Internship Experience @ Law and Human Rights Cell, Quill Foundation, New Delhi: Know the human rights community in India

“How to light a flambeau within”

Name of the intern

Aatika Singh, The West Bengal National University of Juridical Sciences, Kolkata, 3rd Year

Name of the organization, City, Office Address, How was the office? Team strength

Law and Human Rights cell, Quill Foundation, 1/2 Pant Nagar, Near Agarwal Sweets, Jangpura, Delhi- 110014.

Quill’s core work revolves around pertinent issues of human rights, justice, and equity, faced by the underprivileged sections of the people of India, especially muslims, women, sexual minorities and differently-abled persons.

Presently, the Delhi based Law and Human Rights Cell (LHRC), seeks to examine the legal and judicial processes form the context of everyday injustices. The underlying philosophy is the preamble and the fundamental rights of the constitution of India.

Their slogan is “Back to the Constitution”. With a firm belief in an egalitarian and just world, Quill Foundation’s intervention is oriented towards change both on the ground as well as at the level of policy.

The office has quite a number of people working with them and also different organization being associated in some capacity or with some project. Tentatively on any given day it is around 5-6. I worked under the research co-coordinator Mr. Sharib Ali.

If you are travelling by the Delhi metro then you have to get off at Jangpura on the blue line. From there the office is located at a distance of 15 minutes. Rickshaws are easily available just at the exit of the metro station.

The office is located on the first floor and has an informal set-up and has beautiful paintings and pictures everywhere including the washroom. 

Duration of internship

20th October 2015 – 20th November 2015. But if they like your work they might want you to be associated in future too.

Quill has two offices presently- one in Delhi, and the other in Mumbai.

The work, however, is spread across India.

Application procedure? Internship Contact Details

I saw their call for internship on Lawctopus regarding research on terror prosecution in India.

I sent them an internship mail at [email protected] and got confirmation within a week.

I then also had a telephonic orientation interview in which I was asked certain basic questions as to why I want to work with them and what is my opinion regarding anti-terror legislations and is there something recent that has caught my eye in the news etc.

The theme really interested and I chucked my already slotted at a firm and went to see them.

Also no formals, just a laptop and willingness to learn will suffice in their workplace.

They prefer hard working students having an inclination towards human rights.

Otherwise they are the most relaxed, helpful and intellectual people you can ever work on a range of issues and projects which might be totally non law also (if you want).

It is to them that I owe getting to know the human rights community in India.

You can also choose to work from home. If you like the work you can also be associated with them after your internship and keep working on different projects but without a stipend.

One thing that I really admire about Quill is the way they treat you, totally at par with them.

They ask you about what work would you like to do and till when and its never imposed, making it be one of the most flexible office I have worked in. 

Duration in weeks. Days of work per week. Timings.

The internship as usual is supposedly four-weeks long but again everything is as per the nature of work and not as per the hours of the day.

7 Days a week including field work.

Timings are from 11 am till 7:30 pm.

First impression, first day, formalities

LHRC is a fairly new initiative considering the volume of work they have done. They formally came together in 2015.

They are a very friendly bunch of pro human rights people, some of them TISS alumni and their work is just amazing bearing in mind the plethora of subject it covers. There are no formalities except a laptop.

But the in-formalness never crosses beyond a point that you take your work lightly. No. Never. These people actually have a vision for the world and their work is not for the sake of their pay check.

They are open to taking anyone who wants to work with them and knows Human Rights.

Stipend/month

No stipend but the knowledge and the exposure you receive and the people you meet really, really suffices.

You do spend your days believing what Marx had said.

Accommodation etc. What did you to do chill in and around the office and the place of stay?

I am from Delhi so I never had a problem with that.

But for those who are from outside Delhi, there are many areas where in-budgets PG’s are available like Laxmi Nagar- Blue line itself.

There are many places like eros and every type of budget eatery surrounding the area, there are many accessories and fashion shops also.

No amenity is out of reach so options to chill depending on your taste are always to be found even if it is a quite green park between the hustle and bustle of Delhi.

Main tasks, Work environment, people, the best things AND the bad things

I started with reading documents relating to anti–terror legislation (TADA, POTA and UAPA) cases and preparing reports on them.

The difference that such a simple activity was able to make was because all the documents and the materials were not the products of yellow journalism or of politically vested interests but the actual testimonies of the accused.

From their view point, what they and their families had to say to the collective conscience of the people and the government.

It was a completely new and different angle not leaning on religious frenzy and neither on the knowledge of the legal representative of the accused, but the actual fact sheet.

Going through such startling and shocking reports and evidences, and how these were made to develop according to the political atmosphere made me realize the extent to which a case can be fabricated.

So much so that, a case can be entirely based on the concocted conundrum that the police, the public prosecutor and the media build and preserves together.

I then wondered what were we being fed in law school, mere ink sans reason? Or keeping the law bereft of truth is always supposed to be the common, neutral, rational way for us lawyers.

But as I progressed through the pages, definitely that was not how it is supposed to be.

I think the reason there is a dearth of intellectually stimulating debates in our classrooms is because of the way curiosity is institutionally killed in our education system.

Whatever we study, the rights and the duties of the people and what rights we actually enjoy are two very different takes.

All the constitutional safeguards are made to disappear and what is left is a heap load of false cases on people either from a particular community or from a particular economic stratum of society.

It is only then the law is played more as a murky, death plotting instrument than as a symphony of equality, fraternity and liberty.

So, as a consequence, what value do I place on the education I am receiving from a national university when reality is highly distorted?

I am therefore unable to comprehend that why we aren’t able to bridge this gap in the actual application of law to justice and vice versa and address this in our curriculum as well.

However, I believe in the end such fundamental attitudes boil down to one’s openness and sensitivity.

For instance often in my constitutional law classes I have come across opinions which have supported use of torture on terrorists or probably labelled pro labour judges to be threatening the sanctity of law, by supporting broad and liberal interpretations.

I can recall such numerous anti equality generalization and opinions, often targeting rival opinions or a bold female voice.

The rigidity however will continue unabated it seems till Law remains the bastions of the elite and not of the community and the classes it was mostly envisaged for.

There is no dearth of work if you are willing to learn. Your work is checked thoroughly and you have to be sure of you what you are doing and you are answerable to all not just the main person you are working under.

However they are very willing to help you learn as the breadth of exposure and guidance you receive is humongous.

It is also not as if they mind you using social media during work hours but you do have to take your work seriously otherwise there is nothing beneficial you can obtain. But if you try I am hell sure there is so much to learn even at a slow pace.

Also you can get your own lunch or just go and eat with them and also smoke with them on the terrace, but mind you it’s not a very we-love-ccd atmosphere, their work is always their priority and conversations are always built around that and a shared agitation over the condition of the world.

I also got to meet people face to face who were victims of anti-terror legislations.

Who so ever came to office, the interns were also introduced to him or her and told about later. We were never treated like an excluded just for work community.

LHRC people over all exuded an aura of actually working to change the world. 

One of the most proud moments happened for me when after the completion of the internship and back in my college, I had gone to Sundarbans for a two day Jan Sunwai/ public hearing regarding historical injustices on forest dependent communities.

It was held by the NAPM along with many other organizations and was presided over by Medha Patkar, Nandini Sundar and Sanjay Parikh etc.

There people instantly started talking as soon as they got to know that I have interned with LHRC.

Everyone praised their efforts and I felt for the first time that small changes do matter.

And this sense of understanding is exactly what I have received from this grass root internship, a different idea of law and justice that has taken me out of my comfort zone and made me meet prisoners and their families, to attend dissent events and to go explore and seek and most importantly contribute to a small avenue of hope left, which is life changing.

Such a tryst I believe will eventually pave a way, which will be consistent with the aspirations and struggles of the true custodians of law and justice.

So the question I leave you all with is whether we should make ourselves tow to the majority line or should we also challenge ourselves to walk the other way around and broaden the horizons of our young and brave intellects and create inroads into the marginalized lanes where the law is hopelessly inadequate and justice is a commodity more than an entitlement.

This entry has been submitted for the LexisNexis-Lawctopus Internship Experience Writing Competition 2015-2016. iPleaders is the learning partner for this competition.

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