On 21st February 2021, the Centre for Law and Policy Research (CLPR) set up a ‘Social Justice Café,’ with equal rights on the menu, at Church Street, Bengaluru from 2:00 P.M. to 6:00 P.M. The Sunday Church Street frolickers were treated to two parts of the event: Activities designed to raise awareness on transgender rights, right to Equality, and prohibition of discrimination based on race, caste, sex, and religion; and discussion with an esteemed panel of Jayna Kothari, Arvind Narayan, and Sanjay Kabir Bavikatte.
As soon as the Café was set up, flyers handed out by CLPR team members drew numbers to the booth. People were encouraged to participate in word search puzzles, match the following and surveys. The CLPR team actively engaged people in discussions and introduced them to LGBTQIA+ terms, the oppression and stigma attached, and the constitutional rights available to persons from the community.
The participants included persons from all walks of life. Curious and empathetic adolescents, college students, working professionals, lawyers, and families found their way to the Café. Not only was the experience enlightening for the participants, but it was also a day to remember for the CLPR team. “The conversations with people, seeing them realise and be sensitive to the societal stigma attached to transgender persons is truly motivating” shared the Communication and Advocacy Director of CLPR, Ritambhara Singh.
The event concluded with a panel discussion at 4:30 PM, which gathered participants in large numbers. Arvind Narrain, the founder member of Alternative Law Forum, drew references to Gandhi’s ideas on disaffection towards the Government, to share his insights on freedom of expression and dissent in contemporary India. Jayna Kothari, Senior Advocate and co-founder of CLPR spoke about the limiting nature of Article 15 in realising equality on the basis of disability, age, educational qualification, class etc. She urged the need for an Equality Bill that recognises the aforementioned grounds and addresses equality and discrimination from an intersectional view. Sanjay Kabir Bavikatte, founder of Natural Justice made the listeners ponder whether there is a need for more rights or a better implementation of the rights. Drawing upon the climate justice movement, he urged social movements to seek inter-generational equality and move away from the “tyranny of now”.
The discussion also witnessed interesting questions from the audience. A participant asked: In a deeply polarised society, how does one build dialogue and debate about relevant social issues, especially with one’s family members? Arvind Narrain suggested that one can invoke mythology and other popular texts to weave progressive arguments. Jayna Kothari argued that heavy reliance must be placed on the Constitution of India, 1950: people, irrespective of ideological preference would not reject constitutional provisions or principles.
The activities along with their answer key are available under the resource tab.
This blog is authored by Varsha Singh, a fifth-year law student from Christ (Deemed to be University). She is currently interning with CLPR.