Internship @ Alternative Law Forum, Bangalore: Liberal Environment, Field Work and Research, No Stipend

Place of Internship

Alternative Law Forum, Bangalore

Duration

19th May- 14th June, 2014.

Year of study and College

 WBNUJS, 3rd year

How to Apply

The website provides all the details. It’s a straightforward application process. Visit this site for details HERE. CVs, statement of purpose and all other details have to be sent to [email protected]

Apply at least 2-2.5 months in advance. The response is not usually prompt but will come eventually. Don’t call their office since it is a perpetually busy place and I am not sure they would particularly like to entertain calls from eager students asking about the ‘status of their application’.

Follow up with emails instead. Wait for at least a month before you start enquiring. Also, they take interns from law school only from their third year onwards (if you are in a five year programme, that is.)

Timings

9:30 am- 6 pm (Monday- Saturday).

Where to Stay

ALF is located on Infantry Road, one of the most central locations in Bangalore and close to hub areas of Commercial Street, Brigade Road and MG road. Since my father is in the Armed Forces, I stayed with a friend at the Army AWWA hostel, however, there are plenty of PGs available in Indiranagar.

If you stay at Indiranagar, travelling will not be a problem since the area is connected by the Bangalore metro service. But be sure to stay close by to the office because work often stretches till late and if you live far, you’ll have to leave early, which is a disadvantage.

About ALF

The Alternative Law Forum was started by a bunch of NLS graduates in 2000 who saw the practice and role of law a little differently from the mainstream and wanted to create a space where law collided with activism and research.

They saw the role of law and lawyers as not only restricted to courts but as a profession which had the potential to develop into a more holistic and inclusive process of change.

First Impressions

The first thing that hit me when I entered the office, was the atmosphere.  ALF is against the concept of hierarchy and is a very liberal, open democratic space. Everybody insists on being addressed by their first name.

The office was extremely homely. Cats are a very integral part of the office and if you are not an animal lover and are the sort of person who dreams of throwing cats from a high rise building, be sure to hide that. Being mean to the cats here will earn you the permanent ire of its members!

The place had a distinct leftist-liberal flavour to it. Anti-Modi posters adorned the wall in some places along with pictures of human rights advocates, queer campaign and ‘Free Tibet’ posters, among others. It’s not just the posters that catch your attention.

Even the switchboards had a reminder asking one to conserve electricity given the number of people displaced every year for the generation of the same. Everything in ALF seemed like it was part of a greater cause.

At first, it could seem very claustrophobic to a non-political person, but opinions won’t be shoved down your throats and the internship here will give you the opportunity to discover your allegiance and inclination to political issues and causes if you so wish to.

Unlike other legal policy, research and advocacy organizations that I have interned in, ALF is the only one I have come across that goes beyond law and actively engages with people from diverse backgrounds and professions. It is like a breadth of fresh air to engage in such a holistic understanding of the society we live in.

This place is always teeming with energy.  People coming in and out; talking, laughing, preparing for court etc. The sheer diversity of personalities that reside, work and frequently visit this place will amaze you.

Sex workers, transgender activists; you name it!. This is perhaps the best learning experience at ALF; the people you meet here. Those who work here are actively interested in art, theatre and generally in alternate, non-legal forms of subverting the dominant discourse.  

Work, Lunch and Co-Interns:

ALF does some fascinating work. It is an organization that integrates legal approaches with research and activism. They have been actively involved with the Naz, Souresh Koushal and NALSA judgments,  and actively engage with representatives of the sex workers, transgender activists etc to refine their understanding of the nuances of these issues.

One of their sustained campaigns has been the 50 paise campaign which seeks to make public transport, such as bus travel cheaper for the local people. They are also actively engaged in dealing with slum eviction cases, copyright cases, censorship issues etc.

In short they engage in research, field work, litigation and you can choose to work in any field you like. Be sure to visit their website and read about all their activities in detail before you intern here.

The good thing about this place is that there are no restrictions and boundaries on your area of work. Usually ALF works on a variety of things at any given point of time, and whatever interests you, you can work on it.

Some of my co-interns who were from Karnataka itself, took on individual projects wherein they got the opportunity to conduct field work.  This is a little difficult if you are not a localite as there will be the language barrier.

However, you may have kind and patient co-interns like I had who will not mind you tagging along and explaining to you what is going on every step of the way.

My work at ALF included going on field to protest for the 50 paise campaign.  We had to make posters, go around Bangalore putting up notices and inviting people to join protest marches. This was the first time I took part in organizing a grass root campaign.

It made me realize how difficult it is to mobilize common people and how much effort goes into changing government policies and making democracy more responsive to people’s need.

In addition, it gave me an insight into the lives of those who organize such grass root level movements and the level of personal commitment and passion that is required. It certainly is not everybody’s cup of tea.

The protest march itself, ended up becoming quite problematic with a lot of the ALF members and other protesters courting arrest when we were not allowed to carry out the peaceful rally. Thankfully all were let off by the police without any harm. However, I was overwhelmed by my first brush with the law and order agencies and could not help but feel proud of myself and the work we had all put in.

In addition to this, I regularly attended court hearings on slum eviction matters and researched on case laws for the same. Some of my co-interns even went on a fact finding mission to find out what rehabilitation measures the government had put in place for the slum dwellers.

We even got to hear ALF lawyers argue eloquently at the Karnataka High Court extensively regarding the rights of slum dwellers to rehabilitation. It was one of the most fascinating court experiences I had!

Further, since I was interested in film and law, I got a lot of reading material on the same  As a part of my learning experience at ALF my co-interns and I were told to watch the 1950 Raj Kapoor movie, ‘Awaara’ which had some interesting things to say about the divide between constitutional ideals and the living realities.

Lunchtime is a time where everyone in the office eats together. Lunch is cooked by a lovely lady who makes the most amazing food you could ask for. Because of this, I seldom ever had to pay for food! Post lunch, all interns would go for a juice break at the local juice store. Be sure to try this out when you are here. It is a sure shot way of bonding with your co-interns.

A lot of them were from non-legal backgrounds and this made for interesting conversation because you got to hear about alternate experiences and perspectives. Given how in law school we often get a warped idea about the importance of law, meeting people from other fields( doing social work, development study etc,to name just a few), can be a humbling experience learning about the limitations of law and lawyers.

At the end of your internship, ALF gives a book to all its interns as a parting gift which is signed by everyone in the office with personal messages.

As clichéd as it may sound, the Alternative Law Forum experience will change you. This much, I can guarantee. I don’t mean that all of you who intern here will leave becoming sustained campaigners for human rights,  but you will become more aware and you will be closer to understanding yourself, what you want from life and the things you stand for. I strongly recommend this internship for everyone in law school.

This internship will surely change the way you see law and the legal profession.

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