As part of the campaign, we had a session with the NSS students of Ambedkar College on 19 December. Lalitha Dhara who is VIce Principal of the college and part of the campaign facilitated the session. Chaya Datar, Meena Gopal, Shakil Ahmed and Nandini Manjrekar participated in the interactions.
The room where the session was held and the corridor were festooned by the BKKMKZ quilts, which caught the attention of the students, some of whom had also made a few. Around 80 students came for the session, of which, as we discovered later in our interactions, only two were born before 1992! Meena introduced the theme of the Why Remember campaign, and talked about the events that have been taking place in the city. Two films made by the School of Media and Culture Studies, TISS, were shown– Farukh vs the State and Badalte Nakshe. We decided on the first as the college is in the vicinity of Hari Masjid and the second since it brings out the context of ghettoisation post-1992-93.
We had a short but interesting discussion after the films. Chaya and Nandini spoke about why the campaign is important to reclaim the city and how the films bring out how older social ties have been lost and survivors have had to wage long battles for justice. Shakil spoke about how right wing media like Saamna persists in constructing the bad Muslim, citing a report that had appeared that very day in the paper. We asked the students how they felt about these issues. Some students shared their feelings — largely focussing on why its important for all of us to shun discrimination on religious grounds and live in peace and unity. One girl described her sense of shock when she encountered someone who was thirsty but had refused water from some Muslim students although they had offered it to him.
We found that the film Badalte Nakshe was effective in bringing out issues related to ghettoisation in the city, while the film Farukh vs the State perhaps needed more background information to be shared (about the riots and the Srikrishna Commission )prior to the screening. Piyush Garud, one of the student filmmakers from TISS came in late but was able to share with great feeling and reflection what the making of a film on Mumbra (Aakhri Panah) meant to him, growing up in Kalyan and seeing how Mumbra was stigmatised as ‘Chota Pakistan’ and a den of terrorists. His talk in Marathi clearly caught the attention of the students, and the session may have been more effective if the students had had more time to interact with him.