Saturday, 19 October 2013

Making a Song and Dance about Democracy!

This month at the Loktantra Shala, we made a song and dance about democracy, literally!  Around thirty people from around Rajasthan came to learn how to use street theatre to create awareness among people about the upcoming Rajasthan elections.

The participants, under the guidance of Mazdoor Kisan Shakti Sangathan veteran Shankar Singh, learned about different aspects of street theatre. The intention was to teach the participants’ how to create activism through art. The three-day workshop, which started on Oct. 3, started with a discussion on the elections, scheduled for December. The budding thespians were cautioned about the need to be neutral while reinforcing the message that voters need to reject candidates who campaign on caste or communal issues or resort to inducements like liquor and cash.

The group then got down to the basics of crafting street theatre. They learnt how to create slogans and songs, write a script for a street play and enact it effectively to communicate the need for clean electoral politics. They also picked up the finer points of voice modulation, tweaking folk tunes into political songs, writing the appropriate lyrics and how to keep the audience engaged. There were interactive games designed to keep the workshop fun and singing sessions where everyone joined in.

On the third day the participants were broken up into smaller groups and told to enact the script they had written. The play was simple: Two “candidates” speak to the people about the benefits of voting for them and, in a nod-nod-wink-wink style, the benefits that they will create for themselves upon being voted into power.  Issues like drinking water, food, health and education were brought up. In the end, the narrator told the audience that if they are not satisfied with any of the candidates they can exercise the newly constituted “none of the above” option.
The theatre group then headed out to the nearby village of Badi-ka-Badia to test their newly acquired skills. Armed with mobile microphones and a musical troupe, they sang songs and slogans to attract the villagers and performed the play. It was well received by the villagers, who shared their concerns about electoral democracy and promised to vote for the right candidates.      

Wednesday, 8 May 2013

What are the themes that the School for Democracy will deal with?

The SFD will look at democratic education, the constitution and its constituent parts. It will broadly cover political, socio-economic, and cultural aspects of a working democracy. The indicative list themes will be deepened by learner demands and the curricula will be drawn from this list.

This could include, the nature of governance and its manifestation, peoples control over decision making and establishing accountability. Economic models from the initial socialist planning process to the present market based economy. PRI institutions. It will also look at the relationship between State responsibility and market etc. This part will also deal with different forms of governance, as well as formations. The political system will broadly be divided into the electoral system of representative democratic process and institutions and the non-party political process inherited from Gandhi, JP and Vinobha. We will locate current movement politics in this context. The School will also deal with the role of culture and religion in a secular democracy.

How will the School for Democracy address these themes?

The School will facilitate three broad groups of learning to begin with
The first will be theoretical learning about varied aspects of democracy.
The second will be collective learning through action followed by reflection. They could be yatras, dharnas, protests, etc, which take current political concerns as the base for the same themes which are detailed in one above.
The third will be the organizing of specialized groups to look at specified issues of concern, like for example wages being looked at by a “People’s pay Commission” etc.