My internship at Alternative Law Forum was generally a very fulfilling experience for me, because, firstly, my area of interest overlapped with the work and secondly, the comfortable and free environment created by the people working there encouraged me to be more involved in the work. The eternal intern dilemma of “Should I ask this question, because it really sounds idiotic?” slowly stopped being a question for me, and with that my apprehensions withered away.
The office, is genuinely a free space, with minimal hierarchy, which allows you to speak to everybody. One of the great things about interning at ALF is that they provide everyone with lunch, and not the ‘college canteen’ kind of lunch, but the ‘I am already craving for it and its only 10 am’ kind of lunch. It also has a great library, with books not only limited to law but across various disciplines, which to me is a symbolic representation of how ALF looks at law- not as an isolated subject, but with several points of confluence with different disciplines like literature, economics, philosophy, politics etc. Therefore, my internship experience with the law was not only confined to litigation or research, it was beyond that, with events such as law and literature and the documentary screening of “Caste on the Menu card” and the subsequent discussion after it show the collectives acceptance of the political nature of law.
If I had absolutely no clue about something before ALF, it would have been organizing and mobilizing civil movements in several ways, this opened up a whole new set of important questions and dilemmas for me that are necessary for me to think about if I am to be an active member of civil society in the future.
Some of the very profound questions whilst campaigning for rights of marginalized groups are, how to work with heterogeneous groups with different ideas and identities, in the face of marginalization or exclusion by the state? To what extent should we as privileged lawyers or activists “induce” class consciousness amongst the oppressed? Or when should we take charge or not take charge of a protest or movement? If we do “lead” the marginalized to getting their interests in the form of actualizing rights, are we taking away their agency? If it is the privileged that are speaking in a protest, and the privileged that are leading an organic movement, shouldn’t we be careful so as to not to imitate the very oppressors we are protesting against, in the form of maintaining the voicelessness of the subaltern classes.
These were the questions, the members were grappling with, agreeing at times and disagreeing at other. This insight into the issues of mobilization and advocacy is something that I will eternally be grateful to ALF for giving me.
Afeef Mohammed, ALF Intern
Institute of law, Nirma University, Ahmedabad