‘OF the people, by the people, for the people’, that’s the core philosophy of Lokayat, a group of ‘progressive, like-mined, politically aware and socially concerned group of individuals from various walks of life’, who come together on a common and open platform to discuss, debate, share and exchange issues and concerns that surround us as society and common people. Through lectures, films, poetry, the core group of ten-member Lokayat invites eminent personalities and activists from across the country to share their views on a variety of subjects.
“Politics of our times like caste, class discrimination, farmer distress, problems faced by women, crimes like rape, we strive to highlight these issues and involve more and more people in the process. The idea of these discussions being to make us think, be more aware and sensitive,” reflects Arti, an advocate by profession, activist by heart and one of the founders of Lokayat, which was formed three years back.
Many members of the group share that their journey so far has been enriching as the interactions give them a chance to connect with people in the city and also meet like-minded thinkers, artists, filmmakers. With no financial support from anyone, the members rely on their own funds or contributions of the people who are invited to organise events. The name ‘Lokayat’, says Arti, has been taken from a materialistic school of philosophers in India, who opposed Hinduism by regarding only matter as real, sense data as the only source of knowledge and gratification of appetites as the only good.
“Gender sensitisation is an area that Lokayat will focus on in the near future, as our constant concern is how we address people who need this knowledge,” adds Arti.
This week, Lokayat invited Gauhar Raza, a scientist, leading Urdu poet, social activist and documentary filmmaker working to popularize the understanding of science among people. Raza, who is known for his documentaries like ‘Jung-e-Azadi’, based on India’s first war for independence, and ‘Inqilab’ on Bhagat Singh, gave an insightful and thought-provoking lecture on, ‘The construction of religious minorities as second-class citizens in India.’
Raza first spoke on the importance and value of efforts like the Lokayat as they support democracy. He reflects that it is only these dialogues that ensure its success as they are the “little lamps that keep the light burning.” Raza spoke at length about identities and how every identity has a reason and purpose and how nature and society assigns us our identities. “The secular identities we give to ourselves and till the other is not there, I am non-existent,” he explains.
Raza later focused on Fascism and its many facets are seen across the world in the past. He shared that fascism looks for a weak enemy, a minority which can be presented as large, with fascism’s target being a space to grow. “Fascism takes you to an ideal past, to create popular history so that the real issues are forgotten, with intellectuals, creative people and secularists as the targets,” believed Raza.