The PeaceWorks Human Rights Defenders Programme at Ashok Hall : Day 4

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This was a brief class which was held pretty soon after the previous one, so we just picked up from where we left off, and the students caught on very fast. 


We had asked the students to discuss everything they learnt with at least one other classmate who was not taking this course, and one heartening news that we got was that one class teacher had kindly yielded her time to one of the students to give a brief overview of the Armenian genocide to the rest of her class. She was very enthusiastic about how she was now responsible for 60 people knowing about the Armenian genocide and that was one of the most rewarding moments in the entire exercise. 


In any case, we wanted to focus on reconciliation and aftermath of genocide, which is why we used Rwanda as our case study. We wanted to debunk the myth that United Nations or an international body comes and saves the day when injustice happens—to highlight that it is everyday people who work very hard for it. 


In order to do that, we gave them a small brief about what exactly happened during the Rwandan genocide. We put emphasis on the involvement of everyday people in spreading hate and fear, but avoided too many references to the gory details of the violence itself.


We used a video made for the 25 years of the Rwanda justice tribunal of the International Court of Justice to show what the international community had done to repair the situation in the region. 


We then aired documentaries and gave them newspaper clips* about how the everyday people came up with a whole range of community building exercises on the ground level to effect change.


We compared the two visions of how peace building is really done—the top bird’s eye view with fancy graphics and large numbers, and the everyday actions of digging a ditch with your neighbour or building roads together to sort of build back trust in the community, how both are important to heal wounds between people.


Interestingly, the students automatically moved to the Partition when we were discussing reconciliation. They drew similarities in the massacre of people by other everyday people, and tried to understand why similar things had not been done to bridge the horrific gap between Hindus and Muslims in India post the horrors of 1947.


It was a rather engaging discussion, but due to the paucity of time we had to cut it short after a little segue into the Sudan Blue crisis and global responsibility in times of injustice. We discussed remaining quiet or extending solidarity with a cause- and also the dangers of co opting a movement for own personal and economic gain like with the #blueforSudan campaign. 



-Sanjukta, Sreemoyee