Each dialogue is planned over a whole day, sometimes
two days if the budget permits. This duration
is valuable since it gives the participants time
to get to know each other, and to share personal
thoughts and experiences, both in the formal meeting
and, more importantly, in an atmosphere of informality
outside the meeting.
Such a meeting
of two day’s duration, produced trust between
participants, created an atmosphere of easy exchange
and thereby reduced the psychological burden that
intervention normally carries in formal settings
(a view regularly expressed by those who have
little experience of seminars). Such informality
was empowering, since it encouraged participants
to speak and thereby facilitated an understanding
of each other’s concerns.
were from a cross section of interests, ideologies,
social strata, and groups in society. This diversity
ensured that no particular perspective dominated
the discussion and also that participants got
an opportunity to listen to, and to consider,
in an enabling atmosphere, perspectives other
than their own.
effort was made to get minority viewpoints to
attend. Minority was here defined in terms of
gender, ethnicity, class, caste, and community.
This insistence was to ensure that minority viewpoints
are heard, and placed on the discourse agenda,
since in the normal course of things they get
little attention in the face of dominant discourses.
attention was paid to selecting the chair for
each discussion session. Such a chair was requested
not to dominate the discussion, not to make an
opening statement that others would then feel
compelled to respond to but to only function as
a facilitator. S/he was requested to encourage
minority voices, draw out emerging concerns that
required more discussion, identify the possible
areas of contestation, and invite comments on
issues not raised.
was deliberately loosely (or minimally) structured.
Other than deciding on the themes for each session,
and choosing the chairs, who regulated the flow
of the discussion, the dialogue encouraged informality
so that the unlettered felt encouraged to speak.
was clearly regarded not as a seminar, a conference,
or even a workshop and hence did not carry the
burden of formal discussion procedures. No complete
presentations were required. No well worked positions
were demanded. One merely sought reactions to
ideas as they emerged. The assumption here was
that these reactions are articulations of positions
that have, over the span of the participant’s
political life, been thought through and so receiving
them in the context of a dialogue gives one a
glimpse of, and therefore possible access to,
the larger body of arguments. The intervention
was seen as only the tip of the iceberg.
|| The dialogue was recorded to create
an oral archive and also to be later available for
report was prepared as per the following format:
(i) a brief introductory note on the theme of
the dialogue, (ii) the views of each speaker were
summarized and presented sequentially in the order
in which they had intervened, (iii) speakers organizational
address were given to connect their positions
with the interests they represent, and (iv) a
summary statement, at the end of the report, of
the main themes and concerns that had emerged.