

The COC sessions have been evenly spread throughout this semester. The topics of the sessions– ‘Altruism’, ‘Reality Shows’, ‘The Mangalore incident (28th July)’ and ‘Kasab and other Political Prisoners’–have been, as usual, wisely chosen.

This tradition of CSA has had a huge impact on fellow students, widening the horizons of their young and nurturing minds.

–Aishwarya Ramasethu, II PCM

“The COC discussions are not meant to attain a set of conclusions; they prompt you to indulge in personal introspection and to redefine morality and concern for the needy.”
-Dhanashree Kanago, I CBZ
By Centre for Social Action Posted in Samveditha

How much is enough?

What does GM mean to you? To me, it is the reverse of the two words that I find most appealing and fantastically exciting: MG (Road).

The first Chatting Over Coffee (C.O.C.) held on July 15, brought out issues pertaining to, not a shopping expedition (much to my dismay) but on Genetically Modified (food) or commonly known as ‘GM’.

The ‘chatting’ was preceded by the screening of a documentary called “Genetically Modified Organisms vs. Food”. The production crew had incorporated a few comments of Indians about GM.

As per research done by anti-GM movements, the substance has been around for nearly two decades and was introduced by the United States of America. Some also believe that GM is a solution to the shortage in food production, which is a result of crowding on Earth. Evidently the makers of the documentary believed otherwise. Most of the people were against GM. The debate was fiery and raged on till 5 o clock when the warm fragrance of coffee calmed us down.(We did not know whether the coffee beans from which our coffee was made were genetically modified :D) The first CoC was in the true spirit of a filter coffee: warm, awakening, thought-provoking!! 🙂 🙂 🙂

By Centre for Social Action Posted in Samveditha

Religion, God, Belief and Coffee

What is God?

Debates about this have been on since God knows when (:)). So we at Christ University had our own discussion on  17th September in Chatting over Coffee on the topic ‘Religion…?’ Thirteen of us talked about what religion meant to each of us personally, what implications the concept of religion has on our society and whether this has been advantageous or not.

There were many interesting opinions that came out during our discussion. One being that religion along with the customs and rituals associated with it have become more of a commercial enterprise, and a lucrative one at that. People often take advantage of this and claim to have powers and abilities, using these as an excuse to earn incomes that are greater than those which most average families earn. Another aspect to look at this is that a person who believes in these ‘specially gifted’ people also spend a considerable amount of money on them and at the end of the day are left with nothing except a blind trust.

Religion is a sensitive topic, and a discussion on it has the potential to turn into a very heated debate. CoC almost did, not very heated, but it did become a debate of sorts. This proves another point that came up- religion, whether we believe in it or not, has been so deeply ingrained in us from the moment we are born, that it is, somewhere deep inside, very close to our hearts. So then the question comes up- how does a person, who does not believe in God, feel so strongly about religion as a idea?

The answer to that is simply that religion does not only mean God. As one of the participants said, we often narrow our scope to think that religion refers only to that idea of a God, and lot of rituals to either please this God, or to gain something out of Him/Her. Religion, she said, could mean diferent things to different people. A person who loves his  or her work would consider work as his or her religion. Restricting ourselves by tying the concept of religion and the concept of God so tightly together would be problematic because it blinds us to the many other aspects of this concept.

To many, love is the only form of religion. Love and service are considered the two very important embodiments of the ‘God’ in a religious belief.

To some, God is simply an entity that one believes in. It can take up any form, it can even be oneself. If one truly loves oneself and believes in oneself then there is no greater temple than one’s own heart.

We also touched briefly on the different kinds of collective emotions that religion has evoked in us. Some say being God-fearing is being religious, some say that you cannot fear and love God at the same time. Again, how did these concepts of God originate? Probably these were moulded through the ages and evolved through human needs and aspirations.

‘Is religion only about God? And what is God? or who is God?’ Answers to these questions are intensely personal and subjective, and so we leave it there, to find out for yourself, for your answers will be different from ours.

The views presented in this post are just those which came up during the discussion and are not the authors personal views. Differences in opinion are welcome in the form of comments.

By Centre for Social Action Posted in Samveditha

Juvenile Delinquency and the media influence

We all want to believe in that rosy picture of healthy, happy children playing with each other, in complete harmony with nature and the world. So where do we go wrong? When does this innocence give way to pent up emotions like anger, guilt and regret? At what point do we turn these children into anti-social elements? All these questions and more came up during this Friday’s Chatting over Coffee, which discussed juvenile delinquency and the media influence.

In a society like ours, where childhood and innocence are invariably linked, what gives rise to crime among children? To identify the root of this issue, it is necessary to probe a little deeper into our concepts of ‘childhood’. This, either by stepping into the shoes of a child who develops his or her sense of self based on societal pressures and expectations, or even just by going back to our childhood days.

To begin with, a child starts forming an identity, a sense of self, by exploring the world around him or her. This child shapes himself or herself based on the very strong influences of family and society. He or she learns that he or she will have to live up to certain expectations. These expectations are set by the society and the family based on popular notions which may or may not be healthy for the child. But being commonly accepted, the child is taught at a very young age, through his or her interactions with people around him or her, that these are the ideas that the child must believe in. For example, a child who wants to be a bus conductor is taught that it is a ‘lowly’ job and does not fit in the kind of role the child is expected or ‘supposed’ to play in the society.

Though this may seem to be a very trivial matter, this hinders the process of the child developing an identity for himself or herself, and forming interests, passions and beliefs which form the basis for the child’s sense of self. When this sense of self is built on such a shaky foundation, is it any wonder that it comes crashing down at some point of time? A minor is always looked down upon as one who cannot take decisions for oneself. This kind of undermining the child’s status also builds up resentment in the child.

So how does this connect to juvenile delinquency? Its pretty simple. These societal influences are the ones that shape a child’s behaviour. So now we can say that if a child indulges in crime of any sort, a major chunk of the responsibility must be borne by the society itself. A few examples might give us a clearer picture.

Take the case of a child who is beaten up every day for no reason, or maybe small mistakes. This child grows up learning and absorbing the wrong idea that violence is the only way to react to any unpleasant situation. Unpleasant situation as in one which does not work out in the way we want it to. So naturally when the child does not like something, violence is going to be the path he or she turns to in an attempt to set things right.

Or say a child who is hungry steals food…

Or a child who is angry kills…

Now to examine where the media comes into this. In today’s context it is not possible to distinguish the society from its media. People in a society are simply blind followers of values, beliefs and ideologies that are propagated by its various media. The same holds true for children. Violent video games, movies, cartoons and the like cater to young, impressionable minds and implant value systems which we would consider quite inappropriate in them. Insensitivity to the value of life, to ethics, to ethical practices is held in high esteem by the media we encounter every single day of our lives. This passes on to children and invariably they end up believing in things that can lead them to get themselves involved in anti social activities. The protagonist in a movie might kill a villain and harp about this as a great achievement. Here the value of life is understated and not given due importance. Minor, everyday things like these build up, starting small but growing into something quit big and sinister.

How do we change? Change can come about only through conscious effort. A better approach by juvenile rehabilitation homes, less stigma, less of blind media propagated beliefs may be a start. Once again, it all comes down to us. The change starts within ourselves, and then moves on to family, community, society and ultimately the nation. Lets try to be a little less judgemental, a little more trusting, and learn to question what we think is wrong. Let us stand on our own feet and decide our own beliefs rather than let someone else do it for us. Then we can hope for a better place, a better world. Where childhood is still beautiful.

By Centre for Social Action Posted in Samveditha

Violence Against Women– Destined to continue?

That was our topic for last COC (Chatting Over Coffee) on 24.7.09, Friday. This topic was chosen in connection with the three day programme ‘Daughters of Fire’ conducted by Vimochana in collaboration with CSA.

Through this discussion, we, a group of CSA volunteers and other students ventured into this horrifying reality. We discussed about violence in terms of rape, molestation, verbal abuse, eve teasing and so on. Are women responsible at some level, for being raped? Is it the dressing style of women that lead to them being raped or is it the male hormones at play? A law in Saudi Arabia holds women solely responsible for being raped.

Looking down to everyday eve teasing that every women experiences, is there much one can do to stop it? Every woman is subject to at least one comment a day while walking or traveling by bus or at workplace, anywhere. Raising one’s voice against these comments, in most cases hurts the ego of the man and the woman is at risk of an acid attack or a gang rape in the next few days. Is being bold, then, an option? Is it, however, alright to let being commented on??

Does media have an upper hand in this whole issue? Can the media help reduce any of this to any extent? Commercializing of women, women being looked at as sex objects, women being thought of as having only an attractive biological make up- can the media not bring about a change, however small or big? Isn’t there more to a woman than just the physique?

In spite of knowing and being aware of most of these issues, at the end of the discussion, we were all awakened. Awakened to realities that, in a way, had faded into the background, realities that had being considered as ‘given’. We are not helpless, at times, we feel helpless, but there is something we can do about it. There is always a solution, the simplest one being sensitizing others. Change, not big not small but change nevertheless.

By Centre for Social Action Posted in Samveditha