Against the backdrop of crisis in the North East, Jamia Millia Islamia’s Centre for North East Studies, the Sarojini Naidu Centre for Women’s Studies, and the Department of Political Science collaborated to organize a Peace Walk on-campus for “Sensitization & Awareness of Human Rights in the North East of India,” on Wednesday, Oct. 3, 2012.
The peace walk marked the onset of a three-day workshop to stimulate and sensitize people, especially students, about the situation in the North East and the human rights violations faced by the people there. The walk began from the Mirza Ghalib statue to the road towards Jamia School, Ansari Health Centre, U turn, Administrative Block, into Ansari Auditorium Complex to culminate at M F Hussain Gallery where an exhibition of photograph by three young women photographers on the North-East of India were on display.
Speaking about the Peace Walk, Sanjoy Hazarika, Director, Centre for North East Studies, said, “It is the first time a university has come out officially [for a demonstration] led by the Vice Chancellor. It is not the students’ union protesting, or a few professors or intellectuals who are associated with the issue. But the entire administration has come out to say it is a peace march for peace in the North East, but also a statement of intent that these are the things we will be focusing on in the region.”
The Peace Walk saw students from different disciplines in the university joining in a crowd of about five hundred and walking together for peace.
Sikder Shanidul Islam, a final year student of M.A. Political Science from the conflict zone of Assam said, “These marches are very important because people should do something for the integration of the nation. The issues are political. There are ethnic conflicts and militant groups as well. New generation, especially students should do something for the unity of India.”
Peace walks or marches are a way to educate, raise awareness, sensitize and bring about a subtle or a more visible change in the perspectives and perceptions of the people about an issue. Speaking about sensitization through the Peace Walk, Dr. Bulbul Dhar-James, Director, Sarojini Naidu Centre for Women’s Studies said, “I think it is a visual expression which we feel would have a multiplier effect because of the fact that symbolically you are joining in something which you probably do not know about so you would want to seek to know a little bit more. We need information dissemination, and awareness and sensitization on an issue which is regarded as ‘not Indian’. Once we are sensitized, I think things will change. And Jamia has taken a lead in that.”
Serving as a visual medium for initial awareness, the Peace Walk was successful in gathering students who were not aware of, or were oblivious to the crisis in the North East. “Peace-walks get attention from the people not just the students but also from public at large. In my opinion, an event like this should not stop with peace marches but there should be more discussion and publicity concerning issues of human rights violation in the North East of India,” said Syufra Malina, a Jamia M.A. Human Rights student from Indonesia .
After the walk, the crowd gathered at the M F Hussain Gallery to view the photographs from the North East as part of the idea of sensitization through visual medium. “I’ve just started seeing the photographs and I think these would not just be useful but would provide a lot of information. Because most of the people don’t even know what exactly is happening out there. I’m sure a lot of people will come to know once they go through all the photographs and the information that are provided,” said Tubin Nabam from Arunachal Pradesh, and an M.A. Public Administration student.
Zubeni Lotha, a photographer from Dimapur, Nagaland, whose photographs were among the ones on display at the photo exhibit in the M.F. Hussain Gallery, said at the event, “I’ve been photographing these for the past two years. Initially, I was just trying to study my town Dimapur and very consciously I tried to move away from photographing conflict. However, we can’t get away from conflict because it is so much in our everyday lives. We see the scars everywhere, we hear of stories; everyone has directly or indirectly been affected by it. If you look at my photographs, when you look at the surface you don’t see it but as you look at it more and more, very subtly you will see the effects of that in the photos.” Lotha’s photographs had previously been exhibited at the India International Centre.
The three-day workshop includes participants from the North East as well as from other regions in India, focusing upon familiarizing people with the intricacies of the region, and cogitating operational dimensions in regard to the question of what should be the way ahead.
Scenes from the Event:
Watch a minute-long video of the Peace Walk on Youtube here:
*click on an image to enlarge