In the previous class, Rajosmita had left the students with a list of terms to dig deeper into. Picking two from there I began my first class for this new batch of the Human Rights Defenders programme at Chowringhee High: Civil law and Martial law.
ccccOne student read out a definition of civil law from Wikipedia — none of the students had a different source for their definition, so I asked them to explain what it means. This led to a small discussion drawing from their responses, on who is a civilian and who isn’t, why the police and army are not considered civilian— ‘Because they are there to protect the civilians’, ‘No, they protect politicians’—what the function of police and army are in a nation. When I asked what martial law means, if it exists in West Bengal (‘No’), and if they could give me examples of where it exists, they gave the following answers: Kashmir, Assam, Delhi. When I probed further asking them to share their reasons for naming these places, a brief discussion on recent anti-Muslim violence leading to communal tensions in Delhi and ground impact of the NRC final list in Assam, ensued, absed on their reasons. I asked them to look up what AF(S)PA means.
ccccDisplaying these two sections from the excerpts of Anne Frank’s diary that the students had already read from in previous classes, I asked them to read and then consider which prevailed in Germany under Hitler, martial or civil law. We explored some questions arising from the text in these slides – what kind of society must one live in for it to be a ‘risk’ to help an elderly disabled person, what does it mean for nationality to be taken away, what made ‘things were still bearable’ turn into ‘there are no greater enemies on earth than the Germans and Jews’ within four months. This led to a discussion that continued till the end of class on how we define ‘we’, who we don’t include in the ‘we’, how circles are determined even in our private spheres to create insiders and outsiders, why the Jews, Romani, Communists, homosexuals were targeted by the Nationalist Socialists, how such a massive project of persecution could be implemented and what could convince so many civilians to undertake it.