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Youth can be activists even by stapling papers, getting photocopies done: PUCL leader

By Pramod Meena* 

Kavita Srivastav, national secretary, People's Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL), in a conversation with me has said, she has been fighting for issues of social importance without any boundaries, insisting, young students can and should contribute to activism in whatever way possible. "There are no boundaries to human rights, and so to activism", she believes.
Indeed, Kavita has choose a road less traveled, which is what many human rights activists do. They fight for the rights of people who sometimes don't even know they are entitled to get. I got an opportunity to connect with her when she was on the field with an honour killing case victim.
Interacting with me, she told me the story of how the victim's family was shattered and devastated after the incident. It is not the first time she saw something like this. People approach her doorsteps to seek help, and she is willing help in any manner she possibly could.
Violence against women and minorities and atrocities against Dalits and Adivasis are some primary issues she has majorly been dealing with. There are other issues she identifies and works on, such as supporting Rajasthani folk artists, who lost their livelihood during covid and lockdown, financially as well as emotionally.
The domain of human rights as an activist is wide enough to cover the political, socio-economic, and legal rights of all human beings because they are all interconnected, be it the new IT rules or be it the aadhaar privacy issue, which are in some way or other, a threat to our freedom.
How they pursues a case would depend on the situation, there are times they can get involved and investigate the case; in contrast, there are even times when they can only issue a statement to condemn an issue, but during all these, they try their best to support the victims in one or the other ways.
She mentions that there are no boundaries to human rights, and so is the case with activism; we can't act upon one issue and sit quietly on another issue, we need to protect not just humans but flora and fauna around us, the environment around us, because we live here and we are part of it.
Working as an activist since 1994, Kavita has faced multiple challenges throughout her career, be it a threat to arrest, sudden raids by police on the house and office, and significant threat from the opposite parties in the case while fighting for victims of honor killing, rape, cast based atrocities, among others.
She insisted, with the current government in power in India, any challenge to the government for any of its action or policy is propagated as a challenge to national integrity, all thanks to the mainstream media, be it through avoiding telecasting of government criticism, or making adverse remarks on ongoing court cases.
On the question how young students can contribute to activism, Kavita answered that the only way to learn and contribute to this area is by getting into it with whatever time and skills you want to contribute, "we don't need to be full-time activists to make a change."
PUCL, one of the largest human rights groups in India, works with no paid employees, and volunteers do the entire work here, Kavita said, adding, she started her work with stapling and getting photocopies of documents, but even that counts as a contribution.
Young students and even professionals should join activism in any manner possible because even a small article or blog online would be counted as an involvement, she believes. After all, it's not about the amount and nature of work, but about being part of a culture where questioning happens, where you develop an outlook to understand the social issues and raise voices.
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*MBA student, Indian Institute of Management-Bangalore

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