QI holds Nagrik Nukkad with Queer Slant

Collaborates with citizens collective to hold discussion on fundamental rights of queer India

January 15, 2014 (Mumbai)
On Wednesday, Queer Ink in collaboration with citizens collective We the People, held the country’s first Nagrik Nukkad or Citizens’ Café which aimed to address the rights and responsibilities of the queer community as laid down in the Indian Constitution. The Café was held as part of the ongoing Mumbai Pride 2014 month.

The two-hour workshop was attended by 38 persons, including 10 young adult students. The workshop was conducted by Vikram Bhatt, and Dr Rama Shyam. Their collective has held 23 workshops in the past six years, across 12 cities and has reached out to over 800 people.

While Bhatt, a leadership coach of personal, organisational and community transformation for 11 years, is part of the founding team of We, the People, Shyam, a former Tata Institute of Social Sciences teacher and co-founder of Society for Awareness, Harmony and Equal Rights (SAHER), joined the collective last year.

In the workshop, the Preamble of the Indian constitution was discussed in terms of what the words, Justice, Liberty, Equality and Fraternity meant to each individual. Conducted in an open-discussion model, the participants were encouraged to share anecdotes of how these values emerged or went missing in social situations that pertained to family, neighbourhood and governance units. People were asked to examine their lives in the context of the underlying values of the Indian Constitution.

The themes brought up during the workshop ranged from our blindspots in recognising domestic helps as possessing the same rights towards equal pay, and leave, to forced marriages of lesbians and marital rape. It was agreed that individuals possess several identities that bisect class, gender, sexuality, caste, regional and lingual affiliations among others, and that discrimination permeated across barriers.

The presenters also pointed out that the aim of this discussion lay in empowering people to seek answers to the questions of rights and duties that affected them. To that end, We the People will release a Civic Action Toolkit on January 25. The 20-page manual will contain pertinent information on equipping citizens on how to interact with the three arms of the state – legislative, judiciary and executive. The kit will be available on http://we-the-people.in/ and queer-ink.com for free download.

The feedback received for the workshop was both, instructive and encouraging. “The workshop was thought provoking. (It) made one think of the “Why”- why does one need to think/know about the Constitution,” one participant said.

Feedback collected from all participants alluded to the need to make it more specific to queer lives; increase its duration, expand the conversations to include a citizen’s duties and responsibilities, and also address matters pertaining to the education sector.

We, The People, a not for profit collective funded by the Sir Dorabji Tata Trust also holds two-day intensive workshops to explain Fundamental Rights and Duties, the Right to Information Act and law-making. Queer Ink will collaborate with them to conduct these for the queer community.
All workshops are free.

The Preamble of the Indian Constitution is powerful. Here’s what it says:

We, the people of India, having solemnly resolved to constitute India into a Sovereign Socialist Secular Democratic Republic and to secure to all its citizens:
JUSTICE, social, economic and political;
LIBERTY of thought, expression, belief, faith and worship;
EQUALITY of status and of opportunity;
and to promote among them all
FRATERNITY assuring the dignity of the individual and the unity and integrity of the Nation;
In our constituent assembly this twenty-sixth day of November, 1949, do hereby adopt, enact, and give to ourselves this Constitution.

Dhamini Ratnam
Author: Ankit Bhuptani