From polemical discussions on subjects such as cow vigilantism and ‘pseudo-science’ to poetry, and art and street theatre as expressions of harmony and protest, a two-day event to be held in December will look at continuing the dialogue on Constitutional ideals and India’s syncretic traditions. The Mumbai Collective, established in March 2016 following a series of incidents in 2015-16 including the decision by eminent writers and thinkers to return state awards, the attacks on educational institutions, Rohith Vemula’s suicide and the Kanhaiya Kumar incident in JNU, will be held on December 9 and 10.
Among those scheduled to speak at the event on December 9 and 10 are writer Kiran Nagarkar, constitutional expert A G Noorani, actor-director Nandita Das, civil rights activist Harsh Mander, prominent Dalit intellectual from Maharashtra Raosaheb Kasbe and Communist Party leader Prakash Karat.
“The Mumbai Collective was conceptualised as a broad platform of people from all walks of life in Mumbai, liberal, secular-minded people who believe in the importance of the rights guaranteed by our Constitution including freedom and inclusion, and who are worried that these rights are being violated more frequently now, people who are worried about this drift we are witnessing around us,” said Prof R Ramakumar, dean of the School of Development Studies at TISS, among those in the organising team. “This is a place where such people can come together and hold hands in solidarity.”
Last year, the first edition of the Mumbai Collective witnessed more than 2,000 people attending. “We had expected only 400-500 people, and were overwhelmed by this response. This told us that Mumbai needs a platform like this where like-minded people can listen to voices of dissent or contribute to a cause,” said Ramakumar.
Like last year, the Collective this year will include panel discussions and talks, but viewed from a wider perspective. Three special lectures have been planned – A G Noorani on ‘Who Killed Gandhi?’; Kashmiri Communist leader Md Yusuf Tarigami on ‘The Impasse in Kashmir’; and social scientist Professor Ghanshyam Shah on ‘The Myth of the Gujarat Model of Development’.
Organisers said the distinctiveness of the platform is that it is interactive, not simply a series of monologues. The Collective will discuss at length three drivers of current unrest – agrarian distress, demonetisation and GST – among the middle classes, agriculturalists and small traders. Dr Ajit Nawale, the farmer leader among those at the helm of the Maharashtra farmers’ agitations including a strike earlier this year, will be on a panel discussing the crises in rural Maharashtra.
Bezwada Wilson of the all-India Safai Karmachari Aandolan will address questions of whether caste hierarchies have been left intact through the Swachh Bharat Abhiyaan’s focus on cleanliness, for example through not tackling manual scavenging.
While corporate control of media houses was on the list of subjects discussed last year, this year’s Collective will also look at the role of alternative media platforms. Marathi and Hindi actor-director Rasika Agashe will also hold a reading of ‘Vidrohi Kavitayein’ or poetry of protest. Kiran Nagarkar, Nandita Das and Kanhaiya Kumar are sated to speak on artists and freedom of speech, while lawyer Mihir Desai will speak on the right to privacy judgments and the spectre of a surveillance state.
Also on the calendar are performances by Dalit poet-balladeer Sambhaji Bhagat and Sufi singer Dhruv Sanghari.
(The Mumbai Collective, 2017, will be held at on December 9 and 10 at the YB Chavan Centre, Nariman Point.)