The national Capital is usually the choice of city for events and conferences with a political hue. However, when Anhad decided to organise a convention this year to discuss India’s burning issues and rising instances of violence in the name of religion and caste, several social organisations from Maharashtra reached out to them, requesting that it be organised in Mumbai. Collaborating with the Maharashtra wing of People’s Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL), Committee for Protection of Democratic Rights and other organisations, Anhad is hosting India Unites Convention on Non-Violence and Harmony today at Sophia Bhabha Auditorium in Mumbai’s Breach Candy. Entry is free.
“We chose January 30 because it marks Mahatma Gandhi’s martyrdom. The same forces that killed the Mahatma are currently fanning religious hatred in the country. It was, thus, apt to talk about non-violence on this day,” says activist Shabnam Hashmi of Anhad, a socio-cultural organisation that works in the field of human rights.
The event, says Hashmi, will bring people from various walks of life who have been working towards upholding the tenets of democracy. The list of speakers includes Jasti Chelameswar, former Supreme Court judge; student leader Kawalpreet Kaur; actor Amol Palekar and writer Javed Akhtar. “The people of India dreamt of a democratic India when the nation was formed over 70 years ago. These are the people who continue to believe in and support that dream,”
The speeches and talks will be punctuated with performances by eminent artistes such as thespians Dolly Thakore and Purva Naresh, and stand-up comic Vasu Primlani, each of who have been using their work to talk about the issues that plague the country.
The event is a culmination of a longer programme that these organisations, along with several activists, have been holding in the city’s colleges. Hashmi says that their team, which includes the likes of Irfan Engineer, have covered 18 colleges, conducting talks and discussions with students. “We realised that the college students in Mumbai are far more apolitical and their engagement with such issues is almost negligible,” says Hashmi.
The activists and volunteers spoke to the students about the freedom to choose. “I told them how our generation didn’t have to counter Romeo Squads or how freedom needs to extend to what an individual chooses to eat or wear,” says Hashmi, adding that the students were curious and keen to know more and engage with the speakers. “They wanted to understand why the city does not have students’ unions or brought up the economy and how it affects the tribal belts,” she says.
Hashmi and the team or organisers believe that India Unites is aimed at reviving and reminding India’s people of the key principal followed by the Mahatma — non-violence. “We revere the Mahatma but forget what he stood for. We hope to revive that spirit through this convention,” Hashmi says.