Saturday 28 February, Dr. Shveta realized months of planning and effort when she convened the third RGNUL international and multidisciplinary human rights conference. She led students and faculty in welcoming two justices of the African Court of Human and Peoples’ Rights (Arusha, Tanzania), President Justice Augustino Ramadhani
and Justice Fatsah Ouguergouz, and his daughter, Aïsha. (Again, I thank Mr. Pritpal Singh for sharing his wonderful photographs of the event.) RGNUL hosted speakers from across India and some who participated from Canada, Nigeria, and Australia (to name just a few) via Skype.
Not only did speakers present papers, students also showcased their efforts with a photography exhibit of human rights issues in India (more on this topic in a future post).
The students did a fabulous job with the pictures and with their roles in carrying out assigned tasks for the conference. They assisted with every detail from transport to IT.
Having attended the Global Consumerism Conference the prior weekend, I felt like a member of the RGNUL family now, visiting with the justices and Aïsha at the Guest House and in the Vice Chancellor’s office.
The conference began with the ceremonial rituals that I had found so charming at the last conference. The giving of flowers and the lighting of the lamp of knowledge.
We heard speeches from the Vice Chancellor, Dr. Shveta, and the justices.
The ceremonies were ably moderated by two students, Ms. Nehmat Bajwa and Ms. Shivani Bhatnagar.
I spoke on “Equality, Dignity, . . . and Privacy: African, American, and Indian ‘Pansexual’ Human Rights.” I decided on this topic because of two prompting events of the prior week. First, Sec. of State John Kerry appointed Randy Berry, Special Envoy for LGBT Human Rights. Second, the Indian University Grants Commission sent all faculty a letter encouraging the inclusion of transgendered students and calling for “research on the life and culture of [the] TG Community.” I felt emboldened by both to discuss LGBTI rights as protected (or not) in the Afro-Indian regions.
I was a little nervous but afterwards, handshakes from Dr. Shveta and President Ramadhani from the dais and thumbs up from my Indian colleagues (thanks to Prof. Dr. Manoj Sharma, Prof. Dr. Jasleen Kewlani, and Professors Geetika Walia, Gagan Preet, Brindpreet Kaur, and Gurmanpreet Kaur👍) left me reassured that my topic was well received. The presentation of special Indian gifts and the national anthem closed the opening ceremony.
At the end of the day and much enlightening discussion, the cool kids crashed at the Guest House. By then, Dr. Shveta’s daughters, Aarza and Seerat, were there to help with the post-conference celebration. President Ramadhani enjoyed their conversation greatly.
I also enjoyed the chance to relax with the “girls” after a stressful few days. Naturally, there are more stories than one can print. Cases of tummy turmoil, viruses on “pen drives” (aka flash drives), taxi snafus, difficult attendees. But at the end of the day, the conference was, by all reports, a huge success. I hope IU will be able to host the justices and Dr. Shveta on some future occasion. However, I will miss these fabulous Indian law students at that future event.
Thanks to Dr. Shveta and her students for a terrific introduction to Afro-Indian human rights!