The PeaceWorks Human Rights Defenders Programme at Ashok Hall Girls’ HSS: Day 2

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We began the second class with a basic overview of what we had done in the previous class since there had been a two week disconnect. As this class was a double period we had the opportunity to cover a lot of ground.

ccccWe intended to cover the Jewish Holocaust next as per the module, but decided to focus instead on the question of how it happened since the students were very familiar with the factual aspect of the genocide. We used a Khan Academy Video that underlined How Hitler Came to Power, breaking down the various tools he used under categories of coercion, propaganda, positive and negative reinforcement and identity/nation building. 

ccccWe had brought along a collection of posters of the Nationalist Socialist Party, and the students spent some time breaking each of the posters down to identify the different elements of propaganda being used to create a collective White Aryan German Identity.

ccccThis was especially important in the way the Jews were portrayed—the kind of language used (‘infestations’ and ‘exterminations’) and then we tried to compare it with the rhetoric used against Muslims in India and in the West. 

ccccIslamophobia and the propaganda machine behind it can be clearly seen once we understand the process of indoctrination that went in behind anti-semitism.

ccccWe read out the poem ‘When They Came For The Jews’ as an introduction to the second half of the class where we spoke about two basic aspects of the holocaust—why did no ordinary German stop the killing of the Jews (through Hannah Arendt’s concept of the Banality of Evil) and how we do not know a tyrant for one till it is too late; and the time preceding the Holocaust when  ideas of Eugenics and racial superiority gain popularity, later used to legitimize the process of violence. Here we included a short section on the persecution of the Uighur Muslims, while the students identified similar traits between the Chinese persecution of Uighurs and early European persecution of the Jews. 

ccccThe class was extremely interactive, with everyone adding to examples of propaganda and identity building through the process of ‘othering’.

ccccSince we would be reconvening in a while and it was the month before general Lok Sabha elections we decided it would be wise to actually have a simple exercise they could do during the vacations. We asked the students to gather posters and party-sponsored advertisements and isolate the propaganda elements from them.  

ccccThis exercise will hopefully train them to identify propaganda from news much more promptly and equip them with the crucial skill of recognizing/ identifying exploitation. 


-Sanjukta, Sreemoyee