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Working at ground level to build leadership skills, empower marginalised sections

By Malladi Shashank, Rohit Kumar, Shubhangi Agrawal, Sourabh Meena, Strivathsav Ashwin* 

Mr. Hozefa Ujjaini is a very active social worker and youth leader in and around the region of Ahmedabad. His journey from a small kid to a dedicated social activist is nothing short of an inspiration. Since a very young age he got involved in working towards social causes concerning communal harmony. Apart from this, Mr. Hozefa Ujjaini has also worked for Dalit rights, Internally Displaced Peoples right etc. Mr. Ujjaini was in class 12th when the Gujarat riots took place and the relief camps for the same was set right near his house. He frequently visited these camps which provided him with a chance to play with children over there and to observe other victims. This laid the foundation for his choice of dedicating his life to social cause and communal harmony. He started to volunteer in relief work right away and he along with many young people from his colony associated themselves to numerous organizations and started to work on relief, rehabilitation etc. Mr. Ujjaini realizing that the problem was not arising from an overnight issue but was happening because of deeply engraved communal hatred among the religion masses, went on to form a “peace group”, a project supported by Action Aid.

Out of the box methods for communication

Mr. Ujjaini opted for out of box methods to educate people about the importance of communal harmony and that all people are equal. He integrated art into his methods and opted for mediums like street theatre, poems etc to engage with the community in a more simple and easy manner. His team has created various street plays like “Gujarat ke Muhajir” etc which showed the sufferings of people during the 2002 Gujarat riots
Mr. Ujjaini and his team has also made training modules to educate people at grassroot level.
For example, his team has made a training module on Freedom of rights, wherein people are trained and educated about the importance of rights and how they can fight for it. Apart from that, they also have training modules for Right to freedom of religion, Leadership development etc.

Associated Organizations

Janvikas: Mr. Hozefa Ujjaini started working towards rehabilitation and recovery of Internally displaced people and victims of riots with the organization Janvikas. A few years down the line, Mr. Hozefa Ujjaini went on to establish Buniyaad and under his leadership, the organization was incubated in Janvikas. Apart from working for Internally displaced people, Mr. Hozefa worked towards making the community self-sufficient and motivating groups of communities to fight for basic civic amenities and entitlements. He also worked towards forming issue-based communities to target specific issues more effectively. He also worked with the youth of marginalized communities to help them identify the root cause of conflict in society and how it can be resolved.
Buniyaad: Founded in 2007 by Hozefa, with an objective to inculcate the leadership values and improve socio-economic rights among the youths of marginalised communities (Muslim, Dalit, etc.). 
CSSS: Hozefa Ujjaini also works in collaboration with Centre for Study of Society and Secularism (CSSS). In December 2021, he represented Ahmedabad peace centre to highlight the importance of cultural diversity and role of composite culture that can act as a bridge to reduce strife between the communities.
Street play “Gujarat ke Muhajir”
In the last two years, Mr. Ujjaini has focused mostly on the protests related to CAA and NRC. He was involved in educating people about the wrongs of CAA/NRC and to mobilise people to fight for their rights. He was actively involved in sending messages against CAA/NRC using mediums like songs, poems, plays etc. As of now, Mr. Ujjaini’s primary focus is on working at ground level and build leadership skills among the members of the community and empower them to fight their own battles.

Motivation

Early days: As quoted by Mr. Ujjaini, he along with his mom, would visit the relief camps on a frequent basis to help the victims. This, since a very young age, created questions in the mind of Mr. Ujjaini as to why these things are happening? What are the root causes of the issue? How can it be solved? This became the fuel for his choice of working for the communal harmony and the betterment of the community overall.
Current days: The minute changes that are happening in the society because of the work done by him motivates him to keep continuing his work. He also says that the work he is doing gives him more happiness in long term which further motivates him.

Challenges

1. State: Here, in the context of the issue the state government machinery is a hurdle to go ahead with the initiatives/ activities planned by Hozefa Ujjaini. These hurdles can range from not getting permission from authorities or getting tangled with police. For instance, recently when Buniyad, an NGO founded by Hozefa, planned to conduct a street play titled ‘Gujarat ke Muhajir’ in a marginalised community to highlight the aftereffects of the 2002 riots and mass exodus of victims from strife hit regions to shelter camps. The play covered the issues such as the absence of support from government, rehabilitation of the victims and lack of basic amenities to people such as gutter overflow, etc. after the 2002 riots (Journey of suffering, March 2019). Hozefa was taken to the police station and was allowed to conduct the event only after lot of convincing. Finally, his group performed the act at the place where they were detained. Such incidents, he says, happen regularly and officials try to stop other activists as well from organise such events.
2. Community: According to Mr. Hozefa, one of the hurdles in bringing the change in the community is the community itself. Few members within the community preferred status quo when people like Mr. Hozefa and other activists put forth rational ideas. The path to change is being obstructed by the dogmatic beliefs in the archaic practices where we as a human civilization have come a long way in the modern times. Mr. Hozefa states that in all communities (Muslim, Dalit, etc.) you will find custodians who are responsible for perpetuation of orthodox practices, hence bringing about a change becomes difficult. To progress further the community needs to leave behinds its outdated practices and embrace the change.

Message for students from Mr. Hozefa Ujjaini

Mr. Ujjaini asks student to play the role of a active citizen. He also suggests students to take up courses related to social causes and policy making and contribute towards it in the future.

References:

1) Journey of suffering. (2019, March 21). Ahmedabad Mirror. https://ahmedabadmirror.com/journey-of-suffering/68504920.html
2) https://www.compassion-contagion.com/interfaith-bridges/hozefa-ujjaini
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*IIM Ahmedabad PGP2 students

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