Youth Development Conference – Harda

Building up on the Timarini Youth Training, a Youth Development Conference was held in Harda, Madhya Pradesh. The event was organized around a dialogue on Peace, justice, love and inclusion was held in Harda. The conference saw a huge participation by the youth with nearly 400 young people in attendance. Apart from the dialogues, panel discussions with a group of representatives from the youth, visit to the Gandhi kuti, a hut where Gandhiji had stayed, school and college visits and a meeting with the collector were the main events of the two days.

The event was organized by Synergy Sansthan, a local NGO which works toward building a collective of good citizens amongst the rural youth with a vision to create a healthy, educated, free from exploitation and an equal and just, harmonious, and peaceful society. Other supporting organization were SHEDO, Tinka, and ‘Voice of Youth’.

The event began with cultural programs. A traditional folk dance of Madhya Pradesh was performed by young girls and boys. Yuvalay, a youth engagement organisation performed a street play, they tried to portray problems like Eve teasing, Education, Poverty, Land rights etc. through their play. A young girl who introduced Jai Jagat said, “We as youth can learn justice and peace not by reading about it in books but by seeing it in our adults, our parents, our teachers and people around us.

A panel discussion was also a part of this event where a group of young people raised questions that were answered by the panel. The panel consisted of Mudit Srivastava, a core walkers and other activists including Shilpa, who worked with youth engagement programs at Indore, Madhya Pradesh, Radhika from Synergy organization, Ex MLA Mr. Dangne, Mr. Shyam and Mudit Shrivatsava one of the core marcher from Jai Jagat Yatra.

The questions revolved around the importance of working with youth, and bringing justice and peace. Conversation of this panel started with the question of importance of dialogues on peace and nonviolence to the youth and teenagers.

Four important questions raised were:

1. How to deal with discrimination that is so prevalent in the society at every stage?erently when a questioner wished to know the difference in education standards in government and public schools. An important point raised was why do the children of government employees do not go to government school but study in private ones instead. The question raised the issue of inequal standards in education.

2. How to deal with discrimination that is so prevalent in the society at every stage?

3. The third question raised the issue of inter-generational gap and exclusion concerning decisions about the young people. One young person said that parents never included children even when the conversation was about the children. He asked, ‘how can they involve us into their conversation?

4. The last question was based on the divide between arts and science. This is a problem of mindset for it is generally believed that engineering or medical are the only two options for a safe future and for these one must pursue science after high school when the decision to opt for subjects is taken. In fact the decision is based on one’s scores in high school which creates a lot of unnecessary stress and a tutorials based society where children work hard to be able to get science in class XI. This, of course, is not the child’s decision but a social issue as a child’s present is sacrificed for the sake of an economical and perceived socially mobile future. As a result, Arts is neglected and potential talents are discouraged while other section that might have been interested in humanities and social sciences are also discouraged because of these prejudices.

Jill Carr Harris drew the attention of the young audience towards the prevailing violence all around them and particularly symptomatic in the virtual technologies of the internet age. She said, “When we use our mobile, we are at once connected globally; we need to be mindful of the nature of content we watch, do and share on internet; most of the content on the internet be it war games, or news, is full of violence. She encouraged them to take up projects based on Jai Jaigat’s four pillars and to share their work with the team. She cited an example of Grade 5 children in Canada who have taken up a cyber peace project to use internet and mobile to share the message of building caring and compassionate relationships.

The team met and interacted with school children the next day and proceeded to interact with students from colleges where the yatra and the four pillars were introduced. The youth team of the Jai Jagat yatra also performed a skit that aimed to sensitize them on nonviolence. Some representatives from the youth team of core walkers, interacted with the college students and spoke of their experiences of the walk and also addressed the issues of violence and environment.

A group of padyatris accompanied Rajagopal for a meeting with the collector along with a group of local youth who were part of the training. Rajagopal during the interaction said, ‘My dream of a discussion between governance, local youth and social activists has come true in Harda. This is the beginning of a nonviolent governance that is open to listening’. He added, compassion has its own strength; one can create conflict-free villages by imbibing the quality of compassion. Let us encourage social movements that are nonviolent. Let’s work towards making Harda a nonviolent district, make it pedestrian friendly, women friendly, differently-abled friendly. Let’s make nonviolence a way of life, of culture”.

In the afternoon the team visited Gandhi Kuti, a hut where Gandhi had stayed during his visit to Harda in 1933. This historical experience marked the last of the programs scheduled for the stay at Harda.