REV­O­LU­TION­ARY TURN

Tehelka - - THE FOURTH ESTATE -

RTI ac­tivist Nikhil Dey and singer Taru Dalmia re­call how univer­sity life shaped their world­views

FOR STU­DENTS at­St­An­thony’s­Col­lege­in Shillong,­it­was­ar­guably­just­an­other­day —­un­til­RTI ac­tivist­Nikhil­Dey­took­the stage­to­ask­them­some­pointed­ques­tions.

“Would­you­call­your­self­po­lit­i­cal?”­he asked.­Most­of­them­said­no .­“Do­you ­be­lieve­that­there­is­pol­i­tics­in­your­col­lege? In­your­re­la­tion­ships­with­your­par­ents?” Most,­sheep­ishly,­said­yes.­“Do­you­vote?” he­chal­lenged?­Most­said­yes.­“Yet,­you­be­lieve­you­aren’t­po­lit­i­cal,­be­cause­some­how the­word­has­come­to­mean­some­thing­am­bigu­ous.­But­the­re­al­ity­is,­ev­ery­act­is­po­lit­i­cal.­And­in­a­democ­racy,­where­you­have the­right­to­elect­who­works­in­your­name to­run­the­coun­try,­your­vote­is­the­most po­lit­i­cal­act­of­all.”­From­there­be­gan­a ­fas­ci­nat­ing­con­ver­sa­tion­be­tween­Dey,­who was­in­stru­men­tal­in­draft­ing­the­RTI Act, one­of­the­coun­try’s­most­im­por­tant­pieces of­leg­is­la­tion­in­re­cent­years,­and­Puneeta Roy,­trustee­of­the­Te­helka­Foun­da­tion.

Ear­lier,­kick­ing­off­the­lec­ture,­a­part­of the­Air­cel­Power­of­In­spi­ra­tion­se­ries­in univer­si­ties­across­the­coun­try,­Puneeta had­first­in­vited­Air­cel’s­Ku­mar­Mishra­to talk­about­the­group’s­Air­cel­Col­lege­Brand Am­bas­sador­Pro­gramme­in­as­so­ci­a­tion with­H ar­vard,­be­for e­pr es­ent­ing­a poignant,­vo­cal­AV seg­ment­on­ground­warriors­—­peo­ple­who­ex­em­plify­what­in­spi­ra­tion­is­when­they­take­up­the­most­ur­gent causes,­fight­ing­to­make­a­dif­fer­ence.

On­stage,­Dey­was­the­per­fect­ex­am­ple of­how­one­per­son­can­make­a­dif­fer­ence. “In­ter­est­ingly,­my­en­gage­ment­with­the po­lit­i­cal­came­when­I­was­your­age,”­he told­the­rapt­au­di­ence.­“I­was­study­ing­in the­US­and­got­in­trigued­by­the­fem­i­nism move­ment­and­two­vi­tal­slo­gans­of­that move­ment­have­stayed­with­me.­The­first, and­ar­guably­most­com­pelling­idea:­that ‘the­per­sonal­is­po­lit­i­cal’;­the­sec­ond,­that ‘my­life­is­a­rev­o­lu­tion’.”

If­Dey­was­met­with­rev­er­ent,­ad­mir­ing ap­plause,­the­day’s­sec­ond­speaker­had­the stu­dents­hoot­ing, ­clap­ping­and­cheer­ing from­the­w ord­go . ­T aru­D almia­w as ­per­haps­born­to­per­form­in­Shillong, ­the undis­puted­mu­sic­cap­i­tal­of­the­coun­try, yet­a­city­steeped­in­po­lit­i­cal­en­gage­ment, fight­ing­to­be­part­of­the­main­stream.

As­a­per­former­and­mu­si­cian­who­uses reg­gae­and­hiphop­to­talk­of­the­most burn­ing­is­sues­of­our­time, ­Dalmia­has ­taken­an­un­usual­yet­com­pelling­route­to en­gage­young­peo­ple­around­the­coun­try.

Af­ter­wards,­he­spok e­of­his­first ­en­counter­with­racism­as­a­stu­dent­in­Ger­many,­then­a­more­in­ti­mate­en­counter­with the­dark­un­der­belly­of­the­Amer­i­can dream.­When­he­re­turned­to­In­dia, ­Dalmia felt­that­while­the­dream­of­8­per­cent growth­was­be­ing­fed­to­ci­ti­zens , ­the growth­wasn’t­in­any­way­eq­ui­table. ­His love­for­reg­gae­and­pas­sion­for­mu­sic­led to­the­cre­ation­of­an­or­gan­i­sa­tion­that­col­lab­o­rates­with­mu­si­cians­who­write­rev­o­lu­tion­ary­songs,­across­the­coun­try.

A­brief­chat­with­Na­tional­Cam­paign for­Peo­ple’s­Right­to­In­for­ma­tion­con­vener An­gela­Ran­gad­re­vealed­how­stu­dents could­get­in­volved­with­the­RTI Act­and­the var­i­ous­cam­paigns­to­bring­more­accountability­in­pub­lic­life.­The­stel­lar­lineup, in­clud­ing­Dey, ­Dalmia­and­Ran­gad­re­leased the­Power of In­spi­ra­tion book­to­end­a­stim­u­lat­ing,­chal­leng­ing­af­ter­noon. ­­

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