Ek Potlee Ret Ki, is neither a run-of-the-mill NGO, nor a registered unit of any kind. It was envisioned, and today functions purely as a people’s collective. It is supported and strengthened through collective participation and contribution. Apart from a few members who contribute as full-time karyakartas, the collective receives a great amount of solidarity and participation from a vide range of friends who believe in, and align with Ek Potlee’s ideology and methods.
Radhika Ganesh is a social-cultural-political activist with over eight years of experience working in the grassroots, in India, on various rights based issues. After completing her higher education in the UK, getting a postgraduate degree in Design and Communication, she began working with cotton farmers in the state of Tamil Nadu. What began as a social-entrepreneurial initiative unwittingly set stage for her activist career. Faced with multiple hurdles, she quickly realised systems put in place to aid people are in themselves most often acting as deterrents to equality and progress. She mobilised young people from various farming communities and actively participated in the India Against Corruption movement in 2010-11. With an urge to learn, she joined the Mazdoor Kisan Shakthi Sangathan (MKSS) in Rajasthan, and began to work with the poor and marginalised on issues of rights and entitlements.
Living in the remote village of Badi Ka Badia in Bhilwara district of Rajasthan for over two years, she contributed to developing the School For Democracy (SFD), an institution built to impart education and awareness on democracy and constitutional rights. The next year was spent traveling across rural Rajasthan spearheading the Shiksha Ka Sawaal Abhiyan, a campaign that used the Right to Information as a means to initiate citizen monitoring of government schools and public education systems. This was followed by her participation in the Jawabdehi Andholan, a movement demanding Jawabdehi Kanoon (Accountability Law). Radhika today actively contributes, in various capacities, to multiple national and state campaigns apart from being on the governing and executive bodies of different civil society organisations in India.
Her background in design and her innate love for arts and crafts drew her closer to communities with rich cultural capital. Along with her friend and colleague Paras Banjara, she conceptualised Ek Potlee Ret Ki (Kaani Nilam in Tamil) an activist collective that will take up preservation of cultural identity and diversity as fundamental rights.
Apart from advocacy works with District Administrations, State and Central Governments, the collective is currently involved in extensive community mobilisation to build an alternate peoples’ political platform called NATION (National Alliance of Traditional, Indigenous, Occupational and Nomadic Communities).
Radhika has spent the better part of this year in Cuddalore district of Tamil Nadu, where she has undertaken targeted interventions through NATION to address juvenile involvement in violent caste and identity induced conflicts and is now traveling across the state identifying and mobilising various marginalised communities to assert rights, preserve diversity in cultures, fight social stigmatisation, and oppose political exploitation.
Paras Banjara, an activist from Rajasthan with over a decade of experience working on rights based issues. Hailing from a Banjara (nomadic community) family, he was among the first to graduate from his entire community. Driven by first-hand experiences of having been raised in a community that, even today, faces social stigma and economic depravity, Paras is passionate about creating an equal and just society
After receiving his Masters in Social Work, he spent a short period of time serving in a Government job. Not satisfied, and with a burning need to return to his roots, Paras took to activism. He spent his initial years as an activist with the Mazdoor Kisan Shakthi Sangathan (MKSS), where he actively contributed to several campaigns and movements including the fight for the Right to Information and Right to Employment (MGNREGA) legislations.
He was a key member of the team that conceptualised and developed methods for Social Auditing of Government schemes, and today continues to be a consultant and resource person for training civil society members and government officials in the process. He is actively involved in various state and national level campaigns and has spent the past couple of years working on awareness creation and citizen monitoring of the public education system in Rajasthan as a fellow of Centre for Policy Research, Delhi.
With an inherent interest in arts and culture, Paras wished to work with artiste, artisan and more specifically nomadic communities on issues of rights and entitlements. This interest led to him creating Ek Potlee Ret Ki (Kaani Nilam in Tamil) along with friend and longtime colleague, Radhika Ganesh. Ek Potlee Ret Ki began its journey by studying and documenting indigenous and nomadic communities in Rajasthan to develop a robust understanding of cultural identity and its sociopolitical contexts. Today, the collective has steadily built its work with over 31 indigenous, nomadic, occupational and hereditary communities across the states of Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Tamil Nadu and Odisha.
Through years of dedicated work, Paras has earned the trust of several tribal and nomadic communities and is playing a key role in uniting and mobilising them through his current project Khanabadosh.
From the beautiful hills of Uttarakhand, Shiv Nayal is a Child Rights and Culture Activist with over 30 years of experience in using creative mediums such as theatre for education and child development. Beginning his career with Social Work and Research Centre (now Barefoot College) in Tilonia, Rajasthan, Shiv went on to contribute to several organisations and movements across states. As part of Antakshari Foundation in Rajasthan he has run several centres for destitute and vulnerable children, working on rights, education, de-addiction, and skilling.
His expertise in Juvenile Justice System and Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) has led him to work on multiple Child Rights campaigns across the country. Apart from this, he has played a vital role in several rights campaigns including ones for Right to Information, Right to Employment (MGNREGA) and Right to Education. He continues to be an active participant in movements such as Mazdoor Kisan Shakti Sangathan (MKSS) and Narmada Bacchao Andholan (NBA). His vision for a holistic society for the coming generations is now getting translated through his involvement with Ek Potlee Ret Ki. The collective’s Samagrshala initiative is developed and run under his able supervision and management.
Hailing from the Natt lineage, a traditional Rajasthani puppeteering community, Ramlal Bhatt’s skills at puppet making and puppeteering are masterful and inherent. Knowledge passed on to him hereditarily, his craft helped him break the shackles of caste that was once understood to have been created by that very craft. Stepping out of the restricted and oppressive social structure he was born into, fighting all odds, Ramlal slowly built for himself a new life as an artiste. As a young man, he joined Social Work and Research Centre (now Barefoot College), in Tilonia, Rajasthan where he gained training in utilising his craft for a greater cause.
With exposure to theater and music, Ramlal soon became an innovator who mastered the skill of social commentary through puppets and has since traveled the world showcasing how art can become an effective tool of communication in social and political campaigns. Moving out of Rajasthan, Ramlal reached Uttarakhand, his current destination since 1989 after years of traversing different terrains. Uttarakhand and its unique amalgamation of cultural, social and environmental resources, finally inspired the wandering Ramlal to stay put. Till date, Ramlal has conducted over 2500 puppet and theater shows across India and other countries, and trained hundreds of young people in the skills he believe are more than mere entertainment. His collaboration with prominent institutions such as the National School of Drama and his work for campaigns run by WWF, CAMPA, The Election Commission of India, etc, have all been greatly successful in creating deep socio-cultural impact.
Scares of an oppressive society and a deep association with the arts got him interested in Ek Potlee Ret Ki’s work. He now works alongside Paras Banjara on Khanabadosh, an initiative to identify, document, empower and advocate for rights of Nomadic and other artistic communities in Rajasthan.
After completing her graduation in English literature, Kasturi Adhikary further pursued her Masters in Gender Studies from Ambedkar University, Delhi. This paved way for her to analyse social structures and understand how identities are created within them. As she started shaping and building her politics, she got introduced to Ek Potlee Ret Ki. She began to contribute with the collectives’ extensive fieldwork as an intern the first one year. The knowledge and experience she gained from fieldwork gave her clarity in academic pursuance. In this process, questions of culture and how it shapes ones identities, which also is the quest of the collective, grabbed her attention as it resonates with her own personal politics.
In this pursuit of learning and contributing, she joined the collective as a part-time karyakarta and engaged herself in the administrative process of the collective. On completing her post-graduate degree she travelled to the Cuddalore district of Tamil Nadu and joined the collective’s initiative, NATION (National Alliance of Traditional Indigenous Occupational and Nomadic Communities), which is an alternate people’s political platform as a full-time karyakarta. She contributed actively towards the rescue and relief operations during the 2018 Kerala floods. She coordinated several groups from across various States working for flood relief as part of Ek Potlee Ret Ki’s Andudan Tamizhagam initiative.
Kasturi is currently spearheading Cultures Submerged, an initiative of the collective’s in Madhya Pradesh. This is a unique journey to document cultural erasure that has been brought about by today’s “development paradigm” and place it as a viable argument against the same. Currently she is based in Madhya Pradesh and is travelling along the banks of the river Narmada in the submergence area of the Sardar Sarovar and Bargi dams. She is working with and is mobilising the Bhil, Bhilala and Barela communities along with her documentation.
Aabha Muralidharan on completing her graduation in visual media and mass communication, began to work at a lifestyle magazine. Quickly disillusioned by today’s new age journalism, she decided to pursue her Masters in Gender Studies from Ambedkar University, Delhi. This has allowed her to further her understanding of gender roles in different societies and has deepened her political sense
With the urge and need to learn advocacy and do field work in the grassroots with communities, Aabha interned with Ek Potlee Ret Ki since 2016 and is now a full time karyakarta of the collective. As part of Ek Potlee Ret Ki, NATION (National Alliance of Traditional Indigenous Occupational and Nomadic Communities) which is an alternate people’s political platform, she has spent the better half of the year in Cuddalore district of Tamil Nadu looking and working on juvenile involvement in caste and identity induced conflicts. She spearheaded Ek Potlee Ret Ki’s active involvement in rescue and relief operations during the 2018 floods in Kerala. As a part of this, she contributed to Anbudan Tamizhagam, a platform initiated by the collective to bring the Government of Tamil Nadu and civil society organisations to work as first responders during disasters. Aabha also managed the Migrant Labour Tracking System (MLTS) a campaign launched by the collective during this period. MLTS looks into identification of urban poor, tribal and other remote area dwellers, and rural/urban migrant workers who are severely affected during disasters, understanding their immediate needs and working towards it.
Apart from this, she is also travelling across the coastal belt of Tamil Nadu identifying, documenting, and mobilising various communities especially who possess occupations and skills such as fishing. Today, she uses writing, photography and designing as communication tools for mobilisation and seeking political action.
Somasundaram is a trained visual communicator from the Manchester of South India – Coimbatore, Tamil Nadu. A strong believer in visuals being the most effective medium of storytelling, he draws inspiration from people & emotions around him. The need to narrate/videotape unspoken experiences and multiple narratives arises from his interest in cultural understanding.
During his final year of high school, he began working with ‘Make A Difference’ an NGO that strives to provide equitable outcomes for children at risk. Children he worked with were from different social structures, this allowed him to explore and understand complex socio-economic concepts firsthand. A summer internship with Ek Potlee Ret Ki (Kaani Nilam in Tamil) to work at the grassroots level with various communities was what drew him in next. To learn about advocacy and to extend support to preserve the identities of communities lead him home to the collective. Now, as a full-time karyakarta with the collective, absorbing teachings from various members of the Potlee who come from different walks of life has become a part of his day. The margins of society have become classrooms where caste, community, class are everyday subjects and they teach him the politics and hierarchy of structures.
Today Somasundaram is harnessing his communication strengths to organise regular village meetings, discussing rights and entitlements with marginalised communities across the coastline of Tamil Nadu. He is combining with this his love for photography and has undertaken the arduous job of documenting traditional occupational skills. He wishes to focus his work towards in continued and meaningful contribution towards NATION, helping communities in margins assert rights, fight social stigmatisation, oppose resource and economic exploitation, negotiate political space and preserve diversity in cultures. At the end, he hopes to enfranchise the marginalised through his skills, whilst exploring and documenting various cultures and traditions across India.
Born & raised in Dindigul, Tamil Nadu, Balakrishnan graduated in Production Engineering from PSG College of Technology, Coimbatore. Whilst in college, an NGO called ‘Make A Difference’, which works with children from shelter homes to ensure equitable outcomes comparable to middle class children, came for volunteer recruitment. Spending three years with the NGO helped Bala realised that there are certain differences in this society that have to be openly addressed.
Irrespective of being passionate about engineering, Bala naturally gravitates towards working on societal causes. This lead him to Cuddalore to intern with Ek Potlee Ret Ki (Kaani Nilamum Mupporumai Aniyum). With everyday learnings moulding beliefs and changing the course of what he envisioned for himself, the collective helped him realise his true purpose. ‘To create a stabilised society with education guiding all individuals’. To construct this, he aspires to join the Civil Services which would ultimately provide him with knowledge and experience to work effectively.
Shatakshi Gawade is an independent journalist based in Pune. Though an engineer by graduation, her real passion is writing to provoke change. Her education in the Asian College of Journalism, and two-year stint at The Asian Age newspaper have equipped her to tackle storytelling. She is one of the three adventurers who started the storytelling project EkatraBol. They are travelling across the country to find and tell stories about environment, rights and culture. She’s not going to stop till she’s seen and told a story about each state! Her work can be seen at shatakshigawade.wordpress.com.
Vinaya Kurtkoti has studied law and journalism and has over four years of experience as a writer and editor. She enjoys talking to people and listening to their stories and believes that documenting these narratives is the first step towards changing them. With two journalist friends who share her passion, Vinaya started EkatraBol, to find and narrate stories related to the environment, rights, and culture. Together, they are on a journey across India to explore the paths less traveled and to write about pressing issues from each state.
Dr. Swarnamalya Ganesh, a well renowned dancer has over the years performed both as a soloist as well as choreographed and staged many group productions. She holds a Ph.D. in Dance history from the University of Madras. From The Attic, is her performance series, where she showcases through performance, lectures and exhibitions, repertoires of connected histories and reconstructions of recovered dance forms. She aligns her own process as an artiste and scholar to Sadir, the precursor to Bharatanatyam. Her core areas of work are dance history- reconstruction and ethnographic study. Apart from being a front ranking performer for many years, she has been working with the hereditary women artistes, the Devadasis who were the custodians of the performing arts until mid 20th century. She has books and article publications to her credit, and has produced DVDs of her works. She is also a well known actor and media person in Indian cinema and television. She is a Fulbright-Nehru Fellow, invited to teach and pursue further research at UCLA. She is the Director of Ranga Mandira School of Performing Arts and Ranga Mandira Academy of World Dance/ Performance and Indic Studies that promote alternative viewing of culture as a project and encounters with community, social bonding and indigenous cultures preservation.
Anjali Ramesh did her Bachelor’s in Mathematics from Stella Maris College and is now pursuing her master’s in Applied Mathematics from the prestigious Anna University, Chennai. She is a student of Sadir, under Dr. Swarnamalya Ganesh at Ranga Mandira School of Performing arts, and is also a faculty in the same institution. Passionate about the arts, she actively participates in Ek Potlee Ret Ki’s activities in the South and is looking forward to a career which balances both her academic knowledge and arts.
Ankita Ramesh is currently pursuing her Bachelor’s in Economics from Ethiraj College, Chennai. A young practitioner of Sadir, she is passionate about a multitude of things including classical dance, carnatic music, photography, graphic designing and cinematography. Ankita works at the Ranga Mandira Academy of World Dance Performance/Indic Studies in its movement to articulate issues of purity, tradition, historic revivalism and community activism.
Piyush Tewari hails from the picturesque hills of the Kumaon region. Passionate about preserving Kumauni culture through music, cuisine and language, he makes an attempt at narrating age old stories with a contemporary flavour. A nomad at heart, Piyush explores the science of how adult learning can be transformed through narratives and games. With an international MBA under his belt, he works with C-Level Executives to transform their
learning ecosystems by harnessing the power of digital and game based learning.
Anannya graduated in Zoology, but was veered towards humanities by her curiosity to understand and explore social and political structures around her. She is currently pursuing her post graduation in Gender Studies from Ambedkar University, Delhi. She is also a student of Bharatanatyam and Hindustani Classical music, both of which she connects to deeply. In her pursuit to become an artiste, she wants to delve deeper into the politics of art and identities, and understand it in the context of the current social and political circumstances. She is also enthusiastic about education, and is a part of an NGO called Kitaab that works on literacy by employing alternative forms of educations through story and activity based learning. She identifies as a feminist, and strives to work towards gender hierarchies.
Divya Hemnani has graduated in journalism, literature and psychology in Bachelor of Arts from Jain University, Bangalore. She did her post-graduation in Culture and Media Studies from Central University of Rajasthan. With a keen interest in documentation, she interned with Anhad, a Delhi based production house. Her major project was in the fourth semester of her M.A, in which she along with two friends created a documentary on stereotyped education for girl children. Having volunteered with Ek Potlee Ret Ki, she now aspires to contribute as a full-time karyakarta, to enhance her knowledge about politics and understand how individual identities play a vital role in building societies.
After completing her post-graduate education in electronic media, Shweta Rao decided to travel and explore India and its multiple faces. Her visit to the Barefoot College (SWRC), Rajasthan while on the Jagriti Yatra, further kindled her inquisitiveness about rural life. She made Barefoot College and the village of Tilonia her home for the next four years. Her interest in music and arts naturally gravitated her towards working with folk artistes and artisans. She worked on developing the Khamayati project, an initiative by Smt. Aruna Roy to create an online directory of folk artistes in Rajasthan. She has contributed several photographs from her travels to building a visual photo archive for the collective.
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