This was my first class with this batch of students at the Chowringhee High School. It was a class of approximately 30 students from the 9th grade.
ccccThe class began with me writing out some words drawing from the module including Anne Frank, human rights, Nazi, Fascism, identity, caste, religion, gender, citizenship. The students were given a bit to think about these and pen down their immediate thoughts on them. This was followed by a discussion around what they thought of these words, what it brought to them. This moved towards tracing how all of these markers like caste, gender, religion, citizenship trace itself to that one big term- identity. An interesting point came up in this conversation regarding the origin of the word Dalit. While one student suggested that it was the oppressed castes who used it to refer to themselves, another student interjected and asked why anyone would want to highlight their own oppression publicly by referring to themselves as Dalit, thus, suggesting that it was a term that the upper castes had used to refer to the lowest caste. This then transitioned smoothly into reading excerpts from the Anne Frank diary.
ccccThe students had quite a few questions regarding social exclusion, race, this process of forceful cleansing of a particular community. We then moved towards an introduction to what human rights mean, the role of the United Nations along with other human rights organizations in that regard. Finally, we concluded with reading some parts from Jerry Pinto’s ‘A Question of Identity’ and I left them with this one sentence from that piece: ‘the fading is much much faster for the lesser beings…’. They were told to interpret this sentence in their own ways, given the context of the Anne Frank story and the larger discussion through that class around human rights, identity, social exclusion, hierarchy.