As usual the day began with songs of justice and resistance. Activists from the Narmada Valley took to the stage and sang three songs which I was lucky enough to record, (with a little help from Nikhil when they started a song that I couldn’t resist joining in.)
For the rest of the morning,we heard reports from the 16 parallel sessions that had taken place on day 1. Our team, on gender and patriarchy, had submitted typed notes in English, while Gabriele and Mukta presented the report in Tamil and Hindi respectively. I hope that NAPM shares these as well as the notes from the other groups. So without going into details, I will just say that the quality of the sessions was surprisingly good in spite of the short time. Each came out with several concrete and several broad recommendations for NAPM to take up collectively on these fronts.
After lunch I attended a parallel session on Youth in Movements. Nandlal from Varanasi moderated the session. Meera from Badwani said that since no one had any doubt that the movements needs youth, all of us should share our thoughts and suggestions on how to involve youth in movements, to bring in fresh ideas, energy and also, obviously, for the survival of the movements in the next generation.
Of the 50 people attending the session, probably half were under 30. While they had generously thrown out numbers like “under 35” and “under 40” when referring to youth in movements, there were some like me who had slipped in anyway. One person brought up the format of the meeting and said that to involve more youth, this would have to change as we cannot sit through 4-5 hour sessions. “Neither can the non-youth,” I piped up. The difference is that those of us who are already involved look forward to the meetings to meet one another. To make the organization welcoming for new people, regardless of age, it is good to have more opportunities to interact. Of course this will happen more effectively at the local level, and several people from various struggles spoke about events and camps they had organized locally to acquaint local youth with the issues and strategies and seek their participation.
At one point Ojas from Pune offered a different characterization and said that by youth what we mean is cheer, we want our meetings to be cheerful and energetic. To this I would add, “hopefulness.” When I hear the agenda articulated from the stage, I don’t want to be overcome with a sense that we are never going to be able to do this. I want to feel the confidence that with so many people united in this vision, we must carry it forth and show the world that it is possible.
When my turn came, I said that there is no doubt that the movements need youth, we need to ask whether the youth need the movements. The vision of the movements is peace and justice for all but if one has no faith that this is possible, and that peace and justice will be available only for the 10%, then will one want to join the movement or race for that 10%? What can we do to make our vision believable?
Among the youngest attending the session were twenty students of Sal Sabeel Green school, who had come two days early from Kerala to help prepare for the convention, doing every kind of work from cleaning the grounds to practicing songs for the inauguration. I asked them what attending the convention meant to them. One young girl answered, “This work is part of our studies, through this work we learn about life, we understand the work that our mothers do, and various kinds of work that people do in the world.”
You could have heard a pin drop.
The session continued but that last remark gave me pause. It was not what she said but the innocence and faith in her voice. Because honestly, I don’t know how well I have been doing at the job of keeping hope alive. I can keep on keeping on, I can write the letters, I can march the marches and boycott the goods and practice the alternatives. But can I really make it stop, this endless onslaught from the machine?