Express press service
CHENNAI: The Anna Centenary Library has seen many ‘firsts’ from the vibrant youth movement that is Young People for Politics. It was the first time that such a non-partisan grassroots organization could come to the library to organize a conference on politics and youth participation. For many of its members and volunteers, it was the first time at the library itself. For many others, this was their first foray into hosting and organizing such an event. For almost everyone, it was the first time they had interacted with a minister, that too on aspects of governance and politics itself.
This was the first time that YPP rolled out its awards to recognize and augment the work of emerging young leaders in several areas of community work and education. For many winners, this was the first recognition of their work. All of this is in line with one of the organization’s central themes: constantly encouraging young leaders, especially those from vulnerable backgrounds. Radhika Ganesh, founder of YPP, couldn’t be prouder. “The entire Youth for Politics cohort is a very diverse community of people. There were so many important ‘firsts’ (for us) yesterday and we are very proud to have created this,” she shares.
Debates and speeches
The evening opened with a lively discussion on the state of youth policy in Tamil Nadu, with an interesting array of speakers – Mano Thangaraj, Tamil Nadu Minister of Information Technology, Narthaki Nataraj, Bharathanatyam Dancer and Member of TN State Development Policy Council, Suresh Sambandam, Founder and CEO of Kissflow, Oliver Ballhatchet, Deputy British High Commissioner, Chennai. Even as the minister reminisced about his early years in politics and his gradual rise to the current post of power, he was subjected to questions about the government’s position on political education and participation – why didn’t we us no place for an active student policy like in Kerala? What is the government prepared to do to encourage student body elections at every college and university in the state? What can he do to make it easier for the common man to register his grievance against governance and bureaucracy and see it through to the end? What help and protection can the government offer when an average citizen is opposed to the whole system?
Although there was little the Minister could respond to, many of which had years of experience in community work and grassroots movements, the discussion highlighted the shortcomings of our current political lifestyle. . The Minister himself pointed to the worrying shortage of young MPs and political leaders. This may be the start of more such conversations with governance and, in the future, lead to more direct action.
new age journalism
Session aside, the prime time of the day was reserved for the launch of YPP’s local news YouTube channel called Link, created for and by its members from marginalized backgrounds. With eight members at the helm, the program was centered in Delhi to begin with. After a year of training, mainly with documentary filmmaker Anurag Singh and seasoned journalist Sushil Kumar, the team has already started reporting on the ground. “All of them come from a kind of vulnerable background – most of them are Muslim, there’s a Dalit, a lot of them are women. The vision is to replicate this in other places (where YPP is present).
However, it is a very small company with no funds or institutional support. Since this happened mostly through independent support and goodwill, scaling up will be slow. But Tamil Nadu is definitely a place where we want to bring that; we are particularly interested in young dalits here. Over the next year, however, we are looking to strengthen operations in Delhi. Give these young people the platform they need to thrive, create an environment where they feel safe and nurtured to start spreading news as active journalists,” says Radhika. Given the organization’s inherent intergenerational learning process, their learning would be augmented by more than just the two designated veterans of the field, she adds.
YPP Champions Awards – 2022
Emerging Leader in Cultural Reconciliation
What began as an exploration of the intangible heritage of her community in the Islamic city of Kayalpatnam in Thoothukudi, led Sumaiya into the world of chronicling the non-traditional. The writer has devoted much of his work to discovering diversity through food. Someone who believes there is no mainstream, she wants to pay attention to the multitudes in our identity through her work. “I focus on politics around food. We think the food we eat is out of choice. But there is a lot of politics as to why Dalits eat what they do and upper castes have their own food. It all comes down to caste in India,” she points out.
Emerging Leader in Environmental Justice
A writer, naturalist, educator and activist, Yuvan’s years of research and documentation – particularly in the area of coastal biodiversity – have never been without the added responsibility of educating young minds. This recently resulted in the birth of his dream project, Palluyir Trust for Nature Education and Research. “My main exploration in the work I do is to see if it is possible that our political and educational systems are fundamentally centered on ecological and human values. And I believe in the energy of young people as the key to any kind of cultural and socio-political reform,” he shares.
Emerging Leader in Upholding Constitutionalism
A lawyer and legal tutor, Thilagavathi has also assumed the roles of writer, poet, women’s rights activist and feminist. She has trained students and teachers in schools and government colleges on gender sensitivity, child sexual abuse prevention and more. Using her space within the judiciary, she has also worked actively on social justice cases. “The idea is to plant the ideas of gender and justice in the minds of young people. How we empower girls and educate boys is important and the two must be done together. For this, we must work to bring equality in terms of caste, class and much more,” she suggests.
Emerging leader in the innovative use of new media
Illustrator artist and aspiring filmmaker, Shajan relies on the digital medium to express his politics of social justice. His art has served to sensitize Dalit leaders and call for a deeper understanding of their work. He believes the medium has great potential to deliver equality politics. “This society continues to be in an unequal state in every way. This is where we need to challenge the norm and our art should do the same. In a place of status quo, art can create the disruption we don’t want to have. Art for art’s sake is reserved for the privileged. Art should always be for the people,” he suggests.
Emerging Leader in Gender Justice
This Madurai-born queer activist and writer decided to start the nonprofit Aniyam and launch a much-needed service through his Sevigal hotline to make life easier for LGBTQIA+ people. Her work began with the stripped down publication of Paalmanam, a Tamil e-magazine that offered real stories of queer experiences. A compilation of this became the book, Seruppai Thingiren. And he would like to do a lot more. “The last step is wellness. We want to set up temporary foster homes for LGBTQIA+ people in need. Thanks to this, we can prevent suicide in our population and also provide social assistance. During this time, we are creating literature for ourselves too,” he explains.
Arjun & Rishi
Emerging leaders of anti-caste politics
These two digital creators have made their anti-caste politics heard through their YouTube channel, Therukootam. Their insights and understanding of Ambedkarite, Periyarist and Marxist ideologies and their views on issues of current importance reach 26,000 subscribers and counting. “Even today there are many caste-based issues – from caste-based murder to harassment of students. We should be treated as equal human beings and respected for who we are. After being deprived of education for so long, we don’t want it to affect Dalit students in schools and colleges again,” says Arjun.
Instagram: @anbudan_arjun_ & @ivan_rishi