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Nimrat Kaur to Rajiv Pratap Rudy, highlights from the fourth edition of Democracy Wall

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Democracy Wall is a free speech campus initiative, the fourth edition of which was held at Panjab University, Chandigarh.

Actor Nimrat Kaur, rapper Sofia Ashraf, MP Rajiv Pratap Rudy, co-founder of YLAC India Aparajita Bharti, constitutor Meghnad and comedian Shyam Rangeela were the guests at the fourth edition of Democracy Wall held at Panjab University.

Here are the highlights from the event:

Nimrat Kaur, actor

Actors should be able to decide what issues they want to take stands on and it is very subjective, actor Nimrat Kaur said Tuesday.

“It is a personal choice. I don’t understand why actors are expected to put themselves out there like that,” she said in conversation with ThePrint’s Kaveesha Kohli at Democracy Wall at Panjab University, Chandigarh.

“It’s very subjective, we shouldn’t pressure anyone into something that makes them feel vulnerable,” the actor said.

On being asked about nepotism in the film industry, Kaur said, “It is easier for people to take up the profession of their fathers. It’s a perfectly acceptable thing to do.”

But she admitted it was a lot tougher for outsiders.

Meghnad, constitutional expert

Meghnad S at Democracy Wall
Meghnad S, speaking at ThePrint’s Democracy Wall

Civics is just considered as a subject for a 20 marks paper, where we read “big big words” without knowing their meaning, says constitution expert Meghnad S. We don’t take it seriously, and after working with MPs for years, he said that he realised that even our parliamentarians don’t understand it.

Indians are lazy and Mahatma Gandhi knew how to actualise it and thus by a chain of lazy people not working hard (even to retaliate) the British had to give up and leave, he said.

Meghnad used an eighth grade civics book to expose the gap between what is taught in schools and how people act. Using examples from contemporary politics, he spoke about the hypocrisy of our political leaders.

Sofia Ashraf, rapper

Sofia Ashraf, speaking at ThePrint’s Democracy Wall

“Don’t let people shame you for dissent,” said rapper Sophia Ashraf.

According to Ashraf, social media is the new platform for social protest, and the fear of fighting for ‘small’ causes shouldn’t deter us from raising our voices about what matters to us. Ashraf emphasised the importance of tolerating and engaging with forms of dissent.

“To a bhakt or a sexist, you’re the one calling out the troll,” she said. “So it is through inclusivity and love that you can truly change things.”

Ashraf also spoke about caste privilege, including her own experiences of treating caste as a culture.

“The ability to be blind to caste is also a privilege,” she concluded.

Rajiv Pratap Rudy, BJP MP

Rajiv Pratap Rudy, speaking at ThePrint’s Democracy Wall

Rajiv Pratap Rudy has been a politician for the past 30 years, and thinks there is vacuum in Indian politics today.

Everyone wants engineers and doctors but no one says “Mera beta MLA banega”, the former minister said. It is the vacuum that enables people who simply chase the “lal batti (red beacon)”, he said.

Having been the skill development minister, Rudy said the education system was very flawed.

The whole system is so flawed, and 80 per cent of the people should not study beyond 10th or 12th standard, he said.

The MP, who is also an alumnus of Panjab University, spoke candidly of the university’s current condition where it is debt-ridden and students clashed with the police while protesting against fee increases.

“It’s not the same, PU doesn’t look correct,” he said.

Aparajita Bharti, co-founder, YLAC India

Aparajita Bharti (left), speaking at ThePrint’s Democracy Wall

“The problem in India is that we do passive citizenship,” said Aparajita Bharti at ThePrint’s Democracy Wall. Bharti elaborated on India’s discomfort with questioning its leaders.

“There is a mai-baap, paternal feeling towards the government,” she said.

Bharti emphasised the importance of developing a counter narrative. She said that the immense flood of hate speech can no longer be countered by censorship, but by positive narratives to shift the nature of conversation.

She said that it is the lack of safe spaces in universities that hampers counter narratives. Further, the universities aren’t student, but faculty-driven, and students have a tendency to not look beyond immediate needs. This attitude is what prevents Indian universities from having a real voice.

Bharti also spoke about the apathy people have towards performing fundamental duties. While the constitution expects us to be the best versions of ourselves, the culture in India is ‘jugaad’, she said.

Shyam Rangeela, comedian

Shyam Rangeela, speaking at Democracy Wall

Opening with the mimicry act that shot him to fame, Shyam Rangeela, imitated the likes of Narendra Modi, Rahul Gandhi, and Baba Ramdev. The comedian said they’re all single people and that’s why they’re especially close to his heart.

Rangeela critiqued demonetisation and ‘vikaas’ as well as Gandhi’s political entitlement and Kejriwal’s victim complex.

Concluding with remarks on digital economy, Rangeela used a pun to mock the prime minister.

“Isn’t Rajnath keshless (hairless)? Look at Amit Shah. He too is keshless. I believe in a cashless economy so much that chose a keshless CM (Adityanath) as well,” the comedian said imitating the prime minister.

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