This is a letter to invite you to a reflection on solidarity necessary amongst us, especially those of us who work with civil society in Bangalore, as we go through a very challenging period.
As we chart our course of work through a new year, I feel it would help us all to collectively reflect on how the past year, or two, have gone in our work spheres.
Our worlds overlap. Our praxis of solidarity with each others’ causes and struggles provide much-needed confidence to continue our work. In the prevailing socio-political climate, where mainstream politics perceives civil society opportunistically, and with circumspection most times, the strengths of such assumptions are often tested.
During this past year, we have witnessed a motivated campaign against specific civil society organisations, particularly those who have worked to expose the blatant abuse of political power and those who have systematically addressed human rights abuses, and environmental and social injustices. Particularly targeted are media-persons, who speak truth to power. Painfully, we remember Gauri Lankesh here.
Such machinations are increasingly outcomes of significant and growing influence of non-State actors on statutory bodies and their functions. Those involved in the politics of division and monopolisation of the power of the majority over the minority have made substantial gains, meanwhile, and also in their capacities to influence and control political and administrative power and to manipulate mass media to serve their agendas. An independent and critical civil society network does not suit their agenda. The coming year or two could be a time when civil society’s freedoms would be challenged systemically and systematically as well. All this would be to accentuate the prevailing climate of fear and insecurity, what better a way than to target those who are active in upholding human rights and socio-economic and environmental justices.
Our responses to this situation have been varied. We have come together in solidarity. But this has often been in reaction to vulnerabilities, not in pro-actively addressing threats and risks and for building our strengths – individual, organisational and collective. In the prevailing political climate, it would make immense sense for us to come together and to consider the need for such solidarity and collective action.
This coming together, I feel, is especially important given that so many organisations, and individuals who are a part of civil society, are struggling to find the necessary rhythm, strength and resources to sustain their activities and relationships, internally, even as they are required to engage with and respond to external socio-political dynamics. This is accentuating the stressful conditions in our lives, and this is a critical reason why we need to work collectively.
Jai Sen is an old friend of movements and networks in India and abroad. He is now travelling through Bangalore, and I asked him if he would help us all critically engage with these dimensions of our work and our lives. He accepted my request and is willing to highlight some dimensions that necessary for us to focus our discussions on. We could then deliberate how we can move forward, collectively and in solidarity with each other.
I am aware that this is an invitation that should have come to you a while ago. But at ESG we have been dealing with a lot, and we have had to figure out how to get ESG to survive the multiple challenges we are facing now. So I hope you will forgive me for this rather late invitation.
Please do come and participate in this conversation at ESG Workshop Space this Friday, 12th January, 4.30 pm to 8 pm followed by light dinner and refreshments. The address is 1575, Ring Road, Banashankari II Stage, Bangalore 560070. It is easily accessible by Metro: Jayprakash Nagar Station. Map: https://goo.gl/maps/MoiSrAzRNfF2 or look for ESG Workshop Space. Same thing works for Ola and Uber cabs.
Kindly write a line to confirm your participation, and also in suggesting if we need to invite others. I am aware my list is very limited, and I advance apologies to so many friends and comrades who I may have missed inviting. In case you invite them, please ask them to send a line of confirmation as well. (For directions, please call Mallesh: 9448377402. To send a text message in confirmation, please text or whatsapp me on 9448377403)