‘If you love to be feudal, go to Saudi Arabia’

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Stalin K
Stalin K, 43, Founder, Video Volunteers
Photo: Sarang Sena

When did you decide to give the marginalised a voice through your media community project?
The didactic or pedantic approach to anything, not just development, education or problem-solving, is all top down. I believe that’s a feudal and casteist approach. If you analyse human rights issues and expect wisdom and dignity for all, it means that the wisdom, knowledge, information and process must also be democratised.

What kind of training is imparted?
In regional camps, each group of 30-60 people are given a two-week-long residential training that covers three areas: 1. Video technology, shooting, light and technical concepts. 2. The narrative, how do you find the stories, research for facts. 3. Human rights training and critical thinking.

Does that include legal issues too?
Be it the Forests Rights Act, RTE, RTI or NREGA, we look at all the rights related to entitlements of the poor communities. We bring in people who have worked on these issues and rights. We have sessions on safety and security while reporting because most of them work in difficult areas.

Are these people allowed to report from spaces outside of their designated areas?
Usually in IndiaUnheard, we have one person who reports on the entire area. Clearly, one person does not know the entire district, but because they’re activists even before they join, they’re used to building contacts. In Amita Tuti’s case. because Khunti (Jharkhand) is a big district, we have two people. There are also some people who travel for stories.

What would you say needs to change for people to claim their entitlements?
When (Vasundhara) Raje says, “I am proud of being feudal”, it gives me a sense of how much work needs to be done to change that mindset. If you love to be feudal, then go to Saudi Arabia, don’t be in a democracy. Rich people have begun to say it’s time to give back without acknowledging that they’re talking about giving back because they’ve taken enough.

What is the one thought that you believe will trigger change?
Hope comes from people like Amita and the 110 people we work with and the several thousands of people outside who we’re not working with, but who are all struggling in a very rational way to tell people that it is wrong to take our land.

Shonali Ghosal is a Correspondent with Tehelka. 
shonali@tehelka.com

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