The pres­ence of a video cam­era can be a de­ter­rent to cor­rup­tion, says so­cial ac­tivist Stalin K

SHUBHA MUD­GAL, in her trade­mark big bindi and vi­brant sari, and Stalin K, pony­tailed and un­der­stated, have one thing in com­mon — the need to get out of their com­fort zone. Both were a treat to hear at the fourth round of the Air­cel The Power of In­spi­ra­tion lec­ture se­ries at the Med­i­cal Col­lege au­di­to­rium at SRM Univer­sity, Chen­nai.

The lec­ture be­gan with The TE­HELKA Foun­da­tion Founder-Trustee Puneeta Roy thank­ing ev­ery­one for their pres­ence. The Air­cel team played a video clip about their jour­ney so far, fol­lowed by a pre­sen­ta­tion about the Har­vard Cer­ti­fi­ca­tion pro­gramme that was launched si­mul­ta­ne­ously.

It was then the turn of so­cial ac­tivist Stalin, who spoke about what in­spired him to form Video Vol­un­teers, a me­dia and hu­man rights NGO. It was dur­ing the 2002 Gu­jarat ri­ots that he “walked around with a cam­era like a crazy per­son and doc­u­mented about 100 hours of peo­ple’s tes­ti­monies — what they saw, what they ex­pe­ri­enced, all in the hope that it would at some point be used for ju­di­cial pro­cesses. It was also a way to un­der­stand my peo­ple and un­der­stand my city”. He added: “Film­ing was also a cathar­tic process in un­der­stand­ing what so­ci­eties are ca­pa­ble of.”

On be­ing asked what gives him the in­spi­ra­tion to carry on, Stalin said it is the vi­o­la­tion of ba­sic rights, the cor­rup­tion in so­ci­ety and the knowl­edge that the pres­ence of a video cam­era could ei­ther de­ter per­pe­tra­tors or aid tes­ti­monies of those try­ing to bring about a change.

Talk­ing about en­abling the marginalised and arm­ing them with video skills, he re­called how Mo­han, a Video Vol­un­teer, recorded the plight of two teach­ers in Jhark­hand, who were on the verge of com­mit­ting sui­cide as they hadn’t been paid for four years. He pre­sented the case to the Col­lec­tor, who im­me­di­ately had 90,000 re­leased and or­dered an in­quiry.

Stalin then played a video by Su­nita Kasera, a res­i­dent of Ka­rauli dis­trict in Ra­jasthan, who had gath­ered ev­i­dence of un­touch­a­bil­ity still be­ing prac­tised in ru­ral belts de­spite be­ing a crim­i­nal of­fence. “We are pro­duc­ing 30-sec­ond videos prov­ing un­touch­a­bil­ity still ex­ists and al­ready have 26 such ev­i­dences,” Stalin said, adding that they had al­ready sub­mit­ted, for the fifth time, the ev­i­dence to the Na­tional Com­mis­sion for Sched­uled Castes.

Puneeta then in­vited Mud­gal and quizzed her about her life and mu­sic. Mud- gal re­called how her par­ents, both teach­ers of English Lit­er­a­ture, gave her the free­dom to pur­sue mu­sic if she so wished. She ad­vised the students to ex­per­i­ment and be con­fi­dent in the choices they make.

Along with her hus­band Aneesh Prad­han, Mud­gal is busy cre­at­ing Sangeetkosh, an on­line en­cy­clo­pe­dia of In­dian mu­sic. “Art has al­ways been un­fet­tered. There are no for­mu­lae. The only thing I can say is ‘just hang in there and don’t let any­one tell you what kind of mu­sic to make’,” she said.

A Q&A was fol­lowed by the re­lease of the Air­cel’s The Power of In­spi­ra­tion book by the speak­ers, SRM Univer­sity ViceChan­cel­lor Dr Poon­avaikko, Di­rec­tor, Cor­po­rate Com­mu­ni­ca­tions, Anu­radha Parakkat and Air­cel’s Busi­ness Head (TN circle) Murthy Cha­ganti. Puneeta’s vote of thanks brought the event to a close.

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