Your tools are your voice, your camera, your video, your ideas and your passion. Your stage is your community. Now, how do you get the people and their concerns past apathy, past barriers, past their fears, all the way across the tipping point, into action?
Sarwat Naqvi, Community Correspondent from Raipur, Chhattisgarh tells you how. He made a video depicting the struggles and marginal existences of the LGBT community in his city.
The video offers a bleak portrait of a group of people who are afraid to move into the light and live cloistered existences in one of the most orthodox regions of the country.
“Discrimination was rife,” says Sarwat at the 3rd IndiaUnheard Training Camp, where community correspondents across India are meeting for a week to strategize impact. "Even within the community itself. When I was working with them for my video, I saw that many of them were unserious and in denial about the situation they were in. The conflict for this community begins at an early age and the first persecution occurs within the confines of their homes. Gradually, they become comfortable living their lives in darkness.”
Once he showed them the video, a momentum seemed to gather around it. The video screenings became the center around which the community began to meet together and organize. The video was speaking for them in the way they had always wanted to, unafraid and reaching out. They now had a voice and a platform and strength in numbers. Through the power of video, they found the power of community. Where they were always looking inwards, they found themselves looking into the future. In a matter of months, they got together to form the first ever LGBT support and advocacy group in the state of Chhattisgarh and the named themselves ‘Mitwa’, meaning ‘companion’ in the local dialect. These days, they are campaigning together; holding protest marches and sit-ins, they are out in the streets claiming their identity and their rights.
Sarwat’s impact video made on this process was screened to thunderous applause. And the second day of the IU training made its focus clear- How does one generate an impact? How does one put this apparatus to work?
Sarwat’s video was put under a scanner.
When the video was being made, the correspondent consulted with the community and ensured that they were closely involved in the production. It was a sensitive topic and the correspondent made sure to respect the sensibilities of the people involved. Once the video was edited, he organized a screening with the people he had worked with and consulted. They were then encouraged to hold screenings for other members of the community. The correspondent acted as the agency to bring together interested parties. He encouraged and promoted networking with more screening. And most importantly, he documented the entire process.
Other impact videos from the IndiaUnheard were screened and examined on these parameters and the discussion moved from the community to the center of power- the government and the authorities. The big question was- How does one move the system?
"It's important to understand that corrupt politicians in power and we are essentially the same, said Stalin K, trainer at the very outset. "Our value systems may be different but the very same things drive us. Our weaknesses are the same. In the light of that fact, I'd only like to say, Thank God they're not from outer space otherwise we'd never be able to guess what’s on their mind. And that would be scary."
"While dealing with the authorities, there are some easy tactics that one must never resort to- violence and bribery. The strength of a protest movement is in well-organized numbers, its ability to restrain itself from the worst impulses and in its integrity. In the fight against the beast in the system, one must always keep oneself in check, never losing sight of the purpose and never becoming the beast oneself."
The beast was then put on the dissecting table and the vital organs of the politicians, the ones that make them tick were listed- public interest, power, prestige and the big M that crosses any and all ideology- money. Not very different from the average human being. To make them listen to the voice of the campaign, one must feed and stroke the public interest and put power, prestige and money in jeopardy.
The CCs have with them their identities, their communities, their leadership skills, their passion and their camera. Each facet has to be levered beneath the beast and get it to topple. The key word is information that must be conveyed effectively. If the roads are damaged and the gravel is coming out, don’t just point the camera and narrate it but get down to the road and examine the material. Get experts to give bytes. Verify and cross check the information that you are providing on the camera. A perfect strategy to have all the details would be to file a Right To Information.
With this information charted in their minds, the CCs were then asked to identify possible impacts in their districts and communities which they would work on after returning from camp. Jai Kumar, our Community Correspondent from Ludhiana, Punjab said," I had a made video on sewage cleaners descending into the cesspool of the city without any kind of protection for their skin, or masks to protect them from the fumes. It is an archaic oppressive practice that has continued for years without any improvement in the lives of the workers. When I go back, I will gather the community together and if the authorities aren't stirred by our voices, the community will take matters in its own hands. This is a promise I have made to myself and my colleagues."
“And always remember,” said Stalin, "The government may not be a friend but they’re humans, mortals, weak. The law itself maybe unjust, but as a citizen you have every right to speak out, to transgress but in peace and with full integrity. If you’re chasing the truth, all else can be sacrificed but integrity. It is the core of your struggle, of your movement, your community and yourself.”
Video Volunteers was awarded at a gala function held at BAFTA, London.