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 as a people’s collective that finds its strength in collective participation, co-creation and operation. 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 in the grassroots who believe in, and align with Ek Potlee’s principals and methods.
Radhika Ganesh is a social-cultural-political activist with close to a decade of experience working in the grassroots, in India, on various rights based issues. After completing her higher education in the UK, 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 – she mobilised young people from various farming communities and actively participated in the Anit- corruption and farmer rights movements in 2010-11. With an urge to learn, she then joined the Mazdoor Kisan Shakthi Sangathan (MKSS) in Rajasthan, under the guidance of her mentors Aruna Roy, Nikhil Dey and Shankar Singh, and began to work with the poor and marginalised on issues of rights and entitlements. During her time with the MKSS, she contributed to developing the School For Democracy (SFD), an institution built to impart education and awareness on democracy and constitutional rights.
After spending close to 4 years working in Rajasthan, in 2016, joining hands with other likeminded activists, she conceptualised and initiated Ek Potlee Ret Ki. The stark increase in instances of identity and caste based violence post the establishment of a rightwing Government in India motivated her to build a team of young and enthusiastic field workers and focus on conflict resolution and de-stigmatisation.
Radhika 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. She has been awarded a place in the prestigious ‘International Culture Leadership’ programme by the Government of Australia for 2020-2021.
Paras Banjara, an activist from Rajasthan with 14 years 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 his own lived experiences of having been raised in a community that continues to face social stigma and economic depravity, Paras is passionate about creating an equal and just society
After receiving his Masters in Social Work, and a brief sting as a Govt. employee Paras took to activism. He spent his initial years as an activist with the Mazdoor Kisan Shakthi Sangathan (MKSS), actively contributing 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.
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 along with friend and longtime colleague, Radhika Ganesh. 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.
Kasturi Adhikary stumbled upon the collective while she was pursuing her post-graduation in Gender studies from Ambedkar University, Delhi in 2016. Spending here initial days as an intern, Kasturi quickly developed a deep connection with the work the collective was doing and became its first full-time Arts in Partnership fellow. She has been a part of most of the collective’s initiatives and spent her time working in the grassroots of Tamil Nadu, Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh. In 2018 she took on the responsibility of spearheading the collective’s work in Madhya Pradesh. Living and working in the Narmada ghati, she co-created along with community members a documentation and advocacy project called Cultures Submerged that received the support of Global Greengrants Fund. She built a robust team of young women who travelled and documented the lives and cultures of tribal communities displaced by large development projects such as dams and power plants. Having spent this many years with the collective, mentored by senior karyakartas, Kasturi realises her greatest learning from the Potlee has been to raise the right questions and speak truth to power.
Neha Saigal’s 13 years of experience spans across influencing policy in agriculture and nutrition, designing social accountability models with a focus on reducing inequities and leading multi-disciplinary teams. An avid campaign strategist, she has worked extensively in Odisha, co-designed Odisha Nutrition Action Plan with Government of Odisha and has facilitated government working committees on nutrition. She has designed interventions with local partners in Odisha aimed at improving welfare of tribal women and children especially from PVTG communities in the South of Odisha. Some of these interventions like the creche programme for children under two and nutrition sensitive agriculture have been mainstreamed by the State Government. Currently, she is leading a social accountability programme in Odisha funded by CIFF to improve access to nutrition services by tribal women in Angul district with a focus on Paudi Bhuyan communities. She has worked on programmes funded by BMGF, CIFF and USAID. Given her current role and expertise she is enrolled with the Harvard Kennedy School in a programme on Public Leadership.
Given her extensive experience and interest in working with youth leadership building, Neha joined the Ek Potlee Ret Ki team to develop and execute the Young People for Politics forum.
Raisa Philip is a gender and child rights activist. She has close to a decade’s experience working in India on varied projects with grassroots and policy building organisations on issues such as child labour, juvenile justice, trafficking of persons, rights education for young people and so on. She has been a key member of the collective ideating and implementing the political education efforts under Young People for Politics. She is currently spearheading UNITE an initiative to bring diverse young people from across various states in India, undertake capacity building and facilitate access to digital spaces. Raisa is a staunch believer in the power of young people to lead meaningful change for our world. She loves movies, books, coffee, travel and people!
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 theatre 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 theatre 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.
Somasundaram is a trained visual communicator from 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 organisation that strives to provide equitable outcomes for vulnerable children. This allowed Soma to gaining some experience and better understanding of the complexities of society. A summer internship with Ek Potlee Ret Ki to work at the grassroots level with various communities was what drew him in next. After spending months as an intern he received the Arts in Partnership fellowship that turned him into a full-time karyakarta with the collective. He observes that the margins of society have become classrooms where caste, community, class are everyday subjects and they teach him the politics and hierarchy of social structures. Spearheading the collective’s Kadalaadu Kadai project to document and build advocacy for fisherfolk, Soma harnesses his communication strengths to organise regular village meetings, discussing rights and working on access to entitlements with marginalised communities across the coastline of Tamil Nadu.
Soma is a founding member of the Young People for Politics forum and currently holds the responsibility of leading the design and comms team.
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 complex social 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.
Shatakshi is part of the indomitable young women team that undertook the collective’s Cultures Submerged initiative in the tribal submergence areas of Madhya Pradesh. She put her storytelling skills to tremendous use by developing and executing a 52 weeks social media campaign around eroding tribal cultures of the state.
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.
The other member of the trio of young women who are traversing the arduous terrains of tribal hinterland in Madhya Pradesh, Vinaya brings to life stories of marginalisation with empathy and strength.
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 MAD 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 social causes. This lead him to Cuddalore to intern with Ek Potlee Ret Ki (Kaani Nilam). 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. Bala continues to contribute to the collectives various efforts including Young People for Politics as a researcher and mobiliser.
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.
Aabha Muralidharan a Masters student in Gender Studies from Ambedkar University, Delhi joined the collective in 2016 as an intern with the urge and need to learn advocacy and do field work in the grassroots with communities. Having awarded a one year full-time fellowship under Ek Potlee Ret Ki’s Arts in Partnership programme, she lived and worked in Cuddalore, Tamil Nadu. She actively contributed to the collective’s activities towards addressing juvenile involvement in caste and religious conflicts in the state. She was part of a two member team that spearheaded Ek Potlee Ret Ki’s documentation and advocacy effort called Kadalaadu Kadai with Tamil fisherfolk. This team travelled extensively across all 13 coastal districts of Tamil Nadu identifying, documenting, and mobilising various fishing communities. Today, she uses writing, photography and designing as communication tools for mobilisation and seeking political action.
Anurag Singh is an acclaimed Indian documentary filmmaker known for his socio-political, human rights oriented films. Through a career spanning over 25 years, Anurag has worked with, and made films on, some of India’s foremost sociopolitical movements, including Narmada Bachao Andolan, Mazdoor Kisan Shakti Sangathan, and the National Campaign for Peoples’ Right to Information. His most famous films are “Kaise Jeebo Re” (1997, Screened at IDFA Amsterdam, winner at Yamagata, Japan) and “Right to Information” (1999, Best Documentary, Transparency International, Prague, and was 2nd in the Best Non-Fiction award at the 2000 Mumbai International Film Festival). His documentary collective, Rough Cut Productions, is recognised for it’s vast experience in utilising visual media to create impactful, mass social mobilisation, and a keen interest in harnessing the strength of the medium to convey nuanced, sensitive issues.
Antariksh Jain has graduated as a visual designer. His hour long documentary ‘The Train Leaves at Four’ had screened in several prominent film festivals in India including Mumbai Film Festival (MAMI), Mumbai International Film Festival (MIFF), Kolkata International Film Festival (KIFF), as well as was selected under “Film Bazaar Reccomends” at Film Bazaar, Goa. Through his documentary collective, Rough Cut Productions, Antariksh engages with complex sociopolitical issues, helping narrate stories of struggle and survival.
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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